book launch / season / exhibition / seminar
BFI Southbank

David Curtis has programmed a four-month season of screenings designed to reflect many of the themes of his new book A History of Artists' Film and Video in Britain. published recently by the British Film Institute. This season follows the book’s structure by showcasing works associated with key moments and movements in this history, and with the organisations that have contributed to its development.

A special opening event accompanies the book-launch of A History of Artists' Film and Video in Britain, and the unveiling of Artefacts, a small exhibition of historic documents and images in the Southbank Centre’s new mezzanine gallery (see below).

A History of Artists' Film and Video in Britain will be available at the special price of £20 (normal price is £25) at the launch.

The season, which features both classics and rarely screened works, follows a chronological order, with Part One in June featuring the 1920s and 1930s - what was arguably the film avant-garde’s period of greatest public visibility before its present gallery-based resurgence. Later programmes will reflect the constant interplay between film/video and the other visual arts (Pop Art and Sculptors Films’; Conceptual Art; Landscape, Still-life and Portrait Films), or explore recurring themes (Sexual Liberation to Feminism, The Body and Identity), or showcase works associated with particular technologies (Super 8 Poets) or key organisations (London Video Arts; the Filmmakers Co-op; The BFI Production Board) and more.

The season will end with a seminar on the challenges of writing histories of radical and experimental film and video, hosted by the BFI jointly with ICFAR (International Centre for Fine Art Research) of the University of the Arts, London.

Launch programme - A Hidden History | Artefacts: Artists’ Film and Video in Documents | June Screenings | July Screenings | August Screenings | September Screenings

Launch programme - A Hidden History
Tuesday May 15 th 6.20 NFT2
The season’s opening programme offers a scattershot view of 100 years of history, in the form of six overlooked or recently rediscovered works, drawing attention to the urgent need to research and preserving the past. Introduced by a short illustrated talk by David Curtis, it ends with a just-completed work as a reminder of the equal importance of continuing to engage with the ‘new’. A ticket to this programme provides admission to the book-launch reception that follows.

Hepworth Manufacturing Company Burnham Beeches 1909 5mins
John Latham Talk Mr Bard c.1959-62 6mins
Conrad Atkinson X Film 1971 10mins
Morgan Fisher Screening Room 1973 3mins
Ian Breakwell Excerpts from the Diary 1975 24mins
Marilyn Halford Cobaea Scandens 1976 8mins

Delegates Space
Guy Sherwin Mobius Loops for 5 projectors, 2007

Artefacts: Artists’ Film and Video in Documents
This display of posters, leaflets, drawings and photographs relating to artists film and video has been drawn from the collections of the BFI Library, NFTVA and the British Artists Film & Video Study Collection at Central Saint Martins. Designed to reflect the do-it-yourself spirit associated with experimental filmmaking, it includes hand-printed posters from the 1960s, throw-away fliers from the 80s, artists’ notebooks, sketches and storyboards, and photographic documentation of exhibitions and other artist-led events from the 1930s to the present.

June Screenings
The first two programmes in this 12 part series focus on Britain’s pre-war film avant garde and the work of artists associated with new movements in the visual arts and literature who found equipment and room to experiment at the margins of the commercial film industry. Cinema’s future was being keenly debated as it faced challenges from the new technologies of sound and colour film, and the growing dominance of the American industry. Artists positively responded to these new possibilities, but they also faced what would become a familiar struggle to secure any form of distribution or exhibition. Rescue for a time came in the unexpected form of the sponsored film, and (more enduringly) the beginnings of an international alternative film culture, supported by artist-run film clubs, magazines and festivals.

