1966 - 2003

Michael Mazière, AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies: British Artists' Film and Video Study Collection

1. Introduction

2. Methodology

3. Chronology 1966-2000

4. Forms of Institutional Support and Their Effect

6. Summary



1966 - 2003

The system will never disappear. We consider it a proof of civilisation. It will never be banished.
- A Dutch gallery official on the fight to preserve state funding of the arts, The Guardian, 01/03/03

Prejudices must be challenged, new audiences must be reached. something-or-other must be subverted. One has to deal in absolutes - a world of binary oppositions that are readily identified, diagnosed and neutered. The economics of arts patronage encourage a concomitant economy within the structures they create and deploy, expressing their desire to meet the audience halfway. The language of accessibility has led to an almost unconscious adoption of Reithian values - the mission to educate, entertain and instruct - which have permeated from outreach projects to the galleries and museums.
- Mark Wallinger[1]

1. Introduction

This Research work was done as part of a one year Fellowship at Central St Martins in the AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies. The five main outputs of this fellowship were:

i. The research and compilation of 80 film and video artists bibliographies.
ii. An academic study day at Birkbeck University[2].
iii. A conference on the subject of production and funding at Tate Britain[3].
iv. The contribution of research data on artists' film and video to the paper and digital archives of the British Artists' Film and Video Study Collection.
. This paper on the subject of 'Institutional Support For English Artists' Film and Video'.

All this work would not had been possible without the advice and personal archives of David Curtis, Malcolm Le Grice and Mike Leggett as well as the encouragement and support of Laura Mulvey, Director of the AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies. I would also like to thanks Christophe Dupin for sharing his in depth knowledge of the BFI Production Board activities and the interviewees who freely gave their time and attention to this project.

2. Methodology

The research aims to document and analyse the relationship between the history of British artists' film and video and its institutional support structures from 1973 to 2000. It will provide a historical framework on which to hang an analysis and some findings on the matter. The source material for this research comes from the archive documentation of the British Artists' Film and Video Study Collection, the Arts Council and BFI libraries, interviews with key personalities John Wyver, Ian Christie, Ben Gibson, Rod Stoneman, Malcolm Le Grice and David Curtis, a Birkbeck study day symposium and my own files from my time at the London Film-makers Co-op, London Electronic Arts and the Lux.

The paper concentrates specifically on artists' film and video, a term which embraces underground cinema, experimental film and video art. It does not deal with the wider notion of 'independent film and video' on which much has already been published. The central narrative lies between the Arts Council, the LFMC and LVA much of it taking place in London and is also confined to England. The paper uses factual data (chronologies and numerical data), anecdotal research (interviews and quotes) as well as comments and synthesis of trends. I have integrated and clearly identified these different sources in order to present both a factual narrative of the period as well as the different perspectives within it. The analysis is based on research as well as my own experience as an artist and key worker in the funded sector during the latter part of the period in question (1980-2000). Although the majority of my findings are supported by data, some of my conclusions are speculative and may appear to go beyond the strictly empirical. These subjective moments are clearly identified in the text and hopefully offer an additional perspective to the analysis.

Within the text forms of support for artists film and video are defined in the following ways:

i. No support: self production

ii. Indirect support:

LFMC, LVA and other artists' organisations, and

iii. Direct Funding support:

ACE, BFI, LAB and other Regional Arts bodies,
individual production support,
group support, and
exhibition and distribution support.

iv.Cultural institutions:

TV, and
Art Galleries.

For the purpose of historical narrative I include some data and chronological details of the early 'pre-funding' period of 1966-73. The main research period (1973-2000) covers nearly 3 decades of support for artists' film and video. In this period artists' film and video received institutional support through a variety of strategies, funding schemes, co-production and organisations. It is this support and its impact which will be explored in this paper.

3. Chronology

The plotting of lineage and the determination of genealogy serves to cement the perception that culture is somehow a logical and linear process. The idea that it can be understood like an empirical science and that the dynamics of culture are somehow reducible to a simple message of defined cause and effect is difficult to comprehend.
- Clive Gillman[4]

The following represents a list of dates which have been identified as a key to the development of institutional support for artists' film and video. They include dates directly related to funding -such as the creation of new funds and policies - but also moments which are important in any narrative of funding support for artists' film and video.


On the 13 October 1966 the London Film-Makers' Co-operative (LFMC) officially formed at a meeting at Better Books.


The Arts Lab opens with David Curtis running the cinema in the basement.


Cybernetic Serendipity: The Computer and the Arts, Institute of Contemporary Arts. The first showing in Britain of founding video artist Nam June Paik's manipulated TV sets.

Malcolm Le Grice and David Curtis draw up plans for processing/printing equipment to be housed at Arts Lab, and Le Grice and Simon Hartog propose a new Co-op structure.[5]

P. Adams Sitney's Travelling Avant-Garde Film Exposition opens at the NFT and tours the UK.

Peter Gidal arrives from New York, attends screening at Arts Lab.

David Curtis writes the report Subsidies to Independent Filmmakers: The present situation and how it might be improved.


The New Arts Lab called the Institute for Research into Art & Technology  (IRAT) opens. David Curtis runs the cinema, Malcolm Le Grice persuades American financier Victor Herbert to donate £3,000 towards  Co-op equipment and purchases Debrie step printer and Houston-Fearless neg/reversal  processor.

TVX: New Arts Lab. After obtaining portapak and playback equipment on loan from Sony, John Hopkins forms the video co-operative TVX. Based at the New Arts Lab in Robert Street they acquire their own video equipment and start regular screenings


Malcolm Le Grice starts to make colour films on LFMC workshop equipment and running the print/processor.

Rodney  Wilson becomes Film Officer at Arts Council and implements initial funding for artists' films.

BFI tries to negotiate a take-over of LFMC distribution. [6]

 Peter Sainsbury and Nick Hart-Williams establish The Other Cinema.

1st International Underground  Film Festival, a marathon week of over 300 screenings at the National Film Theatre programmed by David Curtis, Simon Field and Albie Thoms with Kurt Kren, Peter Kubelka, Paul  Sharits, Jonas Mekas, Wener Nekes in attendance.


LFMC moves to an abandoned Dairy at 13 Prince of Wales Crescent with a cinema, workshop and distribution facilities.

TV Interruptions: Scottish TV: Ten short experimental pieces by David Hall are commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council for the Edinburgh Festival. Seven of the ten are broadcast unannounced by Scottish Television during transmissions in August and September.


Creation by the Arts Council of Great Britain of Artists' Films Sub-Committee (This becomes the Artists' Film and Video Sub-Committee in April 1979), with its first meeting taking place in September [7]. Over three decades, this committee, in its various guises, would become the principle source of funding for artists' film and video in England. By the year 2000 it had dispensed 1053 individual artists' film and video production grants[8]


Report of the Arts Council Film Committee of Enquiry, ACGB. The Committee consisted of Richard Attenborough, C.B.E. (Chairman),  Humphrey Burton, Lady Casson, N. V. Linklater O.B.E., Karel Reisz, Colin Young,  Rodney Wilson (Art Film Officer, Arts Council), Miss Susan Tyler - (Secretary to the Committee, Arts Council). This report commissioned by the Arts Council made a number of recommendations in support of "Applicants wishing to make non-narrative films: ...we recommend that the Arts Council should embrace and encourage film-making as a fine art activity. We do not envisage that this will necessitate an enormous increase in funds, although some new money will undoubtedly be required to cater for the additional applications. The Committee recommend that, in the first year of expansion in this area, a sum in the region of £25,000 be allocated for this purpose, and under certain circumstances awards should be made which would not necessarily involve the Arts Council retaining copyright of the film." [9]

Appointment of Peter Sainsbury as Acting Production Officer at the British Film Institute Production Board (PB). Sainsbury was one of the founders of The Other Cinema, had sympathies towards underground film (he had edited Afterimage magazine with Simon Field). He later became Head of Production at the PB from 1975 to 1985.  In this period the PB would support a number of ambitious film projects by artists. [10]

BFI Funds for workshops. After much pressure from Malcolm Le Grice (Board member of the PB 1972-76) for the PB to fund film groups, the PB sets aside £7,500 out of the 1973/74 to fund film groups.[11]

February: David Curtis is invited onto the Art Film Committee of the Arts Council.[12] In May 1977 he becomes Assistant Film Officer at the Arts Council until his departure in 2000 (by then a Senior Visual Arts Officer).

International Underground Film Festival, NFT.


November: The Independent Filmmakers' Association (IFA) formed.


First major BFI Grant to London Film-makers Co-Operative (LFMC). The LFMC is awarded a grant for £16,020 from the PB.

May: The Video Show, Serpentine Gallery, London.. The first major international independent video show in Britain, organised  by Peter Block, Sue Grayson, David Hall, Stuart Hood and Clive Scollay and featuring installations, performances and single screen works. British selection includes Roger Barnard, Ian Breakwell, David Critchley, Peter Donebauer, Mike Dunford, Cliff Evans, David Hall, Susan Hiller, Brian Hoey, Sue Hall and John Hopkins, Steve James, Tamara Krikorian, Mike Leggett, Peter Livingstone, Stuart Marshall, Alex Meigh, Will Milne, Paul Neagu, Stephen Partridge, Lis Rhodes, Clive Richardson, Tony Sinden, Reindeer Werk. After the show a selection of British work tours several UK galleries.


First Festival of Expanded Cinema, ICA.

May/June: The Video Show. Tate Gallery, London. Video installations (presented in the lecture room, not in an exhibition space) by Roger Barnard, David Hall, Brian Hoey, Tamara Krikorian, Stuart Marshall and Stephen Partridge.

London Video Arts (LVA) founded (Summer). Organisation initiated by David Hall and formed by artists for the promotion, distribution and exhibition of video art. The first steering committee includes Roger Barnard, David Critchley, Hall, Tamara Krikorian, Stuart Marshall, Stephen Partridge, together with Pete Livingstone, Jonnie Turpie and Brian Hoey.[13]

Film-makers on Tour Scheme. This scheme exists as an encouragement to the showing and discussion of work by film/video-makers, and to offset some of the costs incurred in its presentation; any film/video artist eligible for support from the Sub-Committee can apply to join. Requirements are that artists have at least a one hour programme of work to show (work made as a student should not usually be included); and that they are willing and able to discuss their work with audiences. This scheme provided support for tours of artists' film and video work by splitting the artists' costs and the hire fee with the host venue. A number of artists gained income and visibility from this scheme. In 1985/ 86 162 artists used the scheme and although it was re-launched in April 1987 by 1989 the number had dwindled to 35. It was abandoned in 1989.


Perspectives on British Avant-Garde Film, Hayward Gallery, London: 54 Programmes of International avant-garde film organised by Rodney Wilson and David Curtis at the Arts Council.


First Arts Council Funding for London Video Arts (LVA), 1978.

There were a lot of arguments - David Hall was there - there were arguments about the need for specific funding for video and Malcolm at that time was busy advising BFI about this new medium video.  But David Hall, because of where he came from, was emphatic that this was something that the Arts Council should be doing.  And through the force of his personality he persuaded the Arts Council that they needed to do something for video.  Therefore we first funded some equipment, the first catalogue and then some revenue funding.[14]
Inaugural Screening of London Video Arts: AIR Gallery, London (October) First screening of a selection of international tapes to launch LVA's first distribution catalogue, listing details of tapes and installations by British and international artists. From early 1979 shows were also held at the Acme Gallery, Covent Garden, London.


Film as Film. This exhibition of  'Formal experiments in Film (1910-1975)' was an attempt to place British Experimental Film within the context of European avant-garde cinema ( French Surrealist,  Russian Cinema of the 20s etc..). It was based on a German  exhibition organised by the William and Birgit Hein. The curatorial panel was split on the representation of the history of women's work. Peter Gidal, Annabel Nicolson and Liz Rhodes resigned during the selection process: "Cut the line and chronology falls in a crumpled heap. I prefer a crumpled heap, history at my feet, not stretched above my head" Liz Rhodes[15]

Circles Distribution founded.

