Dune: An exhibition of a film of a book that never was

Matthew Day Jacksonto infinity.... 2009Gold Plated plastic, dyed plastic, abalone shell 183 x 343 x 30.5 cms



Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ‘Dune’: An exhibition of a film of a book that never was takes as its departure point the cult Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempted 1976 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel ‘Dune’.

This exhibition includes production drawings made by Moebius, H.R Giger and Chris Foss alongside commissioned work made in response by three international contemporary artists Steven Claydon, Matthew Day Jackson and Vidya Gastaldon.

Following the release of his mystical Western ‘El Topo’ (1970) and his psychedelic quest movie ‘Holy Mountain’, Jodorowsky embarked on his ‘Dune’ project, gathering around him a group of collaborators that included the French comics artist Moebius, the Swiss artist H.R. Giger (who would later design the 1979 film ‘Alien’), the British sci-fi artist Chris Foss, and the British band Pink Floyd, who would provide the soundtrack. Among Jodorowsky’s proposed cast were Orson Welles, Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali, the last of whom was to play the Emperor of the Universe, who ruled from a golden toilet-cum-throne in the shape of two intertwined dolphins. Unable to secure the money from Hollywood to create the ‘Dune’ of his imagination, Jodorowsky abandoned the film before a single frame was shot. All that survives of this project is Jodorowsky’s extensive notes, and the production drawings of Moebius, Giger and Foss. These reveal a potential future for sci-fi movie making that eschewed the conservative, technology-based approach of American filmmakers in favour of something closer to a metaphysical fever-dream. This was, though, a future that would never take place. In 1977, George Lucas’ ‘Star Wars’ was released, and the history of sci-fi filmmaking, and even mainstream cinema, would never be the same again.

Dune’s themes of jihad, resource war and environmental degradation are especially pertinent to our current political moment and the exhibition also seeks to explore the notion of adaptation and counterfactual histories of film. The exhibition brings together production drawings for ‘Dune,’ alongside new works by Steve Claydon, Matthew Day Jackson and Vidya Gastaldon developed in reaction to Jodorowsky’s notes on ‘Dune’ – an extraordinary mixture of mystical pronouncement, philosophical speculation on the nature of authorship, cultural criticism and ‘70s film world gossip.

Steven Claydon uses a range of media to explore moments in history and draw provocative connotations between contemporary social concerns and obsolete ideologies.

Matthew Day Jackson makes paintings, drawings and sculptures that tackle America’s colonial past and its environmentally rapacious present. Vidya Gastaldon creates sculptures, drawings, video animations and prints which explore the neverland between fantasy and reality in works which are microcosms of hallucinatory, saccharine symbols.

The project is guest-curated by Tom Morton, Curator at The Hayward, London, Co-curator of The British Art Show 7 (2010 -11), and Contributing Editor, frieze magazine.

The exhibition toured to Plymouth Arts Centre 3 April – 16 May 2010.