The Film Society and Filmmakers’ Little Magazines: 20s & 30s
Tuesday June 5th 6.20 NFT2
Important to the development of artists’ film in the pre war period was the supportive intellectual context provided by The Film Society (1925-39) and a host of little magazines such as Close Up and Film Art, edited by and for film’s avant-garde. In this programme we recreate the Film Society’s eclectic programming mix, and present all silent films with ‘non-synchronous musical accompaniments’ by David Cunningham, as supplied by Len Lye’s sound composer Jack Ellitt to the Film Society throughout its 1934-5 season.
Walther Ruttmann Opus 2-3-4* 1923-5 10mins
Fernand Léger Le Ballet mécanique* France 1924, 8mins
Percy Smith The Birth of a Flower 1910 and The Strength and Agility of Insects. 1911
Oskar Fischinger Experiments in Hand Drawn Sound aka Ornament Sound 1932 7mins Lightcone
Brunel and Montagu’* 1928 1min
Hans Richter and others Everyday 1929-67 15mins
Francis Bruguiere and Oswell Blakeston Light Rhythms 1930 5mins
B Vivian Braun Beyond This Open Road* 1934 7mins

Grierson’s Avant-Garde at the Brussels International Film Festival 1935 and New York Worlds Fair 1939
Monday June 18th 6.20 & Thursday 21st June 8.40 NFT2
Through the Empire Marketing Board and its successor the GPO Film Unit, John Grierson and his successor Alberto Cavalcanti were able to support the filmmaking talents of many young artists. Highly personal, yet widely seen as shorts in cinemas across Britain, the films in this programme won prizes at festivals abroad, and established the international reputation of the British avant-garde.
Basil Wright Song of Ceylon 1934 40mins
Alberto Cavalcanti Coal Face 1935 11mins
Len Lye A Colour Box 1934 4mins
Humphrey Jennings Spare Time 1939 18mins

 

July Screenings
8mm Poets introduces one of the book’s strong themes – that of bloody-minded self-sufficiency; cinema can be made using the simplest equipment (in this case the amateur gauge), and can be shown anywhere. By contrast Ambitious Narrative illustrates the role that public funding can play (however limited) in encouraging and sustaining experiment. Both programmes contain rarely seen works, some lent by the artists.

Ambitious Narrative to Structural Film - 60s-70s [93mins]
Mon 2 July 6.20 & Thurs 5 July 8.40
Experiments in film-narrative benefited from the support of the BFI’s Experimental Film Fund throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. Contemporary literature (Duras, Robbe-Grillet) provided one model, with novelists BS Johnson and WS Burroughs making their own remarkable contributions (the latter self-funded); contemporary music another (here Luciano Berio). The early formal experiments of Greenaway and Hall associated with Structural film, seem remarkably at home in this context. Anthony Balch and William Burroughs Towers Open Fire 1963 16mins
David Gladwell An Untitled Film 1964 9mins
Lloyd Reckord Ten Bob in Winter 1963 12mins
Don Levy Five Short Film Poems aka Don Levy Programme 1967 9mins
B S Johnson You’re Human Like the Rest of Them 1967 18mins
Misha Donat / Luciano Berio Solo 1968 8mins
Peter Greenaway Intervals 1969 7mins
Jonathan Gili Incident 1972 2mins
David Hall & Tony Sinden This Surface 1973 12mins


8mm Poets - Surrealists and New Romantics: 1960s-70s [88mins]
Sun 15th July 6.20 & Fri 20 July 8.40 NFT2
Writing in 1965, critic Ray Durgnat urged artists to use the amateur 8mm film gauge while discussing the work of ‘the 8mm poet’ Jeff Keen: “An 8mm camera is the ballpoint of the visual world”. While the surrealists / outsider-art enthusiasts Keen, Robert Short and Victor Musgrave were the pioneers, it was Jarman’s enthusiasm and the ‘buzz’ surrounding the showing of Super 8 work by his protégés Maybury and Wyn-Evans at the ICA in 1981, that put Super 8 firmly back on the map.
Jeff Keen with Piero Heliczer The Autumn Feast 1961 14mins
Robert Short, Bois Charbons 1968 14mins
Derek Jarman Studio Bankside 1970 6mins
Derek Jarman The Art of Mirrors 1973 10 mins
Victor Musgrave Conversation Piece 1976 10mins
Cerith Wyn-Evans Still Life with Phrenology Head 1979 14mins
John Maybury Is Like a Memory [Experimental Hat Film] 1981 9mins
John Maybury Pagan Idolatory 1984 10mins from The Dream Machine