Circles emerged from the London Film Makers' Co-op at the end of 1979. It was a radical organisation which came from a tradition of formal and experimental film practice and co-operative organisation. It was one of the first groups to break down the boundaries between film and video work and to promote performance art and installation. Works in distribution were not necessarily feminist, but they reflected "a female point of view which undermines many of the traditional ways of making and watching films. Circles was also committed to bringing forgotten early women's film back into distribution, and to representing the work within a feminist context. For the first two or three years Circles was run voluntarily by Felicity Sparrow from her flat in North London. By choice it received no public funding, except for an Arts Council grant of £100, which was used to buy a 16mm film splicer. It was initially funded by eleven women: Annabel Nicolson, Felicity Sparrow, Jane Clark, Jeanette Iljon, Joanna Davis, Lis Rhodes, Mary Pat Leece, Pat Murphy, Rachel Finkelstein, Susan Stein and Tina Keane. Each of them gave £20. [16]


LFMC summer shows, (1980-1985). Open exhibition of experimental film taking place over 4 days programmed by a committee of artists. This 'open' format allowed for the indiscriminate screening of artists' films and compensated for the more selective programming at the LFMC during the year. It was replaced in 1985 (1985-1993) by a curated avant-garde section (later called Art & Experiment and Electronic Image) of the London Film Festival (LFF).  These high profile screenings begat what was to be the Pandaemonium Festival organised by LEA (1996), and later the LUX (1998 and 2001).

Undercut the magazine from the London-Film-makers Co-op is created. In the 1960s and 1970s artists' film and video made forays into existing publications such as IT, Time Out, Screen and Studio International and accessed a wide readership. Although in the 1980s occasional writings appear in Art Monthly, the Monthly Film Bulletin and Screen, by starting their own publications, artists got more control but less mass visibility. Undercut is soon followed by Independent Video.


The National Video Festival at South Hill Park in Bracknell (to 1988).


C4 franchised workshops, November 1982. After years of development and holding much promise for the independent sector C4 goes on the air with a charter to encourage independent production "encourage innovation and experiment in the form and content of programmes" - The Workshop Declaration, an agreement made between the Channel and the TV technicians union ACTT, allows the establishment of franchised workshops to make film and video productions for broadcast outside usual union agreements.

In January the Video Workshop (later Media Centre) at South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell starts publishing Independent Video (Independent Media from 1986). Produced monthly, it is Britain's only publication devoted to alternative forms of video production and distributes its coverage equally between campaign/community video and video art. Until its demise in 1991, editors (later publishers) Barrie Gibson and David Stewart are assisted by writers (some later Contributing Editors) like Steven Bode, Sean Cubitt, Philip Hayward, Nik Houghton, Julia Knight and Pat Sweeney. From 1987 the ACGB fund a regular 16 page artists' film and video section edited by Michael Maziere and Houghton. [17]


Film and Video Umbrella created, it would be funded with the assistance of the Arts Council Film office. The Umbrella packaged a series of programmes: Robert Breer, Cubism and the Cinema (curated by AL Rees), Recent British Video (curated by Stuart Marshall for The Kitchen in New York ) Scratch Video [18] which were toured to the BFI's Regional Film Theatres by Michael O'Pray. The organisation was franchised out of the Arts Council in 1987. Born out of David Curtis's exhibition policy it remained extremely well funded and close to the Arts Council.


Film and Video Artists Prize 1985/6.

Eight prizes of £500 each are offered annually to young artists/recent graduates in recognition of an outstanding first film/tape or graduate work. Selection was undertaken by a film/video artist or critic each year.

September: Video 1/2/3, Channel 4 TV. Series of three programmes shown within the Eleventh Hour slot, selected by Rod Stoneman and produced by Triple Vision, Video 4/5 follows a year later, highlighting European video art.


January/February: Ghosts in the Machine, Channel 4 TV. Six part series, produced by John Wyver of Illuminations. This extremely successful series. consisting mainly North American works: Max Almy, Peter Campus, Joan Jonas, Les Levine, John Sanborn and William Wegman , raised the profile of artists' video on TV. Although not the first or only venture by artists into television[19], it received very positive press coverage and audience figures.[20].

Network 21: The Pirate TV station transmits at midnight across London. Organised by Bruno De Florence and Thomas Mutke (formally of the LFMC and working at The Fridge in Brixton). Contributors include George Barber, Derek Jarman, John Maybury, Genesis P. Orridge.


December: The Elusive Sign: British Avant-Garde Film and Video 1977-1987, Tate Gallery, London.

Organised by the ACGB and the British Council, selected by Michael O'Pray, Tamara Krikorian and Catherine Lacey, and including video work by George Barber, lan Bourn, Catherine Elwes, Sera Furneaux, Judith Goddard, David Hall, Mona Hatoum, Steve Hawley, Tamara Krikorian, David Larcher, Jayne Parker, Christopher Rowland, Mark Wilcox and Graham Young.

BFI's New Directors (to '98):

New Directors does not seek to add to the annual output of graduation films, but is pitched at the level where the end product is important beyond any educational experiences gained along the way... the 1989 New Directors programme includes some atmospheric conventional narratives with unusual subjects, an experimental video about the author's grandmother, a documentary about music, youth sub-culture and race and an abstract film about AIDS and bereavement. It is a particularly important part of the scheme that, without any pretence at comprehensively covering the field, it does provide a mechanism through which the BFI can engage with experimental, abstract film and the avant gardes, as well as formats which imply their own aesthetics: Super8 and videotape. The budget ceiling for New Directors is £25,000 and a few production procedures have been modified. In every other way, from the high level of involvement by BFI staff producers, technical support and in-house sales and distribution expertise, to the guarantee of a theatrical showcase in the programme of the year's work, the scheme fits absolutely the primary ambitions of the BFI as a space in which to develop people, expertise and innovation.[21]


C4 and Arts Council TV schemes (to '97). 11th Hour Awards, Experimenta, Midnight Underground Film and Video Art for Television, including work by Andrew Kotting, Chris Newby, Stephen Dwoskin, Patrick Keiller, Richard Kwietniowski, John Maybury, Simon Pummel, Annie Griffin, Clio Barnard, Alison Murray.[22]


Video Positive: Bluecoat, Tate, Williamson Art Galleries, Liverpool . Organised by Moviola, curated by Eddie Berg and Steve Littman, and including video installations, performances, screenings and conference. First national videowall commissions by Judith Goddard, David Hall, Steve Littman, Kate Meynell, Steve Partridge, Simon Robertshaw and Mike Jones; and installation commissions by Mineo Aayamaguchi, Zoe Redman, Daniel Reeves, Chris Rowland, Marion Urch and Jeremy Welsh. The staging of the festival is marked by Granada TV's documentary Celebration: In the Belly of the Beast, presented by John Wyver and directed by Terry Flaxton.[23]


Animate! Arts Council schemes with C4 support, 1991 to date. Experimental animation for television; 44 projects to date, including work by Phil Mulloy, Tim Macmillan, Sarah Cox, Keith Piper, Kayla Parker. Animate! is the longest-running broadcaster-linked scheme financed by Arts Council England. It is maintained by the most consistent commitment ever made by Channel 4 Television, or indeed any broadcaster world-wide, to the independent production of innovative and challenging film, video and digital works.


Moving Image Touring Exhibition Service, 1992 (to date). Funded by Arts Council National Touring funds, the Moving Image Touring and Exhibition Service [MITES] is the national exhibition technology resource for artists and exhibitors in the UK. Based at FACT, it offers technical support and subsidised exhibition technologies ranging from data video projectors to computers and audio equipment. MITES has provided equipment for almost every major technology-based exhibition in the UK since its inception in 1992.

National Arts and Media Strategy. In 1990, the Minister for the Arts asked the arts and media funding bodies (the Arts Council of Great Britain, the British Film Institute, the Crafts Council and the Regional Arts Associations/Regional Arts Boards) to prepare a national strategy. The Scottish and Welsh Councils conducted parallel exercises and local authorities and museums funding bodies were also associated with the strategy.  The final version of the national arts and media strategy was completed for Summer 1992. It was intended to provide a mission statement for the arts and media over the following decade.


Longform, (to '94) Arts Council/C4 jointly commissioned experimental longer works for television, in £40 - 90K budget range.


Arts Council, Hi Tech Scheme, (to '95). To give directors/film and video artists the opportunity to experiment with top end computer image rendering facilities, free from the usual programme making constraints and pressures. The intention was to encourage pure experimentation. The six commercial facilities companies provide access to equipment and software plus operator help where necessary. The six bursary holders receive £6k each and the six facilities companies also receive £6k each as a token payment against their costs.[24]


The Lux Centre, (to 2002). Developed throughout the 1990s as a means of stabilising and centralising resources and activities for artists' film and video, the Lux Centre opened in 1997. The Lux was born out of the two key artists' organisations - LEA and the LFMC, with support from the BFI, the London Film and Video development Agency (LFVDA) and the National Lottery. Although providing a unique artistic programme of screenings, exhibitions and events it was to close in 2002[25].


BFI Production Board frozen.[26]

Arts Council Film, Video and Broadcasting Department closed. Artists' film and video is now part of the Visual Arts.[27]


Restructuring of the Arts and Film Councils, 1999/2000. The BFI production Board closes and all production is moved to the newly formed Film Council. "Thus in his foreword to the Film Council's Towards A Sustainable Industry, Alan Parker notes that: "The educational and cultural role of the Film Council has been largely delegated to the British Film Institute and its regional partners." This leaves the Council to get on with the business of producing films that are popular, but not apparently 'cultural'."[28]


The Arts Council Film and Video funds are delegated to the Regional Arts Associations. The LFVDA takes on the London Artists' Film and Video Awards (LAFVA) with London Arts. These awards were made available to individual artists for the production of film/video art for exhibition in galleries, other exhibition spaces or cinemas. Nine projects are selected by the panel for funding a year.

David Curtis leaves the Arts Council to set up the British Artists' Film and Video Study Collection under the auspices of the AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies/Central St Martins. 

4. Forms of Institutional Support

The history of support for artists' film and video shows a gradual movement from the direct funding of artists' film production to the support for video and then distribution, exhibition and touring.  It also develops from production support through simple bursaries to more complex schemes involving, partnerships, multiple funders and broadcasters.  Indirect support to artists is given through a variety of organisations (London Film-Makers' Co-operative (LFMC), London Electronic Arts, (LEA), the Lux Centre, Hull Time Based Arts, Foundation for Art and Creativity (FACT) and also through franchised agencies such as the Film and Video Umbrella.  A vital part of institutional support comes from the education and art school system - this has changed in form but appears to remain consistent. From the early 1970s there has been a close relationship between film courses and workshops (St Martins and the LFMC). In the 1990s this has extended to a relationship between film courses, artists and research grants (re: recent  film and video artists professorships by John Smith, Tina Keane, Andrew Stones and George Barber amongst others).

4.1 The Origins of Funding
The useful unit in the development of artists' film and video can be found in the number of works produced per year. The data (Fig 1)[29] shows that the period of rapid growth of artists' film and video production started in 1966 and peaked in 1973, with 180 productions completed that year. 1966 is also deservedly quoted as year one in various histories of  the Underground[30]. Without reiterating the events of 1966 to 1973 it appears quite clear that artists' film and video grew out of the cultural phenomena of the 'Underground' and rapidly positioned itself as a "...legitimate branch of cinema, rather than a deviant form of theatre / painting / poetry..."[31]. This positioning is key to its further development and the level to which is became possible for artists' film and video to gain institutional support. It is also a key to its increased isolation in the visual arts since 1973.

