Ashes with Hindsight

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June 20, 2021 by The Citron Review

After Ashes, Steve McQueen, Tate Modern, London, UK

by Emma Lee


Looking out to the sunny, calm horizon,
one screen shows a young, Grenadian man
on the bow of a small boat, laughing.
A visual cliché for a man with his life
ahead of him. The boat bobs.

The screen on the reverse wall shows
a headstone being cleared of an engraver’s stencil,
a young man’s name and dates above
a fresh grave. It’s where the boat was headed.
A life flattened at the height of youth.

The films run on a continuous loop,
but viewers have to move to the opposite
side to see the ending/beginning,
the oblique suggesting the story 
could disconnect with a viewer’s intervention.


Emma Lee’s publications include The Significance of a Dress (Arachne, 2020) and Ghosts in the Desert (IDP, 2015). She co-edited Over Land, Over Sea, (Five Leaves, 2015), was Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib, reviews for magazines and blogs at


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