25 Tacita Dean
Antigone (2018)

Almost an hour long, Tacita Dean’s film is a summation of her work to date. Poet Anne Carson and actor Stephen Dillane move through the world on an imaginary day, as the sun is eclipsed. Set in multiple locations and weathers (Bodmin Moor, Yellowstone Park, Wyoming and Illinois), and with innovative technical manipulations (the entire film was edited in-camera), atmospheres and startling imagery, the whole thing is a delight. AS
Read the review.

24 Andreas Gursky
Amazon (2016)

Andreas Gursky makes photographs but not as we know them. The scale of his composite digital images is vast, their detail hyperreal. He is the photographic artist of our time, whether capturing the frenzied activity of the Chicago stock exchange or a painterly vista of the Rhine – a manipulated landscape that does not exist in real life. The extraordinary Amazon offers a glimpse of a single day’s orders stacked in a giant warehouse. A glimpse of the scale, if not the labour, of 21st-century global commerce. SOH
Read more here.

23 Tanja Ostojić
Looking for a Husband with EU Passport (2000-05)

Born in the former Yugoslavia, Tanja Ostojić refuses to claim a nationality. In 2000, she advertised online – using a brutal, shaven-headed and naked photograph of herself – for a husband with an EU Passport. Eventually she met and married a German in a performance in Belgrade. With him, she moved to Düsseldorf. Later, the couple celebrated their divorce. A prescient exploration of how human transactions are conducted online, and using EU law as an artistic medium. AS

22 Steve McQueen
Illuminer (2001)

Lit only by the flickering light of a television programme about US navy seals deployed in Aghanistan, McQueen thrashes on his hotel bed, illuminated by violence, the soundtrack erupting with noise. His camera, on top of the telly, watches him struggling in the gloom. Little more than a filmed sketch, a situation grasped, Illuminer nevertheless has everything, and is a lesson in being able to make work anywhere, anytime. AS

Cool liquid quality ... Freischwimmer.
Cool liquid quality ... Freischwimmer. Photograph: Wolfgang Tillmans

21 Wolfgang Tillmans
Freischwimmer (2003-present)

Humans have made pictures for millennia – why get hung up on how they are made? So asks Wolfgang Tillmans. Soon after becoming the first photographer to win the Turner prize in 2000, Tillmans started experimenting with picture-making that skipped camera, negative and subject, produced by exposing photographic paper to handheld light sources in the darkroom. The Freischwimmer series has a cool liquid quality: vast prints apparently depicting tiny dots of coloured liquid tumbling and trailing through water. In fact they are images of nothing more than their own production: oddly honest for an age in which you can seldom trust your eyes. HJ
Read more here.

20 Tania Bruguera
Tatlin’s Whisper #5 (2008)

Two uniformed mounted policemen and their horses move among the audience, using crowd-control techniques. An exercise in power, this work is as much sculptural as it is a performance, or an equestrian ballet. The smell of the horses, their scale in a contained space, the often unspoken marshalling, the uncertainty of whether you are audience or subject: the Cuban artist regards this 2008 performance as a vignette, but it is so much more. AS
Read more here.

19 Sarah Lucas
God Is Dad (2005)

A snaking cable, some small lightbulbs and a distorted, dangling pair of pale tights hang from a bent coathanger suspended by spindly wire from the ceiling. The pantyhose feet droop, midair. The lights are a sign of life. Whether hanged or floating, dangling or soaring, Lucas’s figure is full of pathos and humour, both miserable and transcendent. Her sense of materiality, and fragility, is pitch-perfect here. AS
Read more here.

18 Arthur Jafa
The White Album (2018)

Oneohtrix Point Never and Iggy Pop; CCTV footage of Dylann Roof calmly entering the Charleston church where he killed nine worshippers; American drone strikes in Iraq and helicopter footage of a black man being beaten by cops during the 1992 LA riots; former redneck racist YouTuber Dixon White discussing white fear and guilt; and a young woman tying herself in knots as she denies her own racism … with its shocking juxtapositions, Arthur Jafa’s gut-wrenching montage deals in contradiction, a kind of call and response of different voices and different tempos. AS
Read more here.