Very few works in the period 1966-1973 were directly funded. Jeff Keen, Tony Sinden, Stuart Pound and David Hall received small amounts from the BFI Experimental Film Fund and John Latham and Derek Boshier received sums from the Arts Council. The collective thrust of alternative culture combined with the high costs of film technology made film-makers and activists turn to a co-operative model as a means of getting the work made.  David Curtis proposed 3 strategies in September 1968 as ways of subsidising avant-garde film[32]. In this paper such was the belief in co-operative ventures at the time that the idea of direct funding was refuted altogether: "That direct public subsidy of non professional film makers should cease."[33] Furthermore from 1972 to 1975 Malcolm Le Grice would campaign relentlessly for the funding of film groups as a member of the BFI production Board.[34] The belief in Co-operative ideology manifested itself best in the sharing of production equipment at the LFMC. The first plans for the LFMC activities including processing and printing sketched out in some detail[35] by M. Le Grice, resulted in the setting up of a Heath Robinson print and processing equipment in early 1968 and later the Debrie step printer and Houston-Fearless neg/reversal  film processor in October 1969.[36] This technology not only allowed film-makers access to cheap production equipment but developed a production aesthetic unique to English Avant-Garde Film. The sharp rise in the number of productions (from 40 in 1968 to 180 in 1973[37]) would be linked in part to the availability of this equipment at the LFMC and in art schools.  

4.2 The Education Nexus - The Engine of Production

I personally find it interesting - the role of the art schools and art departments in fermenting the video movement. Maidstone in the mid-1970s (to the present day). Coventry, Brighton and St. Martins. And more recently, Sheffield, Hull and Cardiff. Some, like Coventry and Wolverhampton seemed very lively and important in the late seventies, but have faded away. Steve Hawley[38]

Although the origins of artists' film and video clearly lie in the period prior to Arts Council and BFI funding (1966-1973) it would be wrong to assume that time as not of being free of institutional support. An educational nexus was developed during that period which would  influence two generations of artist working with film and video. This involvement with art Schools can be traced back to Malcolm Le Grice's time as a student at the Slade School of Art, in London in 1961-1965. David Curtis was also a student there at the time. From 1964 Le Grice would teach at St Martins School of Art and Goldmiths College. Le Grice's first generation of students (there would be many more as he made his way through the education system) included Gill Eatherley, William  Raban, Fred Drummond, Roger Ackling, Mike Dunford and Annabel Nicolson. All artists with key roles in the development of the LFMC and artists' film and video. Fred Drummond would go on to teach at North East London Polytechnic (NELP) with Lis Rhodes, Ian Kerr, Steve Farrer, John Smith, and Tim Bruce as students. John Smith would go on to teach at NELP and St Martins; Lis Rhodes would teach at Reading University, Croydon, Falmouth, St. Martin's, Glasgow, Winchester, Slade, and the RCA; Guy Sherwin at NELP, Wolverhampton Polytechnic, Wimbledon College of Art, Middlesex Polytechnic. Peter Gidal who graduated from the Royal College of Art film school in 1971 went on to teach at the Royal College of Art from 1972 to 1983. His students included Tim Bruce, Penny Webb, Anna Ambrose, Steve Farrer and later Lucy Panteli, Susan Stein, Cerith Wyn Evans, Nina Danino and Michael Maziere. Ann Rees-Mogg had established a film practice at Chelsea School of Art with Guy Sherwin, Chris Welsby and David Pearce as students. Chris Welsby would teach at the Slade School of Art. Mike Leggett would teach at Exeter College of Art, Somerset College of Art, and Newcastle-on-Tyne Polytechnic.

These strands of influence illustrate the extent to which the educational system became the foundation for artists' film and video. This 'family tree' grew - students would become tutors and spawn new students themselves becoming tutors. The lack of other professional options for film and video artists meant that the educational system's ability to support the sector would start to buckle in the mid eighties. Combined with Thatcher's restructuring of education many key departments would also close (the RCA Environmental Media and Film and TV departments would both close in the eighties).

As Malcolm Le Grice points out the British art school system has provided a bed of creativity for a variety of practices. "That there is a sizeable cinema culture, with nothing much to do with what is taught in film schools, makes no difference to Whitehall. Recognised and fostered or not, it looks as if the new impetus in film, will come out of the art schools rather than the film schools, as did much of the new impetus in music. That's if Pooling and Thatcher don't succeed in closing the lot."[39] The particular Bauhaus model in British Art Schools has made them more than the sums of their parts. The development of artists' film and video was in artistic terms the direct application of the modernist project onto the materials of film and video with all its contradiction.[40] Although couched in political terms by Gidal in his assault on the machinations of 'dominant' cinema, it was Le Grice who clearly led (and still does) this campaign from the inside of the education system.

The British Art School system and the individuals who operated within it had a founding role in the support and development of artists' film and video. It provided initial and later complementary support to a sector which had very few commercial outputs and few other career opportunities. While other movements used the art school system as a foundation (such as the Young British Artists) from which to make an assault on the gallery market, artists' film and video remains deeply connected to it today. The education system is no longer simply a training environment prior to entering 'the real world', but a parallel reality in which an artist can operate throughout his or her life, a 'campus' reality with continuous forms of teaching, Open University, on site galleries and a strong developing research practice.

The Education system provided an undercurrent, proper debates and a certain degree of protection against the uncertainties of the funding systems outside. As well as facilities, resources, a little bit of production funding...The art schools contributed in a number of ways: one they stimulated new, young students. Two, the staff could continue to do work as the bread and butter was coming from the art school cheque and thirdly they became a major part of the circuit. With filmmakers on tour for example I suspect that if I did an analysis, almost all of the screenings were in art schools and universities. So it became part of the real context for the work. It wasn't just education for the work, it became a context for the work
- Malcolm Le Grice[41].

In the 1990s the development of this education nexus has extended to research practice in artists' film and video. This is creating a relationship between film courses, artists and research grants. Academic research funds now in some cases also support production: Fran Hegarty, Tony Hill, William Raban, Andrew Kotting, Nicky Hamlyn, Simon Robertshaw and Catherine Yass have been able to support their work in this way.

The idea that an artist can remain inside the educational system for all his or her professional life - from school to graduate and post graduate studies, teaching and lastly research is a reality. It has been such in many creative environments in the past - philosophy, literature and the visual arts. The fact that artists' film and video can be recognised as a valid area of research is to be applauded yet one can ask if full academic status affects the actual work? One can speculate that operating in a purely educational context can lead to a certain disconnection from the discourses and cultural debates of society. The protected environment of education is nevertheless perceived as less compromising than direct state subsidy. Both Stefan Szczelkun and Duncan Reekie of the radically anti-funding Exploding Cinema (see below) are working on Phds. It seems clear that education and the Anglo-Saxon art school system has been a key place for the development of artists' film and video from an underground and avant-garde practice to an academic form of visual art research.[42]

The argument which defines art as a research activity with little reference to audience outputs seems difficult to justify outside a strictly academic environment. Today, much popular art seems to be immediate, shocking and commodifiable. The modernist approach of inquiry, foregrounding of materials and process based work is difficult to sustain. The institutions which support this activity do so in the context of research and as Malcolm Le Grice has argued, its outputs are neither immediate or necessarily external to the context.  This research argument is one which has provided substantial support for artists elsewhere, in France the CICV in Montbelliard provides production facilites in a converted castle to mature artists. Both David Larcher and Irit Batsry have worked there over the last 10 years, This successful scheme (Irit Batsry won the Whitney Biennale Prize in 2002) could be seen as a model of elitism. Artists are accepted based on their previous work and their ideas with no concern for audience, context or measurable outputs. They are given the freedom to explore and develop their ideas and encouraged to push the boundaries of their practice, even if at first the work seems unintelligible.  Such a model is increasingly being made available to established artists in the UK through the NESTA and Paul Hamlyn awards. These awards provide financial support to established artists for a period of 3 years in order that they may focus solely on their practice.

A recent debate around funding  was organised by Vertigo magazine in the Lux Centre in 2000. Helen De Witt summarised the debate succinctly: 

The State of Independence brought together funders, distributors, film-makers and programmers. Keith Griffith's called for an open and meaningful dialogue between Government bodies and the cultural sector. The message must be presented that sustainable and high quality production, like scientific research, can only take place over time and with adequate money and assistance. Keith Griffiths wasn't confident that the decision-makers had adequate knowledge to realise this, precisely because cultural production has no brand for them to easily recognise. Instead, like show business, of enabling and sitting back enjoying the reflected glory, the Government agencies insist on messing and meddling with the creative process. Ending the conference Steve Mclntyre from Scottish Screen sounded a note of warning. Analogies with scientific research could be disadvantageous as assumptions are easily made about cultural film as merely a training ground for the 'real thing'.[43] 

These two positions sum up the attitude over the placing of artistic activity in the context of research. I believe there is a strong suspicion today in Anglo-Saxon culture over what is perceived as 'difficult' work and 'intellectual arguments' which may back it up. Although this type of work can be made by mature artists within the education context, I also believe that these experimental ventures can be successfully exposed to popular culture. Whether in an institutional, independent or self funded context, there is a large part of the creative process which involves research.  It appears to me that one of the most productive ways of supporting artists' film and video has been to provide the time, space and technology for this crucial aspect of the work.

4.3 Direct Grants to Artists
Specific funding for artists' film and video appeared formally in 1972 through the Arts Council Artists film and Video Sub-Committee. From 1972 to 1999 the direct production funds awarded to artists went from £6,000 to £ 150,000 a year. The film and video awards provided by this panel provided the clearest and most direct from of production subsidy for artists. In a background of collective practice these awards injected a new individual sense of responsibility and legitimacy into the practice. It also createds a pressure to deliver and unease about receiving state funding[44]. From 1966 group politics and collective work had marked out the UK underground and avant-garde film.  Yet the decision to create awards and bursaries as opposed to creating a purchase fund for finished works is significant .  Ever caught between two contexts - cinema and art - the awards and bursaries seemed to be linked to film production costs (although many artists had access to free or very cheap facilities at the LFMC and art schools) and not to remunerating artists. An analysis of the number of works produced against the number of artists funded in the period 1973 to 2000[45] reveals that individual grants and production outputs are not directly related. The data shows that work was being made prolifically before funding and was then sustained and developed with funding[46]:

- In 1973 the impact of the LFMC workshop and artisanal practice was at its height. The prolific output by individuals that year is reflected in this selection: 16 films were made by John Du Cane, 5 by David Parsons, 7 by Malcolm Le Grice and 8 by Annabel Nicolson). This partly explains the high number of individual productions with hardly any funding available.

- From 1987 the total amount of funded artists decreases while the amount of production increases. The policy of transferring funds from production to workshops, organisation, distribution and exhibition  could be responsible for this trend as the funding of a production and cultural infrastructure provided support for the production of work.

- Artists are motivated by a complex web of factors in making work. A major festival or exhibition can be such a motivation.

- Artists' film and video is driven by cultural politics and social energy. Factors which are unrelated to levels of funding.

One must conclude that the level of production is part of a complex web of support which includes education, social context, artists organisation, access to technology and the possibility of proper exhibition. Individual grants therefore clearly do not represent the total measure of support for artists' film and video as much institutional support exists in the education sector and workshops .The question of individual funding support is one which is also linked to technology, social and political context and cultural practice. If in 1973 group workshop activity was the force behind avant-garde practice it is now no longer the case.[47] Until 1987, the majority of the Arts Council Film and Video Committee (AFVC) funds were dispensed as either bursaries or awards to individual artists.[48] The combination of workshops, educational resources and Arts Council grants provided artists with the necessary support to produce work. By the late eighties, the rise of populism and concerns over audience targets and visibility would dramatically alter the funders' strategies. 

From 1987 until 1998 a much more expansive strategy was developed by the AFVC. [49] Awards and Bursaries were to become only a part of a wider funding brief which would increasingly focus on developing exhibition, distribution and funded organisations. But by providing support for all aspects of the sector, the Arts Council built up a micro economy, potentially a self fulfilling cultural sector. 