August Screenings
This month’s four programmes bring this history into the productive late 1960s and early 70s. After a short-lived period of curiosity shown by sculptors and Pop artists in the 1950s, the moving image became a full-time preoccupation of artists, and its assault on the gallery began. The 1960s saw the founding of the London Filmmakers Co-op; the 1970s London Video Arts, two organisations that championed the artists’ cause, and radically changed the nature of distribution of their work. These programmes include many rare works and restorations from the archive.

Pop Art and Sculptors’ Films: Turnbull to Pye - 50s, 60s & 70s
Fri 3 Aug 18:15 & Tue 7 Aug 20:45 NFT2

Film was explored by many visual artists during the 1950s and 1960s; a period when British art was internationally associated with radical new sculpture and Pop Art. This programme contains rare film-works by some of the most celebrated artists of the period and by others who deserve to be better known. Many have their origins in the idea of documentation, but ambitiously explore different forms of collage, multiple viewpoint and space-time relationships.

William Turnbull and Alan Forbes 83B 1951 12 mins
Jeff Keen Wail 1960 5mins and Like The Time is Now 1961 6mins
Eduardo Paolozzi History of Nothing 1963 12mins
James Scott & Richard Hamilton Richard Hamilton 1969 25mins
Bruce Lacey and Jill Bruce Heads, Bodies and Legs 196? 3mins
Derek Boshier Link 1970 10mins
Nicholas Munro Sailing Through 1971 6mins
William Pye Reflections 1972 17mins

From Sexual Liberation to Feminism - 60s, 70s, 80s [99mins]
Sun 5 Aug 16:00 & Fri 17 Aug 20:40 NFT2
In the revolutionary atmosphere of the 60s, filmmaking artists noisily opposed censorship and demanded honesty in representations of sex on screen, with London-based New Yorkers Schneemann and Dwoskin leading the way. In the 70s, after the austere ‘structuralist’ period where representations of the body were generally considered taboo, Feminist artists led by Rhodes answered Laura Mulvey’s challenging question “What would women’s cultural practice be like? What would art and literature within an ideology that did not oppress women be like?”.

Carolee Schneemann, Fuses , USA 1964-66, 18 mins
Dwoskin Moment 1968 13mins
Lis Rhodes Light Reading 1978 20mins
Sandra Lahire Arrows 1984 15mins
Cate Elwes There is a Myth 1984 10mins
Jo Ann Kaplan The Story of I 1997, 23mins

Film Co-op / Film as Film - 60s 70s [ c95mins]
Wed 15 Aug 20:40 & Sun 19 Aug 18:10 NFT2
The London Filmmakers Co-op, founded in 1966, initially followed Jonas Mekas’ New York model in being a artist-run distribution organisation. But London quickly added a vital new ingredient – a film-editing workshop and film-processing laboratory, radically reducing costs and crucially allowing experiment during all stages of the filmmaking process. The works in this programme are by many of the key players of the Co-op’s first years.

Peter Gidal Room Double Take 1967 10mins
Malcolm Le Grice Little Dog For Roger 1968 12mins
Fred Drummond, Shower Proof, 1968, 10 mins
Peter Gidal Clouds 1969 10mins
Stuart Pound Clocktime Trailer 1972 8mins
Roger Hammond Window Box 1972, 3mins
Gill Eatherley Light Occupations: Lens and Mirror Film 1973 3mins
David Crosswaite The Man With The Movie Camera 1973 8mins
‘1973 NFT Underground Festival’ 1973 10mins
John DuCane Zoomlapse 1975 15mins
Annabel Nicolson To the Dairy 1975 4mins