Dormitory … one of the Chinese visitors in Ai Weiwei’s Fairytale.
Dormitory … one of the Chinese visitors in Ai Weiwei’s Fairytale. Photograph: Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty Images

17 Ai Weiwei
Fairytale (2007)

Once upon a time, Beijing’s mighty Prince of Protest was invited by the burghers of Kassel to display his art at a quinquennial exhibition thought the finest in any land. This prince, well versed in new philosophies, set aside painting and video art and decreed the exhibition a social laboratory. One thousand and one citizens of China would travel by his side as both audience and exhibit. And the prince constructed a great dormitory, matching wheelie suitcases and coloured bracelets, that by these tokens the citizens of Kassel might know the citizens of China, and welcome them. And all lived happily ever after (apart from the Prince of Protest, who was arrested four years later and imprisoned for 81 days by his own government). HJ

16 Chris Ofili
The Upper Room (2002)

This cycle of 14 paintings, all based on an Andy Warhol sketch of a monkey, and assembled in a specially constructed and lit room in collaboration with architect David Adjaye, was a breakthrough work for Chris Ofili. Tate’s purchase of the work proved controversial, but it would probably have been split up otherwise. With its drifts of glitter, its gorgeous colour and detail, its humour and elephant dung, it pointed the way to an expansive, immersive narrative approach Ofili has continued to develop. I was astonished. AS

Conceptually intense ... How Not to Be Seen.
Conceptually intense ... How Not to Be Seen. Photograph: Hito Steyerl, courtesy of the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York

15 Hito Steyerl
How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013)

Starting with the basic, pressing question of how to evade surveillance in a world read through moving images, Hito Steyerl’s influential video picks apart what it means to disappear. If surveillance feels grossly invasive, how do we feel about the invisibility afforded to the vastly wealthy? What about the invisibility bestowed by a burqa, systemic bigotry, or extraordinary rendition? Shot on an abandoned satellite “resolution target” in the California desert, How Not to Be Seen is conceptually intense, but retains the daffiness of the Monty Python sketch that inspired it. An artist and theorist both, Steyerl beguiles us into contemplating uncomfortable questions with wit and charm. HJ
Read more here.

14 Tino Sehgal
This Variation (2012)

“This variation, 2012” says a voice in a pitch-black room. Tino Sehgal’s magnificent performance piece takes place in near total darkness. Performers stamp and sing, whisper, holler and dance. They go through little routines, songs and riffs as the viewer stumbles among and between them. Sometimes there is a confrontation and sometimes unnerving quiet. Wildly exhilarating, This Variation concerns presence and presentness, and what it means to be a spectator. AS
Read more here.

13 Susan Hiller
J Street Project (2002-05)

While living in Berlin, Susan Hiller travelled Germany, photographing and filming every street sign and location still prefixed by the word Juden (Jew), finding 303 Judenstrasses and Judengrasses. Birds sing, cars go by, people fold washing as she tramps back alleys and country lanes, city streets and unmade paths. Nothing happens in the film. It has already happened, in bucolic villages and city side-streets. The film lasts a long time, dwelling on the past’s persistence in the present. The camera is unwavering as the world turns, oblivious. AS
Read more here.

12 John Akomfrah
The Unfinished Conversation (2012)

A moving, beautiful, mournful and uplifting three-channel portrait of the lives and times of Stuart Hall. Talent meets talent, words meet images and postwar England meets its wisest cultural thinker in this wonderfully deft work. Using more than 800 hours of audio and TV material from Hall’s own archive, Akomfrah takes us from Hall’s Jamaican childhood to a grey postwar London. But the real concern is the malleability of identities, how we are formed and the endless task of reinventing ourselves. AS
Read more here.