The problem with artists' film and video is that, for the majority - i.e. those who live in London -this committee (with its TV partners) is (now) practically the only patron. This monopoly is not a good thing. One of the effects of this is that the work we fund tends to be more homogeneous than it should be. Our patronage, with or without TV partners, is based on 'open' invitation of proposals for works. In the absence of any specific guidelines, there are all sorts of ways in which applicants are bound to tailor their proposals to what they perceive as our expectations. We should be both more aware of, and more diverse in the ways we undertake our role as patron.[50]

In the arts, the direct funding of production is like trying to second guess the future. Unlike other models of funding such as commissioning, purchasing works or subsidising distribution, touring and exhibition it is a form of high risk funding which statistically makes an uneven contribution in output.[51] Funding at the point of creation can also have a distorting effect on the creative process if it is too prescriptive such as in funding works for television. But if the funding support is non specific (without a specific production or exhibition in sight) then the danger is that the work will not necessarily be widely exhibited: of the problems of just supporting artists, though it's a nice idea for the artists who are supported, [is that] it can separate the work from the public framework and context. I like the idea that work has a screening context. Or a distribution context. I think that sustaining the funding base is always dependent on there being some realistic evidence of success. The realistic evidence of success is: does it actually get into the public arena, and do people see it?[52]

Unlike the support from education and workshops, direct production funding appears more controversial because it is made up of an individual 'prize' element based on future work. Direct bursaries or awards also offer legitimacy to artists' work and the finances necessary to make work. The majority of individual schemes which provided these funds were based on a converted film production model. Increasingly other models of individual support could be envisaged. In fact now that technology is cheap in the moving image some of the visual arts models may be more appropriate. Commissioning new work for public or private contexts, residencies and purchases of existing work could also serve artists' film and video. 

4.4 Artists' Organisations
Commenting on the period of the structural film in the early 1970s, David Curtis wrote:

...for me its rigour is inextricable from  the physical deprivation of the Prince of Wales Crescent building". At an all time financial low, he adds, "...the LFMC was only held together by Gidal's and Le Grice's 'will to survive'. It was under these conditions that genuinely new ideas emerged.[53]

In order to get a clear picture of how the funding of organisations impacted on their effectiveness and performance it is useful to make distinctions between different types of organisation.

- Artists led collectives: such as the LFMC, LVA, Circles, Exploding Cinema and Hull Time Based Arts (HTBA). These organisations came out of a grass roots collective practice. Driven by a complex web of group and self interest, these organisations are often associated with an artistic movement and a strong set of beliefs. Usually starting out unfunded and relying on the  energy and enthusiasm of their members, these bodies are artist focussed.

- State Funded Agencies: The Film and Video Umbrella and Moviola. These organisations are often the brainchild of a single individual  and operate without the ideological burden of collective practice or the connection to grass roots practice.

- Institutions: The ICA, Tate, RFTs, FACT, Watershed and other centres of Art which are fully institutionalised, hierarchical and often extremely audience focussed.

Artists led collective are the most transformed by funding support as it affects their very independence and identity. Some will make the transition from collectives to institutions as a part of a maturing process, the rebellious child turns into a sensible adult, but they will do so at a cost.

The social and cultural history of LFMC is well documented[54] as is that of London Video Arts[55]. The funding history of the LFMC is still unwritten, being made up of a complex web of revenue, project and capital funds from the BFI, the Greater London Council (GLC), the Arts Council and London's Arts Funding body in its various permutations (GLAA, LAB, LA). From day one as a member of the BFI's PB, Malcolm Le Grice was lobbying for the funding of film groups including the LFMC.

Well right from the start, I had had a policy, which said, that it was better to fund the workshop facility than it was to fund work, to fund scripts. I started with a view that the best funding system was to fund the production resource which would itself lead to experimental work, so they didn't have to pass opinion on ideas and proposals. And the BFI wasn't used to anything that wasn't a conventional script. I argued that within the Production Board, and they funded me to go and do a survey, of the workshops working in the UK. I went around Britain and looked at all the workshops that I could find and I reported back. Out of that did come a policy to fund workshops.[56].

This led to the LFMC's first grant for £16,020 from the PB in 1975. There followed extremely uneven funding support for the LFMC from the BFI until the establishment of the LFVDA in 1992. In contrast LVA had made a strong case to the Arts Council for the need to fund video:

David Hall, because of where he came from, was emphatic that this was something that the Arts Council should be doing.  And really through the force of his personality he persuaded the Arts Council that they needed to do something for video.[57]

Even after receiving funding in the mid 1970s it appears that the LFMC found it difficult to reach a point of stability. This was partly due to its particular management structure but also to what seems an underlying mistrust of the LFMC by funders. The structure of the organisations was such that it had a permanent revolution built into it. Until 1996, staff posts (except the administrator[58]) could only be held for a maximum of two years. In this period new staff were voted in after a speech and interview by the whole membership which could be up to 100 people.

For twenty years avant garde and experimental filmmaking was more interesting, more passionate, more beautiful, more complex philosophically and intellectually, what it comes down to: more filmic, than anywhere else. And the filmmakers loved film, without the usual German, French, American considerations of career, or making it into the mainstream, or onto television, or of money.[59]

Gidals' description of the economics and politics of the LFMC during his period as Cinema Organiser 1970-73 testifies to the energy, commitment and self sufficiency of the organisation:

It was very different in England, and resulted in the only productive advanced film practice. It was obvious, not only to us, that there was enough material for the distribution library to expand and to have shows every Wednesday night; also (truly and every week) sweeping floors, collecting the money, counting it (!), paying filmmakers, hustling Time Out as well as others for space, and all that was hardly single handed since Roger Hammond and David Crosswaite were there each Wednesday, David organising and doing the projection and sound and setting up, which was no mean feat as equipment also had to be maintained, Roger doing numerous endlessly supportive things... as well as there being always others helping especially for programs involving performance, or installation, or different gauges of film, complex sound set ups, visiting filmmakers shows, not to mention articles and essays in journals such as Readings, Art and Artists, etc.... Malcolm Le Grice, Annabel Nicolson, Mike Dunford, not to mention Carla Liss, Barbara Schwarz, Gill Eatherley, Stuart Pound were also, apart from their own practices as filmmakers, organizing Co-op film production, deliveries, projection equipment, repairs, etc.... and well, it all worked and the mixture of having enough work by so many people to show virtually a week or two after a film was finished, and getting Americans and Europeans to send us films for the distribution library which we would also show (and pay them rentals for) meant the system really did function.[60]

While the first 10 years of the LFMC is seen as the 1golden period' it is often underestimated for how long the LFMC successfully supported filmmakers. If the early LFMC was a bastion of the Underground, under Thatcher in the 1980s, the LFMC was a haven for artists with a serious commitment to developing their practice of experimental film. But by the early 1990s the close relationship between films made in the workshop, those in distribution and the cinema -  the model of integrated practice at the LFMC began to loose ground. The blurring of the film/video technology divide in the mid eighties and later the new funding from television also made the 16mm printing/processing technology less relevant. It was at this time that joining forces with LVA was first mooted. 

LVA was also an artist led collective but it was one which did not have the physical and political presence of the LFMC.

Why is London Video Arts situated in the heart of Soho, amongst the media-biz of Wardour Street, and the London Film Co-op in a back street in Chalk Farm? What is represented in the difference between the two institutions? One dark, cluttered, staffed by committed underpaid workers, full of piles of cans, and messy works-in-progress, with an open distribution policy, the other clean, white, staffed by efficient middle-class people, looking like a PR agency, with a new and selective distribution policy? Is it the difference between messy old-fashioned film and new clean electronic video, or is it a difference of political attitude and therefore positioning? Or am I making too much of these things?[61]

Mike Dunford's view of LVA is not untypical of how it was perceived by Co-op film-makers.  But LVA was very astute at raising funds and at distribution and exhibition. It was always a more stable organisation. But it never developed the critical mass of production and the creative environment which marked the LFMC.

The funding of artists led organisations was successful at that time because they had a unique grass roots contact with young artists which larger institutions were unable to develop. Unfortunately, the LFMC inconsistent funding combined with a stagnant management structure meant that by the 1990s it no longer seemed to fulfil its artistic remit. While a certain amount of instability can be a trigger to creativity, the constant insecurity of funding which the LFMC had to bear became a destabilising burden. Throughout its history, the LFMC was held together by its extremely dedicated membership and staff in spite of inadequate funding.  The very nature of the LFMC also made it difficult to fund. Its integrated practice remit of training, production, distribution and exhibition did not fit with targeted funding policies. I believe that its refusal to compromise on artistic remit and outputs, its rebellious and self centred spirit placed in it a difficult position. Funded by the BFI through a variety of discreet loopholes and the will of committed individuals such as Irene Whitehead and Ian Christie, the LFMC did benefit from support. While this inadequate yet protective funding support allowed it to survive, it also perpetuated an internal belief system which would eventually form part of its own demise.

The role of artists' organisations such as the LFMC and LVA was absolutely key to young film and video makers. But as funding became dispersed to other agencies and the Arts Council's own projects, the internal market which developed, along with the rise of video in the gallery, would transform the cultural landscape and challenge  both the LFMC and LEA's structure and artistic mission.

4.5 Distribution and Exhibition

"The majority of avant-garde works are not funded by grants.  All that said, one of the most important things that funding can do is support the exhibition and distribution of work - where you're intervening on behalf of a very broad range of artists in the marketplace, to help those artists to get their work out and to get their money back.
- David Curtis[62]

The open access policy of the LFMC and LVA (initially) in distribution combined with the politics of collectivity meant that individual works were not openly promoted. This policy was abandoned by LVA in 1989, and by the LFMC in 1995 (although unofficially quite a few years before).[63]Although these organisations held the best and most extensive collections of artists' film and video, their ability to successfully promote the work became limited. The reason for this is complex. The non promotion policy led film-makers such as Steven Dwoskin to seek active promotion at the Other Cinema. The funding bodies, wishing to promote the works they had funded started taking on distribution and exhibition themselves. Although this may have created new markets and audiences it also affected the artist-run organisations' ability to generate income.[64] The Arts Council's Art Film Tours of 1970-72 were followed by its Filmmakers on Tour schemes and eventually the creation of the Film and Video Umbrella. The Umbrella came out of the direct provision of exhibitions by the department. David Curtis recalls:

The Umbrella happened initially with the Arts Council doing the administration and Mike O'Pray doing the programming. It came out of the work I'd been doing in terms of programming but it was clear that I couldn't do all that needed to be done. ...I lifted the notion and the title of the Umbrella from the (Dance Department's annual) Dance Umbrella. I remember going to meetings at the Co-op, after I joined the Arts Council, where there were quite hostile responses to the fact that the Arts Council was 'muscling in' on this area.[65]

The Film and Video Umbrella was later franchised out and became a key client of the Arts Council Film and Video Department - its most consistently funded organisation.

While both the LFMC and LEA were receiving support for distribution, the Arts Council was developing its own exhibition and touring strategy. The growing importance of touring and exhibition at the Arts Council came from a number of factors:

- David Curtis' expertise in exhibition and screenings going back to UFO Club and the New Arts Lab,

- the frustration with the distribution policies of the LFMC and LEA,

- the belief that artists film and video needed a wider audience, and

- the need to recover its investment in awards and bursaries through cultural visibility.

By the mid 1990s the Arts Council, RAB and the BFI own ventures into production, distribution and exhibition activities combined with their funding of a wide range of organisations (LEA /LFMC /Moviola /Umbrella ) created a complex mixed market environment. Steve Mcintyre, Chief Executive of the London Film and Video Development Agency openly discusses this tension:

Unlike traditional funders, however, the LFVDA also undertakes activity itself. Thus the rehousing of London Electronic Arts and the London Film-Makers' Co-op in the planned National Centre for Artists' Film, Video and Electronic Media in East London will see the LFVDA (with BFI support) taking the lead on the core development, while the two bodies take responsibility for their own spaces. Similarly, 11' O'Clock High, a programme of artists' film and video broadcast by Carlton in June and produced by the London Production Fund with funding from Carlton and the London Arts Board, involved a comparable mixture of partnership and autonomy - so will bids planned by the LFVDA itself to the National Lottery. This takes us back to where we started because it could be argued that this approach is setting the LFVDA in competition with the independent sector it is there to fund.[66]

All the Arts Council distribution schemes from Film-makers on Tour to the Umbrella had a double impact. They increased the visibility of the work but they also undercut the artist organisations' ability to generate distribution income. I believe that creating this internal state market led to competition and some confusion as to the purpose of the funding. Unlike the hit or miss nature of direct production funding, the support of exhibition, distribution and touring is one which mainly deals with existing work. Both the LFMC and LVA started out as distribution organisations before becoming production centres. Their main assets was always their distribution collections which did not depreciate as did equipment. The Arts Council through Filmmakers on Tour, the Umbrella, and the BFI's expansive distribution policies [67], can be accused of decreasing the income of artists organisations by investing in parallel distribution and exhibition. In an environment where funder and client become blurred, the boundaries between supporting activities and initiating them becomes critical.

