5 February – 8 May 2022
Tate Britain
London SW1P 4RG

On 5 February, Tate Britain will unveil a new exhibition by artist Danielle Dean. Dean’s work spans video, painting, installation, social practice and performance, and questions how individuals are shaped by commercial narratives around them, particularly in advertising. Titled Amazon this new work consists of a multi-channel video installation in which Dean summons fictive landscapes to explore the changing nature of human labour, examining practices of production, data extraction and commercial advertising. This is the latest in Tate Britain’s ongoing Art Now series of free exhibitions showcasing emerging talent and highlighting the latest developments in British art.

Danielle Dean
Photo courtesy of the artist

Danielle Dean explores the effects of media and cultural production on the mind and body. Her work is imaginative, often blurring fact and fiction, using the aesthetics and language of traditional advertising to highlight and interrogate global capitalism and systems of racial discrimation. Dean considers our relationship to products and means of production by examining technology, architecture, marketing and media as tools of subjection and oppression, which at the same time have the potential for subversion. 

For Amazon, Dean was inspired by research into the Ford Motor archives in Detroit. During her time there, she discovered the car manufacturer’s experimental city in Brazil, Fordlândia, built with the aim to control rubber production. The city was abandoned in 1934 after the workers rebelled against the poor working conditions and the disregard of local indigenous knowledge.

Preparatory drawings for Amazon (Proxy) 2021
Image courtesy of the artist

Dean’s piece reflects on the events that led to Fordlândia’s collapse by re-enacting this history with workers from the contemporary labour-crowdsourcing marketplace Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT). AMT digitally distributes tasks to a global remote workforce, some of whom generate data which is then used to train artificial intelligence algorithms. Amazon traces the continuities and discontinuities between trends in the current gig economy at AMT and Ford’s industrial assembly line in Fordlândia.

For the exhibition at Tate Britain, Dean collaborated with AMT workers around the world over the past two years, directing them to film themselves in their own homes. The resulting multi-channel video work shines a light on the isolation of these roles, investigating the changing nature of labour and racial politics of global capital. This video will be screened amongst an installtion of sculptures and a fictional landscape watercolour by Dean, inspired by Fordlândia and advertising materials from the Ford archives. 

Preparatory drawings for Amazon (Proxy) 2021
Image courtesy of the artist

Danielle Dean was born to a Nigerian father and an English mother in Alabama and brought up in London. She studied Fine Art at Central St Martins in London and received her MFA from California Institute of the Arts. She is an alumna of the Whitney Independent Study Program and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Recent solo exhibitions include True Red Ruin at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Bazar at 47 Canal in New York, Landed at Cubitt gallery in London and Focus: Danielle Dean at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Since the 1990s, Art Now has recognised talent at its outset and provided a launching platform for artists who have gone on to become established figures on the international art scene. The series has recently showcased the work of SERAFINE1369, Cooking Sections, Sophia Al-Maria, France-Lise McGurn, Joanna Piotrowska, Jesse Darling, Lisa Brice and Marguerite Humeau.

Art Now: Danielle Dean is curated by Nathan Ladd, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, Tate and is supported by the Art Now Supporters’ Circle.

©2022 Danielle Dean, Tate Britain