LVA - Video Art contra Television - 70s [c90mins]
Sat 18 Aug 18:20 & Tue 28 Aug 20:40 NFT2

The arrival of the artist-run London Video Arts, (later Access), marked a moment of ‘video specificity’ - video explored as a new medium, with its own material properties. More lastingly, it also issued in video as a critique of dominant mainstream television. Through its association with the Air Gallery and other artist-run spaces, LVA pioneered different forms of video exhibition - and this programme includes works for both single monitor and multi-channel presentation, (the latter courtesy of the University of Dundee’s REWIND project).

Clive Richardson Video Studies 1972 c22mins
David Hall Television Interruptions (1) Interruption Piece 1971 2.20 mins
Tamara Krikorian Unassembled Information 1977 10mins
David Hall Television Interruptions (2) Window Piece 1971 2.25 mins
Stephen Partridge Dialogue for Four Players [4-screen] 1978 16 mins
David Hall Television Interruptions (3) Tap Piece 1971 3.31 mins
David Critchley Pieces I Never Did [3-screen] 1979 35mins

September Screenings
This final set of programmes takes its four themes from among those explored in David Curtis’ book. As before, the film titles include ‘classics’ alongside works that are less well known – either because they were thought lost, or have been overlooked in other recent surveys. Both ‘Conceptual Art’ and ‘Schooling artists’ consist largely of works not currently in distribution. The season concludes with two programmes which illustrate how closely the moving image has become integrated with the other visual arts, as artists explore the tradition subjects - landscape, the body and portraiture. The season ends with a seminar on the challenges of writing histories of non-mainstream film and video, led by four recently published artists, theoreticians and historians.

Conceptual Art
Sat. 1st Sept., 12.30 & Mon. 3 Sept., 20.40 NFT2
During the early 1970s, artists outside the Co-op group were similarly exploring different ways of exhibiting film beyond the cinema context. David Dye and Anthony McCall took film into the gallery in a particularly sculptural form. For John Latham, John Hilliard and David Tremlett, film was primarily a documenting medium, an extension of the function of a still camera, or a means of recording statements and proposing ideas to be seen alongside related works in other media displayed in the gallery. Film in its most cinematic form became a serious preoccupation for artists such as Yoko Ono, David Lamelas, Tony Morgan and John Blake, albeit for a short period of time. At the same time, David Hall, Ian Breakwell and others were pioneering video as a gallery medium.

John Latham Speak 1962-5 10mins
Tony Morgan Beefsteak Resurrection 1968, with Daniel Spoerri 10mins
David Hall Vertical 1970 17mins
John Hilliard From and To 1971 2 screen 6mins
David Dye Unsigning for Eight Projectors 1972 [documentation 2000] c3mins
Anthony McCall Landscape of Fire 1972 7mins
Bill Lundberg Noumenon 1974 11mins
David Lamelas Cumulative Script 1971 15mins
John Blake Bridges 1974 aka Bridge Film 10mins

Landscape / Portrait / Still Life 95mins
Sun. 2nd Sept., 20.50
Landscapes, portraits and still-lives – the stock-in-trade subjects of painting - only began seriously to cross-over into the moving-image repertory with the arrival of cheaper film cameras and ‘home-movies’ in the 1950s. Since then, (and with more than an occasional nod to the panoramas and portraits made by cinema’s 1890’s pioneers), moving-image artists have made these traditional genres very much their own.