5 Case Study: The All in One Solution - Broadcast Funding for Artists

It could be argued that the real high point of intellectual life on British television was not the 1960s or 1970s but the decade between the beginning of Channel 4 and the end of The Late Show in 1995. Mainstream television has seen nothing like these programmes in the eight years since. ... The people who run British television today, except for the great unwatched BBC4 and the occasional South Bank Show, do not have the same passions for ideas and the people who produce and create ideas. They sneer defensively at the idea of a golden age. But you can be sure of one thing: they will not produce or commission programmes about the death of Socrates, the ideas of Foucault or the works of Walter Benjamin. That golden age is dead.
- David Herman. [68]

5.1 Chronology of Artists' Film and Video Broadcast Schemes
As can be seen in this chronology artists work on television moved from the concept of interventions by video artists to a more general showcase format increasingly targeted at a 'niche' audience, and increasingly aired within a late night 'underground' slot.


Videospace TVX/BBC2 TV
Video co-operative TVX is commissioned to do colour experimental work for BBC2
which results in Videospace (untransmitted) and two short pieces to accompany music tracks.


TV Interruptions. Scottish Television (August/September)
Ten short experimental pieces by David Hall commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council for the Edinburgh Festival; seven are broadcast, unannounced. Later distributed as 7 TV Pieces, these have come to be regarded as the first example of British artists' television and (though originally shot on 16mm), as a formative moment in British video art.


Entering: Second House BBC2.
BBC2 arts programme broadcasts abstract colour video work Entering by Peter
Donebauer, commissioned by Mark Kidel.


Arena: Art and Design video art special BBC2.
Conceived by Anna Ridley, produced by Mark Kidel and presented by David Hall. Tapes by British and American artists and a specially commissioned work by Hall
This is a TV Receiver.


Channel 4
The Workshop Declaration allows the establishment of franchised workshops to produce for broadcast outside usual union agreements.


TV Fetish BBC2
Experimental music/video production by Patrick Martin and Doe Eylath, originally
intended to run in the early evening Riverside arts slot, but moved to late night because of 'controversial' content.


Artists' Works for Television Channel 4
Various artists' works, produced by Anna Ridley, including Ian Breakwell's Continuous Diary (21 parts) and the series Dadarama, including work by Rosemary Butcher, David Cunningham, John Latham and Stephen Partridge.


Belshazzar's Feast Channel 4
Video piece by Susan Hiller shown in its entirety and discussed on Did You See? Edinburgh International Television Festival (August).

Video 1/2/3 Channel 4 (September)
Three programmes in the Eleventh Hour slot, selected by Rod Stoneman and produced by Terry Flaxton's company Triple Vision, including tapes by George Barber, Ian Breakwell, Catherine Elwes, the Duvet Brothers.


Video 4/5 Channel 4
Showcase of European video art.

Ghosts in the Machine Channel 4
Six part series produced by John Wyver/Illuminations, featuring American video art and artists' television, including work by Peter Campus, Spalding Gray, Joan Jonas, John Sanbourn and William Wegman.


A TV Dante Channel 4
Canto 5 of Peter Greenaway and Tom Phillips' experimental work is broadcast, with Cantos 1 to 8 broadcast in July/August 1990.


Timecode  Channel 4
International video art collaboration between eight broadcasters in seven countries.

Ghosts in the Machine II, Channel 4
Second series, this time featuring 20 new works for television, eight commissioned from British artists, including Tony Hill and George Snow.

11th Hour Awards 88
Film and video art for television commissioned by the Arts Council and C4.


1lth Hour Awards 89
New Directors
A collaboration between the BFI and Channel 4. In 1998 FilmFour took over Channel 4's contributions. Over the 11 years it has been running 'New Directors' has commissioned  over 60 short films encouraging  new writers, producers and directors. In recent years some of the commissions have received additional funding from others sources.


19:4:90 Television Interventions Channel 4
Conceived by Stephen Partridge and produced by Jane Rigby and Anna Ridley. Commissioned short works transmitted between scheduled programmes, including work by Robert Cahen, David Mach, Bruce McLean, Pratibha Parmar, and the re-transmission of David Hall's 1971 commissions.

The Dazzling Image Channel 4
Showcase for the Eleventh Hour, including work by Cerith Wyn Evans, Isaac Julien, Sandra Lahire, David Larcher, Cordelia Swann.

White Noise BBC2
Series produced by John Wyver/illuminations featuring work from the USA and Europe.

11th Hour Awards 90 Arts Council/C4

Animate! Arts Council/C4
Experimental animation for television Channel 4

One Minute Television Arts Council/ BBC 2
One minute film/video artworks for television, shown during The Late Show.


Animate! Arts Council/C4

One Minute Television Arts Council/ BBC 2

11th Hour Awards 91 Arts Council/C4

Not Necessarily BBC2 Scotland
Eight ten-minute programmes co-produced with the Television Workshop and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, including work by Doug Aubrey, Judith Goddard and Kate Meynell.


Animate! Arts Council/C4

One Minute Television Arts Council/ BBC 2

Experimenta  I

Dazzling Image II C4

Dance for the Camera  Arts Council/BBC 2
Collaborations between directors and choreographers.

Synchro Arts Council/CarIton
5' films on Black arts subjects by Black directors new to television.


Animate! Arts Council/C4

One Minute Television Arts Council/ BBC 2

Experimenta II

The Late Show: The Happening History of Video Art BBC2
Special on international video art, produced by John Wyver/Illuminations, directed by George Barber.

TV Interruptions 1993 MTV Networks
Six works by David Hall, commissioned by MTV in 1993 and produced by Anna Ridley, are transmitted repeatedly throughout the year between scheduled programmes with rights to broadcast for three years.


Animate! Arts Council/C4

TV Interruptions 1993 MTV
Six commissioned works by David Hall, produced by Anna Ridley, repeated throughout the year.

Experimenta - Longform
AC/C4 jointly commissioned experimental longer works for television, in £40-90K budget range. Work by Steve Dwoskin, Jayne Parker, Victoria Mapplebeck and Malcolm LeGrice

Experimenta III
Shorter/lower budget experimental works for television (under £25K budgets).


Black Tracks, Moving Pictures with Channel 4
Film by Black directors on Black music and visual arts subjects

Sound on Film with BBC 2
Collaborations between directors and composers.


Expanding Pictures with BBC 2
One-off series of 6 x 10' programmes of performance based work. Commissioned artists included Gillian Wearing, Sam Taylor Wood, Station House Opera, Mark Wallinger, Bobby Baker, John Wood & Paul Harrison.

5.2 Broadcast Funding Strategies
From a funders point of view television would seem to offer the all in one solution - a package which could include funds for production as well as an immediate form of distribution and exhibition.  By the mid eighties artists' film and video was still in a  twilight zone between cinema and the visual arts. The critical mass of 'independent' cinema of the 1970s had dissipated, post modernist populism was on the rise and the sector needed a fresh injection of funds and visibility. Although experimental film-makers had been involved in the drafting of the C4 constitution [69] which stated that the channel had to "...encourage innovation and experiment in the form and content of programmes" they had received little or no benefit from C4.  Artists' film and video was seen to be too 'difficult' by the broadcasters and the lion's share of money for independents was divided up between the other avant-garde - that represented by Cinema Action, Berwick Street Collective & Amber Films. Some video organisations did get support (Fantasy Factory, Luton 33, and LVA received funds towards 'access' and the purchase of equipment ). Channel 4 made its first investment in community access video workshops, including LVA, providing for the first time widespread access to video postproduction facilities and paved the way for the increased sophistication of artists' tapes during the next few years.[70] The Arts Council itself did not initially have any interest in the channel: "I think that at the time the IFA were arguing for an independent fourth channel, the Arts Council wasn't remotely interested in television at all." David Curtis[71]. It wasn't until 1985 when financial pressure on the Arts Council funds resulted in a 30% cut in the visual arts budget that the Arts Council seriously turned its attention to television.

Al Rees (who was my chief confidant at that time) and I went to see a film at the Hampstead Everyman together and talked about how on earth we were going to find more money.  And we agreed that this was the time to grasp the nettle of television.  Rod Stoneman was already at Channel 4 and in essence within a month or two we had the grounds for what became the 11th Hour Awards, which was the beginning of it[72].

The frustration with the uneven output of the C4 franchised workshops could also have made the channel more sympathetic to artists' film and video.[73]

The collision of these two factors combined with the in roads which John Wyver had made with the success of Ghost in the Machine[74] meant that the Arts Council would feed works into the second series of Ghosts and develop new broadcasting partnerships with both the BBC and C4.[75] There followed a string of successful schemes with C4 and the BBC which raised the audiences for artists' film and video to new highs. In 1992, the audience figure was a total of 6,269,000 million viewers - on an average of 273,000 viewers for work by 1997. When the work moved to a 2 am slot the total audience dropped to 994,000 with an average of 52,000 viewers per work. [76] Even though the audience numbers dropped, the series of Midnight Underground became something of a cult event on television and attracted a core audience of committed, die-hard fans.

Although today, the Arts Council and C4 retain the Animate! scheme, all other schemes have stopped. These broadcast relationships came to an abrupt end with the appointment of Stuart Cosgrove as the Head of Independent Commissioning  at C4 in 1995. Cosgrove's new brand of populism would close the doors to most of the work done by his predecessors -Alan Fountain and Rod Stoneman. 

The idea of fossilising the remit in its early 1980s cognition is wholly inappropriate; I find that conservative in the extreme. It's a non-debate. I'm in charge of the department of innovation and change, not the department of preservation[77].

He would go on to be Head of Arts and Entertainment at the Channel and is largely responsible for the nature of the entertainment content of the Channel today.

5.3 Playing Into the Space -Artists and Broadcast
The impact of broadcast on artists' film and video is difficult to measure. While it did provide supplementary funds for the sector and new audiences, its artistic success is not as clear cut. Rod Stoneman defines two types of artistic approaches to working with television:

If the filmmaker said "I'm doing a series of work and if you like you can put money into opus 325 which stands between 324 and 326", unless what they were doing was so on target, that's less interesting to me than someone who said "ah here's an opportunity - how can I articulate or renew or play with the specific space of television". In terms of the British artists and filmmakers that we were working with, the ones who were interesting were the ones who could - whatever angle they took - be interested in playing into the space[78]

David Curtis goes on to say:

I think quite a lot of artists made rather mediocre work for television and I suspect that, in a sense it had something to do with their inexperience of dealing with the television network . You could say that the Arts Council also funded a lot of work which in other circumstances it wouldn't have funded, whether that's a lowering of standards I don't know.[79]

While the artist Tina Keane said that her piece Neon Diver was made for Channel 4 - it is her only work to be fully paid for and it looks very different to her other works. "When working for TV there are a different set of considerations - conflicts in filmmaking appear between artist and professional."[80] Furthermore the application procedure for these schemes also provides a barrier for artists who work in the visual arts:

Funding for artists comes with long ideological and economic strings attached. As an artist. one has to use another language. The ideas, hunches and visitations that accompany the creation of an artwork have to be banished so that a seamless project can be proposed that can guarantee a calculable return from the potential audience regardless of race, creed, or colour... The aims of the work have to be pitched like an application for planning permission in a parallel universe in which the offence to neighbours is measured by the degree of irrelevance one can bring to their lives or the hope that the response of an indifferent public can feed back as a dividend return on the project.[81]

The case of television brings up the issue of context. The early TV Interventions addressed the television medium head on but latter commissioning was an attempt to use the machine of television for the benefit of another practice. That of experimental film and video art. The degree to which a work was suitable for television becomes a factor in the commissioning process and also a factor in the production process. The new funding system creates a set of values, a sliding scale which encourages  more adaptive, post-modern practice and alienates the more risky and difficult work. The problem of content becomes paramount and so does the issue of duration. Rod Stoneman actually spells out the commissioning agenda as one where:

...a conscious selectivity was going on in terms of taking avant-garde work through transmission to a wider audience, through television.  Apart from the selectivity - with what we thought was the strongest or best work - which is always arguable as any kind of curatorial selection is -there was another thing happening.  This was to do with the fact that certain kinds of avant-garde work was selected out simply because it wouldn't work in a television context.  I mean obviously something like expanded work is self-sufficient and is clearly excluded but I go further.  If you come towards a piece which actually moves quite carefully, quite slowly and plays with duration, my view would be (and that's contestable) that that is destroyed on television and misuses the opportunity.  Whereas the pushing of other boundaries - maybe there's no narrative in sight or those things that people expect from television sets or cinema screens - if it had things like speed, colour, music, energy - it worked -fantastic on television.