A hallucinatory installation ... The Weather Project.
A hallucinatory installation ... The Weather Project. Photograph: Gijsbert Hanekroot/Alamy

11 Olafur Eliasson
The Weather Project (2003)

The sun indoors ... what’s not to like? Eliasson’s hallucinatory installation in the Tate Turbine Hall had people lying on the floor, mellowing out to his shimmering recreation of a Turneresque sky inside the museum. He would be very good at staging a Pink Floyd reunion. But in fact he is a very thoughtful artist, fascinated by colour, light and the fragile state of nature. This unforgettable spectacle was the most over-the-top in a string of dazzling installations and interventions that have proved Elisasson one of the century’s most significant artists. JJ
Read more here.

10 Gerhard Richter
September (2005)

Based on a photograph in Der Spiegel, Richter’s small painting depicts the moment the second passenger jet flew into the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001, consuming the building in a fireball. The painting is as small as the TV screens people were glued to that day. The image is interrupted, almost swiped away by paint, recognising the impossibility of comprehending the enormity of the moment. AS

A still from part of Yael Bartana’s trilogy And Europe Will Be Stunned.
A still from Zamach, part of Yael Bartana’s trilogy And Europe Will Be Stunned. Photograph: Marcin Kalinski/Yael Bartana

9 Yael Bartana
And Europe Will Be Stunned (2007-11)

Taking as its premise a call for more than three million Jews to return to Poland, land of their forefathers, to save the country from being only for “Polish Poles in Poland”, Yael Bartana’s film trilogy plays on and inverts nationalist sentiment, EU and old-style Communist party rhetoric, Zionist dreams, the holocaust and the Palestinian right to return. With escalating irony, shock and pithy humour, Bartana takes on the world. AS
Read the review.

8 Doris Salcedo
Shibboleth (2007)

Having been cut into the floor of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, the Colombian artist’s 2007 work is still partly visible in the concrete, like an old scar. It zigzagged down the ramp like a small canyon, or the remains of an earthquake. Shibboleth evoked division, a flaw. “It represents borders, the experience of immigrants, the experience of segregation, the experience of racial hatred,” Salcedo said. “The space which illegal immigrants occupy is a negative space. And so this piece is a negative space.” How of our moment Shibboleth remains. AS
Read more here.

7 Wael Shawky
Cabaret Crusades (2010-15)

Loosely inspired by Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf’s The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, Egyptian artist Wael Shawky’s film trilogy is a cycle of plotting and betrayal, slaughter and poetry. Using puppets – some extremely old, many made in clay or Murano glass – Shawky delights, ravishes and informs at every turn. It is hard to keep up with all the shenanigans between Shia and Sunni, and the duplicitous divisions and squabbles of the Christian invaders, regarded by Arab commentators of the time as uncivilised barbarians. AS
Read more here.

A tour-de-force of borrowed movie footage ... The Clock.
A tour-de-force of borrowed movie footage ... The Clock. Photograph: Matt Greenwood/© Tate

6 Christian Marclay
The Clock (2010)

Christian Marclay has described his 24-hour video montage as an albatross, which is perhaps the artist’s loss and our gain. But few will have seen the entire work, with its approximately 12,000 cinema clips spanning its 24-hour entirety. A tour-de-force of borrowed movie footage, The Clock is cinema’s great timepiece, always synchronised to the real time wherever it is shown. Following the diurnal rhythms of everyday life, it is by turns perky, sexy, conspiratorial, manic, exhausted and sullen. Knowing it is there is almost enough. AS
Read more here.

5 Teresa Margolles
What Else Could We Talk About? (2009)

Once a day, a young man mopped the floors and steps of a Venetian Palazzo with rags soaked in the blood of victims of Mexican violence and murder. Teresa Margolles’s Limpieza (Cleaning), part of her larger work at the Mexico Pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennale, was both an everyday routine and a bleak response to both state and criminal violence. Both washing and sullying the floors, Limpieza was emphatic, unforgettable, tragic and tender. AS

4 Pussy Riot
Punk Prayer (2012)

There’s a lot of weak political art out there: sophisticated, modish, after-the-factish art that broadcasts liberal values to a liberal audience. Pussy Riot’s performance of Punk Prayer occupies the opposite pole: feminist, explicitly anti-Putin, protesting the banning of gay pride and the Orthodox church’s support of the president. Staged by the brightly masked punk collective in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, it got members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina arrested and imprisoned. The after-image of their performance still lingers as a powerful – and immaculately constructed – symbol of defiance in the face of freedoms lost. HJ
Read more here.