Alexandre Promio Liverpool, Panorama pris du chemin de fer electrique 1896 6mins
Margaret Tait Three Portrait Sketches 1951 10mins
William Raban Colours of This Time 1972 3mins
Jenny Okun Still Life 1976 6mins
Chris Welsby Streamline 1976 10mins
Guy Sherwin Metronome,
Guy Sherwin Candle and Clock 1976 6mins
Guy Sherwin Portrait With Parents 1976 3mins from Short Film Series
Malcolm Le Grice Academic Still Life Cezanne 1976 6mins
Chris Newby Hoy 1984 15mins
Marty St James Metamorphosis 1998 7mins
Paul Bush Still Life with Small Cup 1995 4mins
Gillian Wearing Two into One 1996 5mins
Sam Taylor Wood Still Life 2001 4mins
Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman & Joseph Gerhardt) All the Time in the World 2005 4.5mins
Steven Ball The Defenestrascope 2003 6mins

Schooling Artists - Case Study: Chelsea School of Art 85mins
Weds. 5th Sept., 20.40 & Sat. 8th Sept., 18.20
Artists’ film and video first seriously invaded the art-school towards the end of the 60s, and by the early 1970s had achieved a notable impact on the degree-shows of graduates at Hornsey, Saint Martins School of Art, Maidstone, the RCA, NELP, Newcastle Poly, Exeter, Sheffield and Brighton. This programme looks at Chelsea, where the moving-image never formed a single-subject course, but none-the-less thrived for many years thanks to the presence of Anne Rees-Mogg, followed by her protégé Anna Thew, and the quiet encouragement throughout of Nick Wadley.

Guy Sherwin Newsprint 1972 5mins 1974
Chris Welsby Wind Vane 1972 8mins 2-screen
David Pearce Portrait no 2(Anne Rees-Mogg) 1974 11mins
Anne Rees-Mogg Muybridge Film 1975 5mins
Renny Croft Three Short Landscape Films 1979 6mins
Richard Welsby Parallax III 1977 3mins
Jock McFadyen Close Encounters with a Martian Missionary - The Case Continues c20mins 1975
Ian Owles Film School Photo 1976 16mm 6mins
Anna Thew Lost for Words 16mm 1980 - 2007 c12mins
Nick Gordon Smith Heaven of Animals 1984 8mins l
Jock McFadyen [with Helen Chadwick] The Case Continues 1980 20mins

The Body and Indentity 83mins
Weds. 19th Sept., 20.50 & Sat. 22nd Sept., 15.40
In the 1970s and 1980s, feminism and gender politics reclaimed the body as a potent vehicle for expression in film, as it had been in painting and sculpture for millennia. The century’s last two decades added individual elegies to loss, displacement and ‘not belonging’, songs of protest, essays in self-definition and attempts to retrieve overlooked histories, and in common with art-cinema, works that explored the construction and function of memory.

Tina Keane Clapping Songs 1981 8mins
Stuart Marshall Pedagogue 1988 10mins
Amanda Holiday Manao Tupapau 1990 1min
Sarah Pucill You be Mother 8mins 1990
Isaac Julien The Attendant 1992 8mins
Fran Hegarty Turas 1991-4 7mins
Breda Beban & Hrvoje Horvatic AbsenceShe Said 1994 15mins
Tracy Emin Why I Never Became a Dancer 1994, aka Why I Didn't Become a Dancer 6mins
Michael Curran Amami se Vuoi 1994 4mins
Alia Syed The Watershed 1995 8mins
Jayne Parker The Reunion 1997 9mins

Writing Histories event
Weds. 19th Sept., 18.15

Ripped-off, forgotten, marginalised, undocumented. How would we know who made waves experimenting with film and video if the stories remained untold? Yet the histories now emerging are passionately contested. As BFI Southbank approaches the end of David Curtis’ 12-part historical survey based on his book A History of Artists Film and Video in Britain (BFI publishing 2007), we examine the process of making a history and ask what we can learn from the past that will shape our future histories.

Contributors include:
Gareth Evans (Time Out/Vertigo)
Cate Elwes (UAL Camberwell, author Video Art, a Guided Tour)
Duncan Reekie, (founder member of Exploding Cinema and author of Subversion -The Definitive History of Underground Cinema)
and David Curtis (UAL, CSM).

An ICFAR/BFI Southbank event