5.4 Bridging the Gap

I think that now the notion that a broadcasting debate could be inflected in even the most tiny way, by an artist's voice seems and is absurd.
- John Wyver[82]  

Peter Gidal rings me up to say "Admit it, your mission to popularise the avant-garde and get it onto television was a total failure?", I said "No it wasn't -it did a lot of good." Midnight Underground did a fantastic amount of good.
- David Curtis[83]

The 10 year dialogue (1986-96) between artist and television was the result of a historical moment. Unlike previous incursions or interventions, there was a real attempt at finding a common strategy and bridging the gap between TV and the avant-garde. It was brought on by the remit of C4, the opportunism of John Wyver's Illuminations and the desire on the part of the Arts Council to reach a wider audience. With hindsight, the result was a mixed bag. While it did succeed in injecting extra funds into the sector the commissioning process adopted by the funders it seems to have distorted the artistic output. The One Minute BBC 2 commissions were very successful[84] because their limitations forced artists to enter into the context of television. The direct funding by C4 of established artists like David Larcher (EETC), Derek Jarman (The Garden, Blue) and Malcolm Le Grice (Chronos Fragmented) also proved positive because of the lack of compromise on behalf of established artists.

David's work, because of it's multiple layers - he'd shoot some stuff and then put it through a bath and then do an optical printer and then play with it on video - had that richness and intensity to hold its own just as Derek Jarman's work did.  But they're two of the strongest examples and there were many that didn't work but that's inevitably the risk that you're taking when you're commissioning new work.[85]

Although the funds that the Arts Council raised where always additional "..we never diminished an existing production budget to work with television -it was always extra - we always managed to trawl in some extra money" [86] there seems to have been a blurring of the funding agenda . There are many works which do not sit comfortably either as television or as avant-garde works. This is were the problems encountered when simply funding production (see section 3.3) are magnified, where attempting to bridge the gap between the artistic journey and the demands of television seems to leave works in limbo. The work is neither an artist 'making' work for television or an artist pursuing their creative journey.

The challenge of television funding brings up the issues faced with most funding strategies - the funders need to meet targets and outputs and the artist's desires to follow his or her creative process. I believe that while compromise would seem the best option it is not always the case. Results seem be more artistically successful when artists either embrace the specific challenge of television or to ignore it altogether. For example, while tight TV specific schemes such as One Minute Television, Animate!, Sound on Film and Expanding Pictures seem to have a high success rate, the more open schemes such as 11th Hour and Experimenta produced uneven work. But this issue of risk and failure is common to all film finance including Hollywood and the percentage of broadcastable work remained extremely high throughout these schemes. Although it is the nature of production commissioning schemes to be risky, the mixed purchasing and commissioning nature of Midnight Underground seemed a further step forward. Even if, by the end of its run Midnight Underground had smaller audiences (mainly because of its very late night slot) the work shown was more faithful to its underground and artistic nature.

Artists' venture into broadcasting was a powerful experiment which cannot be simply quantified. Transferring a burgeoning context sensitive, anarchic artistic practice into the homes of millions  was an ambitious and risky project. Unlike artists' work shown on ARTE [87], accessibility and populism was necessary to C4 and the BBC. It is in this quest, to become more intelligible and coherent that some works simply failed. But there is much work that did get produced and broadcast which stands out today in any context, from artists such as David Larcher and Daniel Reeves to Benita Rafan and Kayla Parker. 

6 Summary
MS: So you're against the commercial cinema... against profit?
Duncan Reekie: That's not the point. I mean, I love popular cinema, and the success of the Exploding is based on the box office, we get big audiences and they give us their money, you can't just step out of capitalism into some non-capitalist utopia, that's what the Avant Garde tried to do in the 1970s and the only utopia they discovered was State patronage and bureaucracy, which is even less democratic than four quid at the door. If you want to change cinema you have to understand that you've got to work within the dynamics of capitalism and then you can construct a flexible and resistant alternative. [88]

Over the last 30 years, state patronage has been a central source of support for artists' film and video. The relationship between artistic output and funding outputs is complex. Prior to 1973 the avant-garde was in a healthy if unstable situation:

- The cultural boom of the 1960s had injected confidence, rebellion and motivation into the post-war generation.

- Most artists' film and video was unfunded, made cheaply and free of any artistic compromise. Production was over 180 works per year and the quality of the works was high.[89]

- Workshops and art schools were the catalyst and resources for an increased artistic production in film and video.

- The film society movement, committed commercial distributors, activists and artists' group were doing a competent job of exhibiting the avant-garde.

From 1973 onwards institutional support played a major and more direct role in the support and definition of artists' film and video. A more stable environment was developed and the underground nature of artists' film and video was eroded.

- The grass roots organisations such as the LFMC and LVA provided invaluable centres of production, distribution and exhibition for emerging artists. Their relationship with funders was difficult and appear to have contributed to their existing instability.

- The education nexus which was developed through the art school system provided both economic support for artists/tutors and a powerful cultural base from which to influence students and the curriculum. In some cases the education context became an end in itself,  protecting but also isolating the practice

- The increasing activity of the funding bodies themselves, particularly in the field of television commissioning,  distribution support and exhibition strategy all contributed to the development and identity of artists' film and video. Led by a few personalities and funding everything from production to publications there was a danger of creating an alternative micro economy or state monopoly. The issue of funders competing with their own client also forms a controvertial part of that debate.

- The funders ability to mitigate cuts in film and video moneys with new schemes and collaborations was instrumental in sustaining the flow of support.

Outside of the established cultural activities of both the visual arts and cinema, artist film and video attempted to build new forms of institutional support appropriate to its distinctive practice. In the 1960s and early 1970s the pioneers of avant-garde film and video art dismissed the commodity based gallery system as corrupt and the film production models as antiquated. The history of artists' film and video testifies to an uneasy and often unwilling integration into the cultural mainstreams.

Whether it was called Experimental, Avant-Garde or just Artists' films/videos it represented a body of work that was marginal to the respective institutions of cinema and art and, partly because of that, it was both lively and exciting, if financially unrewarding, generating debate and column inches in film and art journals and the occasional foray into national cinemas and galleries. [90]

Within this definition, the forms of support which where developed had to be acceptable both to the artists and to the institutions which provided the funds. As can be seen in the chronology (see section 2), funding support was provided by a combination of regular  awards and bursaries and a variety of opportunistic schemes and partnerships. The boldness and luxury of placing oneself outside of existing structures (or in opposition) resulted in having to construct a new support infrastructure for the practice. If artists' organisation initially sufficed to support the practice, it quickly became obvious that other spaces and bodies needed to be provide further support. The choice of education and state support was one which offered the possibility of survival and also a power base from which to operate. But with hindsight this process diluted the original revolutionary artistic movement that was experimental film and video art. But transformed by its passage through the institutions of cinema, education, television and the gallery, artists film and video has moved from a hybrid practice resisting definition to take a dominant position in the visual arts.

Whether that is its final context or another phase in its transformation has yet to be seen. But today, very few of the institutions, organisations and activists which supported it in the last 30 years are in place. With the recent closure of the BFI production board, the Arts Council Film, Video and Broadcasting Department, the Lux Centre and the recent merger of the LFVDA with Film London there are hardly any specialised forms of support left for artists film and video[91]. It may be that they are no longer necessary. As artists' film and video continues to thrive, adopted by both private and public galleries,  securing a strong position in research and attracting young artists to its practice.

The support for artists film and video was achieved against difficult odds in an often hostile cultural context. The key artists' organisations which provided the initial drive sustained their activities through commitment and with irregular financial support. The development of an education nexus within the art school system did much to provide stability and continued artistic development. Through a continual process of development with new schemes and collaborations, the Arts Council in particular, managed to sustain regular funds for artists' film and video. The quality and volume of the work supported proved to be  extremely good value for money: the broadcasting department of the Arts Council (of which artists' film and video was the smaller part) represented only 0.32% of ACE spending in 1997[92]. A drop in the ocean of cultural support.

Yet by remaining mainly in a state funded protectionism, artists' film and video was subject to forces outside its control. Its original independence eroded, opportunities may have been lost. Although funding support was diverse in substance with the inclusion of television, galleries and theatrical outlets it was characteristically mediated by a handful of individuals and institutions. By their very success these regular  forms of support may have created a form of dependence. I believe that encouraging  film and video artists to explore other avenues and infect other worlds at an earlier stage could have benefited the practice. Today, artists' film and video is in danger of becoming simply a component of the visual arts. If artists' film and video relies solely on this visual arts context, it could be in danger of losing a large part of its cultural heritage and specificity. If artists film and video is to continue its unique trajectory, future film and video practices will have to find new forms of support in today's mixed economy which can reflect the specific quality of the project: one which crosses boundaries of established artistic discipline and strived to define  a distinctive space within film, the visual arts and television.

Michael Mazière

November 2003

[1] Mark Wallinger, Art For All - Our Policies And Our Culture, Edited by Mary Warnock and Mark Wallinger, London, 2002

[2] Appendix D5, Birkbeck Study Day

[3] Getting It Made: Contemporary Film and Video will take place on Saturday 27th Of March 2004 at Tate Britain. The day includes contributions from Rod Stoneman, executive producer of About Adam and Bloody Sunday, Laura Mulvey, professor of film and media studies at Birkbeck College, John Akomfrah, director of Prostitutes and A Death in the Family, visual artist Mark Wallinger, artist and video maker Zarina Bhimji, co-director of the commissioning group Artangel James Lingwood, new media artist Susan Collins, Ducan Reekie director of Shark Lust, Andrew Kotting director of This Filthy Earth, artist Clive Gillman and a short film selection by David Curtis. Key presentations will be given by Mike Figgis, director of Cold Creek Manor and Hotel, and Lynne Ramsey, director of Morvern Callar and Ratcatcher.

[4] Clive Gillman,  'Processing Fluid. A Brief History of Independent Moving Image Art in the UK', Filmwaves 14, 1-2001

[6] The LFMC response to the BFI's offer to take over LFMC distribution was:

Although the LFMC welcomes this somewhat belated interest on the part of the Institute, we must for the time being - with one minor exception - reject any kind of co-operation with  the Institute for the following reasons:
1. We maintain that the only suitable and useful form of aid the Institute can give the Co-op (and all other groups concerned with the cinema) is a direct, annual cash grant which would help to cover the Co-op's running expenses and allow us to raise the percentage of rental which goes to the film maker. This, for a variety of bureaucratic non-reasons, the institute seems both unable and unwilling to do, but we continue to demand it.
2. The continued disregard of experimental films in both the National and Regional Film Theatres, the unimaginative, commercial use of the Film Production Board's finances, the Archive's medieval isolation, and Sight and Sound's editorial inadequacies, all suggest that the approach to be made to the Co-op is not, as it should be, a sign of a fundamental change in the  Institute's attitude towards experimental films in general, and young British film makers in particular.
3. Most of the Institute's suggestions threaten or impair the independence  of the Co-op as an organisation run by film makers for film makers, and for this reason alone, they must be declined.
LFMC letter to the BFI, 1970

[7] 1st Meeting:14 Sept 1972, 2nd Meeting:15 March 1973, 3rd Meeting: 1 June 1973

[8] This represents the number of grants and not the number of artists. Many artists where regularly funded, for example one artists appears 14 times. See Appendix L2 Total Artists funded

[9] Report of the Arts Council Film Committee of Enquiry. ACGB, 1973, p 6

[10] Appendix L4 BFI Funded Artists

[11] On the 28 January 1974: Second meeting of the advisory group at the PB awards  £3,000 to buy video equipment to be used by groups, with first three grants to film groups agreed: £1,000 to LMFC and Berwick Street Collective, and £800 to London Women's Film Group.                        

