MANIFESTO

#63

CHANGE OF SPACE

STEVE MCQUEEN: BASS

2024.05.10

Text by Francesca Fontanesi

Steve McQueen’s new exhibition at Dia:Beacon in New York utilizes only the most basic structural elements of cinema to offer an experience that speaks to both the past and new ways of being: light and sound.

Steve McQueen
Dia:Beacon, New York
From May 12th until April 1st, 2025

 

 

Steve McQueen was born in London in 1969. He began his education studying painting at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. He later pursued filmmaking between Goldsmiths College and NYU: influenced by Jean Vigo, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Ingmar Bergman, and Andy Warhol, McQueen began creating films and short films. All of his films focus on male figures who are victims of social, physical, or psychological prisons, constantly grappling with the theme of belonging and loneliness. For a new exhibition at Dia:Beacon in New York, Sunshine State, McQueen has created an immersive installation aimed at exploring the complete spectrum of visible light alongside the presence of a sonic component.

Artist and filmmaker, for over 30 years he has continuously explored the possibilities inherent in cinema – as material, as a documentary tool, and as a means of storytelling – giving rise to contemporary and politically impactful works. Using projected lights and sounds, much like a sculptor, McQueen situates his films and videos within installations that resonate on multiple levels, going beyond the conventional frame of cinema. At Dia:Beacon, the artist presents a new work, co-commissioned by Dia and Laurenz Foundation, Schaulager Basel, where he builds upon past experiments on how light, color, and sound influence and disrupt our perception of space, time, and ourselves. Bass (2024) comprises 60 ceiling-mounted lightboxes that traverse the entire spectrum of visible light in concert with a sonic component. Changing color slowly, almost imperceptibly, the light floods the underground space, while the sound, produced entirely with low-volume instruments, reverberates on the gallery’s concrete surfaces, transforming 30,000 square meters into a purely immersive environment.

Steve McQueen, Bass (detail), 2024. Installation view, Dia Beacon, New York, May 12, 2024–April 14, 2025. © Steve McQueen. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation.

“I saw the world through certain films: how people fell in love from Japan to Hungary; how people broke bread in all those countries too. It intrigued me how cinema can reveal that within the uniqueness there can be universality.”

– Steve McQueen

The exhibition harks back to McQueen’s previous experiments on spatial perception. The installation Blues Before Sunrise (2012) was a cinematic transformation of Vondelpark in Amsterdam, achieved through the replacement of 275 bulbs intermittently projecting blue lights for two weeks. Static (2009) is a video work displaying various aerial views of the Statue of Liberty, allowing the viewer to circle around the monument, both up close and from afar, as the helicopter blades’ whirring gradually dissolves. The footage is presented on a suspended double-sided screen, generating multiple viewpoints on this historical symbol. With no moving image components, Bass utilizes only the most basic structural elements of cinema – light and sound – to transform gallery spaces and offer an experience that speaks to both our history and new ways of being.

Steve McQueen, Bass (detail), 2024. Installation view, Dia Beacon, New York, May 12, 2024–April 14, 2025. © Steve McQueen. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation.

“The projected light and sound component will be able to be experienced at an incredibly bodily level. This is an immersive experience that will bring people back to themselves”.

– Donna de Salvo

Steve McQueen, Bass (detail), 2024. Installation view, Dia Beacon, New York, May 12, 2024–April 14, 2025. © Steve McQueen. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation.

For further information diaart.org.

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