SUPPORT FOR ARTISTS' FILM AND VIDEO IN ENGLAND
1966 - 2003
SUPPORT FOR ARTISTS' FILM AND VIDEO IN ENGLAND
1966 - 2003
The system will never
disappear. We consider it a proof of civilisation. It will never
- A Dutch gallery
official on the fight to preserve state funding of the arts,
The Guardian, 01/03/03
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
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:
The research and compilation of 80 film and video artists bibliographies.
ii. An academic study day at Birkbeck University.
iii. A conference on the subject of production and funding at Tate
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.
v . This paper on the subject
of 'Institutional Support For English Artists' Film and Video'.
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.
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.
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.
the text forms of support for artists film and video are defined
in the following ways:
i. No support: self production
LVA and other artists' organisations, and
Direct Funding support:
BFI, LAB and other Regional Arts bodies,
individual production support,
group support, and
exhibition and distribution support.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Curtis writes the report Subsidies to Independent Filmmakers:
The present situation and how it might
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.
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. 
Sainsbury and Nick Hart-Williams establish The Other Cinema
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.
moves to an abandoned Dairy at 13 Prince of Wales Crescent with
a cinema, workshop and distribution facilities.
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.
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 . 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
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." 
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. 
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.
David Curtis is invited onto the Art Film Committee of the Arts
Council. In May 1977 he becomes
Assistant Film Officer at the Arts Council until his departure
in 2000 (by then a Senior Visual Arts Officer).
Underground Film Festival, NFT.
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.
Festival of Expanded Cinema, ICA.
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.
Video Arts (LVA) founded (Summer)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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. 
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).
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.
National Video Festival at South Hill Park in Bracknell (to
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. 
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  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.
and Video Artists Prize 1985/6.
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.
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.
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, it received very positive
press coverage and audience figures..
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.
The Elusive Sign: British Avant-Garde Film and Video 1977-1987,
Tate Gallery, London.
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):
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.
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
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.
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.
(to '94) Arts Council/C4 jointly commissioned experimental longer
works for television, in £40 - 90K budget range.
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.
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.
BFI Production Board frozen.
Arts Council Film, Video and Broadcasting
Department closed. Artists' film and video is now part of the
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
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.
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.
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).
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) 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. 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...". 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
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. 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." 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. 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
out in some detail 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. 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) would be linked in
part to the availability of this equipment at the LFMC and in art
The Education Nexus - The Engine of Production
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
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.
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).
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." 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
recent debate around funding was organised
by Vertigo magazine in the Lux Centre in 2000. Helen De Witt
summarised the debate succinctly:
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'.
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.
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. 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 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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. Until 1987, the majority
of the Arts Council Film and Video Committee (AFVC) funds were dispensed
as either bursaries or awards to individual artists. 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.
1987 until 1998 a much more expansive strategy was developed by
the AFVC.  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
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.
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. 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
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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
social and cultural history of LFMC is well documented as is that of London
Video Arts. 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.
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..
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
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.
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) 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
was also an artist led collective but it was one which did not have
the physical and political presence of the LFMC.
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?
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
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.
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.
Distribution and Exhibition
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
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).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. 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:
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.
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.
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,
belief that artists film and video needed a wider audience, and
- the need to recover its investment
in awards and bursaries through cultural visibility.
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:
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.
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 , 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.
Study: The All in One Solution - Broadcast Funding for Artists
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
- David Herman. 
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.
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
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
Second House BBC2.
BBC2 arts programme broadcasts abstract colour video work Entering
by Peter Donebauer,
commissioned by Mark Kidel.
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.
The Workshop Declaration allows the establishment of franchised
workshops to produce for broadcast outside usual union agreements.
Experimental music/video production by Patrick Martin and Doe Eylath,
to run in the early evening Riverside arts slot, but moved
to late night because
of 'controversial' content.
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.
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.
4/5 Channel 4
Showcase of European video
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.
TV Dante Channel 4
Canto 5 of Peter Greenaway
and Tom Phillips' experimental work is broadcast, with
Cantos 1 to 8 broadcast in
Timecode Channel 4
International video art collaboration
between eight broadcasters in seven countries.
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.
Hour Awards 88
Film and video art for television
commissioned by the Arts Council and C4.
Hour Awards 89
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.
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.
Dazzling Image Channel 4
Showcase for the Eleventh
Hour, including work by Cerith Wyn Evans, Isaac Julien,
Sandra Lahire, David Larcher,
Series produced by John Wyver/illuminations
featuring work from the USA and Europe.