[12] An early activist for artists film, with involvement dating back to the 1966; a detailed chronology of his early years can be found in 'English Avant-Garde Film, An Early Chronology' First published in Studio International, Nov/Dec 1975. Republished  in The British Avant Garde Film, ed. Michael O'Pray, Arts Council of England, London, 1996.

[13] "The catalyst for this group of people getting together was the 1975 Video Show at the Serpentine which is where we all met for the first time. We talked about how to proceed, what we were going to do, there wasn't anywhere to promote this work in an organised way." David Critchley in , 'Passing Through the Image', Julia Knight (ed.) Diverse Practices - History of British Video Art, published by Arts Council/ Libbey, 1995

[14] Appendix I2 David Curtis Interview

[15] Liz Rhodes, 'Whose History', Film as Film Catalogue,1979

[16] 'To Whom it May Concern Please Note : CINENOVA', Mel Taylor, Filmwaves, Issue 8, Summer 1999.

[17] Julia Knight (ed.), 'Passing Through the Image', Diverse Practices -A Critical Reader of British Video Art, published by Arts Council/ Libbey, 1996

[18] This programme was selected by Mark Wilcox, Michael O'Pray and Alex Graham, and included work by George Barber, Duvet Brothers, Catherine Elwes, The Flying Lizards, Sandra Goldbacher, Gorilla Tapes, David Hall, Steve Hawley, John Maybury, John Scariett-Davis, Jeremy Welsh, Mark Wilcox, Graham Young and others.

[19] Appendix L5 TV Chronology

[20] Appendix I6 John Wyver Interview.

[21] Ben Gibson, BFI Policy Document, 1989

[22] AppendixL5 TV Chronology and L3 TV Artists & Schemes

The emergence of Moviola/FACT and the first Video Positive festival in 1989 created a new national focus for work produced outside this commercial environment. Its Liverpool base provided a comfortable home for a citywide biennial of exhibitions, seminars and screenings. Video Positive, the subsequent development of MITES (the national arts technology support service) in 1992, and the consolidation of the Film and Video Umbrella under Steven Bode, all heralded the emergence of a new, effective, audience-aware approach to the presentation of work. This, and the sudden interest of national players like the Tate and the South Bank effectively consigned film and video art to the safe haven of the mainstream. It was accepted into the contemporary art canon along with the new breed of media-friendly artists.
Clive Gillman,  'Processing Fluid. A Brief History of Independent Moving Image Art in the UK', Filmwaves 14, 1-2001

[24] The Post Production houses who collaborated in this venture where CFX, The Framestore, The House, MPC, The Mill Rushes. The Bursary holder were Craig Zarouni, George Barber, Richard Wright/Jason White, Susan Collins, Simon Pummel, John Maybury, John Butler. The Selection Committee was made up of Clare Kitson Commissioning Editor Animation C4, Steve White Deputy Head of Presentation C4, Joanna Wendley Creative Board and Art Director BMP & DDB, Jonathan Hills Producer, Clio Barnard Artist

A year later the organisation was still seriously in debt, further destabilised by the withdrawal of BFI rent support, and still struggling with a number of fundamental problems. It was then admitted to the Arts Council's Recovery programme, a scheme for arts organisations in imminent danger of insolvency. This provided the organisation with cashflow and technical support while it worked on a plan for its 'recovery'. As such it was too little, too late, especially when played out against a backdrop in which all the funders were destabilised by their own restructuring. So in October 2001 with rent increases looming the Lux Centre was dropped from the Recovery programme forcing the trustees to immediately close down the organisation and lay off the staff. The trustees were then advised by Price Waterhouse Coopers, who had been employed in a business recovery capacity initially, to liquidate the company and dispose of the assets, thus the company ceased to exist and Price Waterhouse Coopers took over. 
- Ben Cook 'Lux Closure'
VERTIGO: Did your Department, your Ministry, say in any way to the BFI that they must close their Production Board down? TC: The brief answer is no.
VERTIGO: I know you have to go but can we have one final question: can we have a recommendation from you that the Production Board is not closed? TC: So far as the British Film Institute is concerned I can't make an announcement. What I can underline is this Government's commitment, and mine in particular, as a former Governor, to the role of the British Film Institute, especially in education and culture. VERTIGO: What about production? TC: I would be astonished if the BFI ever felt that they couldn't make a contribution to discussion on production.
- Interview with Tom Clarke, Minister for Film and Tourism. Vertigo, Summer 1998, Issue 8.
It seems that the current situation for low-budget filmmaking is highly volatile. The Lux Cinema and new LEA Gallery are vibrant with the energy of new work and the second Pandaemonium Festival this autumn is another bright spot on the horizon. But last year the Film Video and Broadcast Department closed at the Arts Council and the BFI has just frozen its funding for production. The Till Report (Stewart Till was co-chairmen of the Film Policy Review Group which was set up in 1997 to establish an action plan to establish a sustainable film industry in the UK) shows that the grant aided sector can expect nothing from this Labour Government. What we need is a collective voice (like the IFA in the late 1970s) that can articulate an effective opposition to the free-market economics that are the root cause of the erosion in structural support for our kind of filmmaking. As a well known American video artist remarked - we have something unique going on here in London. We have to take urgent and concerted action if we are not to lose it.
- William Raban, 'Lifting Traces', Filmwaves 4, Spring 1998

[28] 'A Cultural Film Policy: Who Needs It', Mike Wayne, Filmwaves, Issue 18, 2-2002

[29] Appendix Fig 1. Artists Film and Video Production 1914-1999. These figures are taken from the British Artists' Film and Video Study Collection database of artists film and video.

In 1966 London counter culture was gearing up for the revolution....the mods were mixing it at the coast, the radical student movement was beginning a cycle of sit -ins and occupations, drug use was becoming a form of rebellion, there was a steady influx of militant draft dodgers from the U.S. and liberational movements were coalescing around radical feminism, black power, gay liberation, ecology, squatting and the commune.
At the Better Books bookshop on Charing Cross Road the poet manager Bob Cobbing began screening American Underground film as part of a series of events that included work from the Destruction In Art Symposium and readings by poets including Alexander Trocchi. Out of these screenings emerged the London Filmmakers Co-Op on the 13th October 1966. The Co-Op based its structure on the New York Co-Op an open screening, open distribution collective formed in 1961.In its formative stages the London Co-Op was a coalition of disparate interests; U.S. film-makers including  Steve Dwoskin and Simon Hartog and British journalists, poets and would be film makers including Cobbing, Raymond Durgnat and Dave Curtis. Two weeks after its formation the Co-Op teamed up with I.T. , the International Times, London's first weekly Underground newspaper, and counter cultural organizer  Jim Haynes to hold the Spontaneous Festival of Underground Film at the Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre, from Halloween to Bonfire Night.
'The Days of the London Film Underground' 1966-70,

See also David Curtis' 'English Avant-Garde Film, An Early Chronology' First published in Studio International, Nov/Dec 1975. Republished in The British Avant Garde Film, ed. Michael O'Pray, Arts Council of England, London, 1996 and LFMC Chronology  assembled by Mark Webber for his Shoot Shoot Shoot programme on

[31] . The quote goes on to say: "And through becoming cinema it finally lost the interest of the English Art going public." David Curtis' 'English Avant-Garde Film, An Early Chronology' First published in Studio International, Nov/Dec 1975. Republished in The British Avant Garde Film, ed. Michael O'Pray, Arts Council of England, London, 1996

That direct public subsidy of non professional film makers should cease. Instead the BFI and Arts Council should embark upon a programme designed to stimulate:
1) Places of Exhibition
Open screenings open to all film-makers N.B. for the past 6 months open screenings have proved the most popular audience pullers at the arts lab (Chelsea Girls apart).
Repertory shows of work by new film-makers (as they become established)
Festivals of work from overseas. (from the New-American Cinema, European film Co-ops etc.)
2) Co-operative Use of Equipment
Assistance to groups such as the London Film-makers Co-operative, the Grasshopper Group (by provision of equipment incl. processing and editing ) and the University Film Groups (by encouraging faculties to make the equipment that every university already has available to students from all departments.) And by subsidy of space for studios cutting rooms etc where needed.
3) Distribution
Assist amateur libraries, Film-Makers Co-operative - regional libraries (based on the local NFT) Probably the most practical way would be through publicity handled by the C.B.A., the federation of film societies. The BFI could also assist by raising their film hire charges (on the underground' films that they distribute) to come into line with the standard rates. So that film-makers can get reasonable returns.
That the BFI and Arts Council should set up a panel whose sole function would be to make a continuous assault upon industry and foundations. To get more sponsors for independent film.'Subsidy to Independent Film-makers: The Present Situation and How It Might Be Improved'. David Curtis September 1968,
- Unpublished but sent to the Arts Council and BFI.

For an overview of the economic situation in 1968/69 see also 'The Economics of the Independent Film' by David Curtis, Cinema, March 1969.

[33] ibid

All those groups remain in DESPERATE need of assistance, and whatever the criticisms, the track record of at least six of the film groups (ignoring the video groups as being outside my 'expertise'): the London Filmmakers Co-operative, Berwick Street Collective,  Cinema Action, the Women's Film Group, Independent Cinema West and Liberation Film  is, absolutely undeniable. Even if their organisational structures and means of operations are unconventional, they have behind them a substantial record of achievement. In all other European countries they would be assisted to a level inconceivable  here. The BFI has a clear responsibility to assist these groups and quickly. I will risk being  partisan by particularly mentioning the Co-op.(As you know I have consistently avoided pleading a special case for that group). It has worked more consistently and longer (formed in late 1965) than any of the others and is again faced with the problem of moving. This is the third time in six years that the workshop will need to be re-installed and a cinema re-built. It is high time that the Co-op, which distributes over 500 independent films in Britain and Europe, which has presented experimental cinema in inadequate surroundings and whose workshop has enabled the production of over 200 films, should be assured some stability and assistance to raise the level of its activities. Their plight is symptomatic of the priority which is given in this country to real cultural initiatives. Similar initiatives in Holland (STOFF), Sweden (Film Centrum) and New York (Millenium), Australia (Melbourne and Sydney Co-operatives) are generously and eagerly supported, or, as in the case of the Danish Film Workshop or Canada's Challenge for Change actually initiated at an official level.
- Malcolm Le Grice's Production Board resignation letter to Keith Lucas, BFI, 8 April 1975.

[35] Diagram of LFMC by Malcolm Le Grice

To some extent I became an historian and theorist by default - little was known of experimental film in the UK and there was absolutely no context for film as experimental art. A filmmaking 'scene' began to emerge around the Arts Lab and the London Film Makers' Cooperative and at Saint Martin's School of Art largely stimulated by me and John Latham before he was scandalously sacked 'chewing-over' Clement Greenberg - a long story. My contribution to this scene stemmed mainly from conceiving - with David Curtis - the idea of a filmmakers workshop with printing, developing as well as editing facilities. After building my own film printer and processing machine - used in my early work - I set up the Co-op workshop with second hand professional equipment following the merger of Arts Lab and Co-op.
- Malcolm Le Grice, 'Improvising Time and Image', Filmwaves, Issue 14 1-2001

[37] Appendix Diagram F2 Production 1966-2000

[38] Steve Hawley in Julia Knight (ed.), 'Passing Through the Image', Diverse Practices - History of British Video Art, published by Arts Council/ Libbey, 1995

[39] Malcolm Le Grice, 'Film - Fine Art - The Art School', undated document.