Pierre Huyghe’s Untilled presented at Documenta 13 in 2012.
Pierre Huyghe’s Untilled presented at Documenta 13 in 2012. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist. ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019

3 Pierre Huyghe
Untilled (2011-12)

Garden, wilderness, installation and performance, Pierre Huyghe’s work for Documenta in 2011 felt like an elegy for a dying world. Among great stands of nettles, strange plants of all descriptions flourished: nightshade and Afghan poppies, aphrodisiacs, poisons and psychotropic plants. In a clearing beside a pond sat a bronze statue of a reclining woman whose head was a living nest of bees. Two lithe greyhounds, one of whom had a leg that had been dyed pink, wandered about. “Live things and inanimate things, made and not made,” read Huyghe’s description of this wondrous work. AS

2 Jeremy Deller
The Battle of Orgreave (2001)

History isn’t only written by the winners – it is also woven into magnificent battle tapestries for their baronial walls, and painted large and heroic on canvas for their palaces. In portraying a brutal clash between pickets and police in South Yorkshire during the miners’ strikes in 1984-5, Deller instead chose to approach this horrifying confrontation from the field up. Battle of Orgreave, described by the artist as “a thousand-person crime re-enactment”, was staged by 800 historical re-enacters and 200 former miners. For all of them, the event was in living memory. A monument of sorts, the performance was at once participatory ritual, spectacle, living archive and a space to mourn. HJ
Read more here.

The fragility of friendship and love ... Ragnar Kjartansson in The Visitors (2012).
The fragility of friendship and love ... Ragnar Kjartansson in The Visitors (2012). Photograph: Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík

1 Ragnar Kjartansson
The Visitors (2012)

Filmed at Rokeby Farm, a grand dilapidated house once owned by the Astor family in upstate New York, The Visitors is a nine-channel video in which the Icelandic artist and his friends, including members of Sigur Rós, sing and play a song whose lyrics were written by Kjartansson’s ex-wife, Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir. Ragnar understood her lyrics as a commentary on what he calls the “common defeat” of their marriage. The music was co-written by Kjartansson and his frequent collaborator Davíð Þór Jónsson.

The artist’s friends play different parts of the same song, which repeats over and over, for more than an hour. A pair of twins play concertina and cello in different rooms – all the musicians were audible to one another through headphones. There are two pianists, a guitarist, drums. The Visitors is a live performance, each musician visible on a different screen. Outside, there is a party on the porch, where the house’s current occupants take in the early evening. Captured in real time, one evening at sunset, the music builds and dies and builds again. The song repeats and develops, reaches false crescendos and plateaus. Ragnar, in the bath, is nearly submerged in soap bubbles as he sings, “Once again I’m falling into my feminine ways.” “There are stars exploding around you / And there is nothing / Nothing you can do,” goes another refrain, in this idyllic crumbling retreat. You get sucked in.

You feel like a guest yourself in this marvellous, immersive multiscreen film. The more often I see it, the more I come to inhabit its rooms. Why is it so compelling and, with its repetitions, so watchable multiple times? The fragility of friendship and love, communality and miscommunication all have a part here.

The title of the work is taken from Abba’s final album, when the band were falling apart. The film’s absurdities and longeurs, the light, and the concentration of all the performers and the repetition of the song is utterly compelling and hypnotic. Youthfulness and idealism feel like a fading dream in the evening’s light. The Visitors is a kind of extended farewell to romanticism, to which Ragnar is both drawn and deeply suspicious of. Writing this, I want to see The Visitors again, immediately. AS
Read more here.


Adrian Searle, Jonathan Jones, Sean O’Hagan and Hettie Judah

The GuardianTramp

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