11th Hour Awards 90 Arts
Experimental animation for
television Channel 4
Minute Television Arts Council/ BBC 2
One minute film/video artworks
for television, shown during The Late Show.
Minute Television Arts Council/ BBC 2
Hour Awards 91 Arts Council/C4
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
for the Camera Arts Council/BBC
Collaborations between directors
5' films on Black arts subjects
by Black directors new to television.
Minute Television Arts Council/ BBC 2
Late Show: The Happening History of Video Art BBC2
Special on international
video art, produced by John Wyver/Illuminations, directed
by George Barber.
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.
Interruptions 1993 MTV
Six commissioned works by
David Hall, produced by Anna Ridley, repeated throughout
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
Shorter/lower budget experimental
works for television (under £25K budgets).
Tracks, Moving Pictures with Channel 4
Film by Black directors on Black music
and visual arts subjects
on Film with BBC 2
Collaborations between directors
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.
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  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. 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. 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.
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.
frustration with the uneven output of the C4 franchised workshops
could also have made the channel more sympathetic to artists' film
collision of these two factors combined with the in roads which
John Wyver had made with the success of Ghost in the Machine 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. 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.  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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
Curtis goes on to say:
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.
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." 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
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:
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.
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
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
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 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.
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.
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"  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.
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.
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 , 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.
So you're against the commercial cinema... against profit?
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. 
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.
- 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.
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 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.
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.
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. 
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.
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. 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.
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. A drop in the ocean
of cultural support.
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.
Mark Wallinger, Art For All - Our Policies And Our Culture,
Edited by Mary Warnock and Mark Wallinger, London, 2002
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.
The LFMC response to the BFI's offer to take over LFMC distribution
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:
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.
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.
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.
letter to the BFI, 1970
1st Meeting:14 Sept 1972, 2nd Meeting:15 March 1973, 3rd Meeting:
1 June 1973
"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
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.
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
Clive Gillman, 'Processing Fluid. A
Brief History of Independent Moving Image Art in the UK', Filmwaves
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' http://www.lux.org.uk/featured.html
Did your Department, your Ministry, say in any way to the BFI that
they must close their Production Board down? TC: The brief answer
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
- Interview with Tom Clarke, Minister for Film and Tourism. Vertigo,
Summer 1998, Issue 8.
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
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.
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.
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, http://www.explodingcinema.org/
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 http://www.lfmc.org/
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
direct public subsidy of non professional film makers should cease.
Instead the BFI and Arts Council should embark upon a programme
designed to stimulate:
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).
shows of work by new film-makers (as they become established)
of work from overseas. (from the New-American Cinema, European film
Co-operative Use of Equipment
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Steve Hawley in Julia Knight (ed.), 'Passing Through the Image',
Diverse Practices - History of British Video Art, published
by Arts Council/ Libbey, 1995
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.
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
'Independence: In A State?' Helen De Witt on the Changing World
of Film Funding. Filmwaves, Issue 6 Winter 1999.
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.
I1 Malcolm LeGrice, Interview
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.
I1 Malcolm LeGrice, Interview
See the 'Shoot, Shoot, Shoot' Chronology assembled by Mark Webber
and 'Locating the LFMC: the
first decade in context' A L Rees. http://www.lfmc.org/
Peter Gidal, Filmwaves, Issue 7, Spring 1999
Peter Gidal, Filmwaves, Issue 7, Spring 1999
'Video-Art: the Dark Ages' Mike Dunford, Undercut No 16 Spring/Summer
In fact Peter Gidal had instituted an early promotion strategy which
was quite effective:
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
Mcintyre, 'The Very Model Of A Modern Funding Agency', Vertigo
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.
Le Grice appendix I1
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.
Stoneman. 'Sins of Commissioning'. Screen Vol 33 No 2 Summer
(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
I1 Malcolm Le Grice Interview
John Wyver explained how Ghost in the Machine got a second
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
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
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
Cosgrove interviewed in Vertigo, Issue 8 Summer 1998
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.
Practice In Television. Defending The Right To Difference' By William
Raban in Vertigo, Issue 8 Summer 1998
The complete extract reveals the clarity of the anti-funding position
of the exploding cinema:
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.
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.
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...
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.
Stars, No Funding No Taste' Molly Spartan interview the Exploding
Cinema Collective, Filmwaves 11, 2-2000