Many of the students at St Martins were working against any simple theory of the image as illusion. Perhaps this testifies to the degree of openness encouraged in the department and the fact that in recent years Le Grice and others have felt a certain inadequacy in former theories of materiality and illusion. There is an ambivalence in Le Grice's statements concerning the status of the Fine Art ethos in the department. For example he said, 'Our terminology runs quite counter to the mythologies of the individual artist which inform the traditional art school', but he also said, 'Well obviously our philosophy is still very strongly related to the Fine Art philosophy that what we're concerned with is the development of the individual student's work'. To this he added, 'We have, in some ways, a broader attitude you know we recognise the possibilities of collaborative projects; but admittedly, as it happens we've rarely had to deal in the third year with collaborative projects.'
- Paul Wallace, Media Production in Higher Education; the problem of theory and practice. Undercut 16, Spring/Summer 1986.

[41] Appendix I1 Malcolm LeGrice, Interview

If you use the scientific model in the concept of artists' research, nobody thinks it's strange that a university science department would be doing research that has some really important bearing in the professional world that contributes to, say to the chemicals industry or to the electronic industry. Increasingly the diversification of the film industry, into cinema/media industry, audio visual moving image industry, means that education and research actually fit better in this territory. They almost become almost a component in that industry rather than a training for it. So that training model doesnt function anymore and certainly not in the same way. Curiously the art world has got this problem as well: the art school is a major component of contemporary art culture, rather than being a sort of 'preparation' for professional life. It is actually one of the components of cultural intervention. It's interesting that one of our research fellows, Catherine Yass, is up for the Turner Prize. It's not because she's a fellow here, but the degree to which the issues around contemporary art have become less 'commodity based',  more based on ideas.
- Appendix I1 Malcolm LeGrice, Interview

[43] 'Independence: In A State?' Helen De Witt on the Changing World of Film Funding. Filmwaves, Issue 6 Winter 1999.

[44] One of the first to receive these was Malcolm Le Grice:

I believe mine was one of the first and it was called Threshold. I made Threshold and curiously, I looked and thought, "I'm not sure about this film." And I'd also made Whitchurch Down and thought it was a more interesting film, so I gave them both because I felt a terrible responsibility. I felt like a test case and thought, I really don't want them to feel this is some kind of failure. I wanted them to be happy about what they got out of this. Because I felt that on the success of this one rested the whole policy of funding artists' film. I was very nervous, I don't think it affected how I made the films, but I did feel a terrible weight of having to come up with something which they were going to be able to feel they'd got their money's worth.
Appendix I1 Malcolm LeGrice, Interview

[45] Appendix F5 Production & Funding

[46] Appendix F2 Production 1966-2000

When the Lux closed and people were bemoaning the loss of the workshop, I found myself not too worried about it, because I felt that the workshop had had its time... There was a time when it was utterly crucial, absolutely essential to the development of the culture and it stopped being that, and for lots of reasons. The shift to cheaper, lower cost video production and then to digital editing  - the technology change. I don't think that the collective filmmakers workshop idea now has a great deal of currency to it.
Appendix I1 Malcolm LeGrice, Interview

[48] Appendix F3 Arts Council Expenditure

[49] Appendix D6 & Appendix D7 Arts Council Schemes 1987/1994

[50] Appendix D2 David Curtis

[51] Appendix F5 Production & Funding

[52] Appendix I1 Malcolm LeGrice, Interview

[53] 'Locating  the LFMC: the  first decade in context', A L  Rees,

[54] See the 'Shoot, Shoot, Shoot' Chronology assembled by Mark Webber and 'Locating  the LFMC: the  first decade in context' A L Rees.

[55] See the Chronology in Julia Knight (ed.), 'Passing Through the Image', Diverse Practices - History of British Video Art, published by Arts Council/ Libbey, 1995

[56] Appendix I1 Malcolm Le Grice Interview

[57] Appendix I2 David Curtis Interview

[58] The BFI's revenue funded an administrator staff post in 1983 and had stipulated that an administrator be employed on a permanent contract, while other staff remained on 2 year maximum tenure. This staff rotation was to avoid careerism and the professionalisation of the organisation.

[59] Peter Gidal, Filmwaves, Issue 7, Spring 1999

[60] Peter Gidal, Filmwaves, Issue 7, Spring 1999

[61] 'Video-Art: the Dark Ages' Mike Dunford, Undercut No 16 Spring/Summer 1986

[62] Appendix I2 David Curtis Interview

[63] In fact Peter Gidal had instituted an early promotion strategy which was quite effective:

One of my positions as treasurer since 1969 had been that no European booking for American films - of which there were many in France, Belgium, and Italy - could go ahead without at least 50% of bookings being British work. If they didn't like it they could book from the NY Co-op, but the NY Co-op didn't book outside the United States, so that left us. It seemed the only way to not allow American cultural imperialism cultural hegemony.
- Peter Gidal, Filmwaves N 7 Spring 1999

[64] Film-makers on Tour, the first major exhibition subsidy scheme.

[65] Appendix I2 David Curtis Interview

[66] Steve Mcintyre, 'The Very Model Of A Modern Funding Agency', Vertigo Magazine, 1996

[67] The BFI consistently tried to 'acquire' the best of avant-garde cinema from the LFMC and outside. Within the LFMC there was a fear that the BFI would stop funding the LFMC and cherry pick the best of the collection.

[68] David Herman 'Thought Crime', Guardian 01/11/03

I was part of that lobbying group when the development of Channel 4 was going through Parliament. There was a lobbying group from the IFA, but there was also the Independent Producers Association -the IPA. A lot of the vultures started to gather at the point when Channel 4 looked like it was going to be initiated, and the sense that the charter for Channel 4 was going to be a very different animal. It looked like it was really going to be more responsive to radical, political and artistic ideas. There was also a strong sense that it was going to be encouraging a  higher level of debate at the political and artistic level.
Malcolm Le Grice appendix I1
At its height a budget of about £2 million from Channel Four contributed to a network of twelve to fifteen workshops each year... As the decade wore on, the economics of this enterprise began to deteriorate. By the later eighties, as national and local state support receded, Channel Four was funding the majority of groups to between eighty and ninety per cent of their total income . The whole enterprise ended with something less than a bang as the Department decided to open out the £2 million budget previously reserved exclusively for official workshops into the Television With A Difference scheme, a two-year transition supposedly extending the workshop-funding basis to any individual or group (including those not franchised by the union). It became difficult to reserve a budget of this scale for the production of a set of programmes that were not linked to a specific slot in the schedule. Although this scheme enabled many producers to shoot and edit over an extended period and some strong pieces emerged from it, in the context of diminishing departmental finance this halfway stage became untenable, and the separate budget was finally abandoned in 1991.
- Rod Stoneman. 'Sins of Commissioning'. Screen Vol 33 No 2 Summer 1992.

[71] Appendix I2 David Curtis Interview

[72] Appendix I2 David Curtis Interview

Alan (Fountain) had been, in my understanding, very committed to the workshop sector but got to a point where he thought, "I've got to go for something else here because, you know, the workshop sector is not doing it."  They thought the workshop sector was the way of getting work. And I think the big disappointment was that very little came out of it that could go on to TV. This is why I think suddenly Alan gave Rod his head and allowed him to work with David Curtis. I think it was a change in strategy at that point, that gave rise to artists working with Channel 4.
Appendix I1 Malcolm Le Grice Interview

[74] John Wyver explained how Ghost in the Machine got a second series:

Crucially the Financial Times carried a large article which was an absolute praise to the series The best review I've ever had: "We owe John Wyver a huge vote of thanks for, for pulling this together. And Channel 4, a vast roar of encouragement for transmitting it." Michael Jackson and Jeremy Isaacs were in Italy for the Prix Italia, picked up the FT, read it at breakfast, and Jeremy said to Michael, "This is fantastic! Get John to do some more." So Michael then said, "Well do some more." And I said, "I think I've shown the best of it. And it's not good enough just to buy this work, you've got to commission new work, put something back into the world, as it were.
- I6 John Wyver Interview

[75] For a detailed chronology of the Arts Councils' schemes see 'Expanded Practice In Television. Defending The Right To Difference' By William Raban in Vertigo, Issue 8 Summer 1998

[76] Appendix L6 TV Audience Figures 92-97

[77] Cosgrove goes on to say:

'Rebel Culture' was a term I used at a public forum in London, to signify the sense that resistance is not necessarily the province or the domain of specific histories. I think - this is not a criticism of Alan Fountain and Rod Stoneman - but there was the perception that the department had a fairly narrowly defined notion of political resistance, defined by the trajectory of largely Marxist materialist, left-liberal politics. This is obviously something 1 feel close to and I don't have any huge problem with that. But it's also important to recognise that there's a hell of a lot of other notions of resisting the state.
Stuart Cosgrove interviewed in Vertigo, Issue 8 Summer 1998

[78] Appendix I4 Rod Stoneman Interview

[79] Appendix I2 David Curtis Interview

[80] Appendix D5 Birkbeck Study Day

[81] Art For All - Our Policies And Our Culture, Edited by Mary Warnock and Mark Wallinger, London, 2002

[82] Appendix I6 John Wyver Interview

[83] Appendix I2 David Curtis Interview

[84] The One Minute TV Pieces where not just popular with audiences but the resulting work proved artistically challenging: 

The opening of the venture into the television arena for Artists' Films began in 1988 with the Arts Council feeding strands into the second of John Wyver's Channel Four series Ghosts in the Machine. As a result of negotiations between David Curtis, Head of Artists' Film & Video at the Arts Council, and Alex Graham and Michael Jackson at the BBC, the first jointly funded broadcast scheme started in 1989 with the One Minute TV series for The Late Show. The scheme ran for four years with a total of 45 works being commissioned. The format proved to be highly influential with at least two festivals (Sao Paolo and Hamburg) dedicating sections to the exhibition of one minute films and programmes.
'Expanded Practice In Television. Defending The Right To Difference' By William Raban in Vertigo, Issue 8 Summer 1998

[85] Appendix I4 Rod Stoneman Interview

[86] Appendix I2 David Curtis Interview

[87] Arte is the Franco-German arts channel which is unashamedly highbrow.

[88] The complete extract reveals the clarity of the anti-funding position of the exploding cinema:

Molly Spartan(MS): And I hear you totally reject state funding?
Stephan Szczelkun (SS): Everyone studies Gramsci's theory of hegemony at college and then once they're out in the world they just cave in. State funding is very invidious in undermining  truly flexible critical cultural responses. There's always that bit of your mind which is taking into account the interests of the committee, that job you might be offered. Being 'open access' is an anti-ideological statement, it's the key to what Exploding is trying to do.
MS: Isn't this all a bit extremist, idealist and self defeating?
SS: Not really, we're just suggesting that we take the idea of democracy a bit further. Stop blathering on about social justice and really start to insist on it in cultural practice.
MS: What would this mean for funding?
SS: We'd like to see the funding structure demolished and be rebuilt on the basis of a truly democratic public debate. The collective is also open for anyone to join...
MS: So does that mean the Exploding is a political organisation?
SS: Politics are rarely discussed in our meetings and are not part of the constitutional aims. It's more like we are loosely part of an international counter culture which is broadly anarchistic and believes that the state and its satellite agencies exists for the benefit of capitalism, or at least to protect capital.
'No Stars, No Funding No Taste' Molly Spartan interview the Exploding Cinema Collective, Filmwaves 11, 2-2000

[89] That year saw the making of Peter Gidal's Room Film, Derek Jarman's The Art of Mirrors, Tony Hill's Expanded Movie, David Crosswaite's Man With The Movie Camera, Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising, Le Grice's After Leonardo and Anthony McCall Line Describing a Cone among others.

[90] Felicity Sparrow, 'A Century of Artists' Film in Britain or the Hybrid Black Box', Filmwaves Issue 22, 3-2003

[91] See years 1998 to 2000 in the Section 1 - Chronology

[92] Appendix F4: ACE by artform 96-97