Independent curators Simon Payne and Andrew Vallance investigate the recent rise of film and video art in Britain, and how it’s charted in Assembly, a major film programme at Tate Britain

Assembly: A survey of recent artists’ film and video in Britain 2008–2013

Assembly at Tate Britain’s Housewarming Party, November 2013

© Oliver Cowling. Tate Photography

The last decade has seen a surge in the visibility of film and video art in a variety of contexts, from galleries to dedicated experimental film festivals and online. In part, this is the catalytic effect of London’s artistic ascent, and the alignment of funding strategies with new avenues for exhibition. Another factor is the significant re-evaluation of the history of experimental film and video in Britain, in the form of publications and retrospectives. A broader and complementary contribution is the development of digital technologies, which have influenced production, aesthetics and means of distribution and access.

The breadth of creative activity in film and video, encompassing the exhibition as well as the production of works, makes for a vibrant and expanding field, but sometimes also a fragmentary one. Various institutions, galleries, festivals and events, of different sizes and scales, have been exemplary in presenting international, historical and new works. The aim of Assembly is to provide audiences with an opportunity to consider what’s being produced here and now, in a series of programmes, on one screen. It is conceived as a diverse and inclusive survey, throwing into relief, and celebrating, the differences between recent artists’ work in this medium.

The selection of works featured in Assembly, is based on nominations sought from over thirty leading international film specialists, who were invited to nominate up to ten works that they regard as outstanding from the last five years. Featuring over eighty artists, Assembly seeks to draw out, represent and reflect on current preoccupations and themes, together with new or reshaped ways of working with film, video and media more broadly. Each screening suggests a contested area of practice, often by programming films in new configurations, and from one screening to the next, the aim of the programming is to prompt a dialogue that spans the series.

Assembly is part of a tradition of other surveys including, Pandaemonium Festivals (ICA, 1996, LUX Centre, 1999 and 2001), ICA Biennials (1991–7), Video Positive (various venues in Liverpool, 1989–2000), Festival Of Independent Video The New Pluralism (Tate Gallery, 1985), (South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, 1981–8), and Perspectives on British Avant-Garde Film (Hayward Gallery, 1977). These projects have become invaluable reference points, outlining themes and preoccupations of their respective eras, and looking back they reveal new connections and lineages; Assembly, we think, is a timely addition to this practice.

The series ‘Assembly: A Survey of Recent Artists’ Film and Video Art 2008 – 2013’ is at Tate Britain on Sundays and Mondays until Saturday 15 March 2014, £5.00, ticket price per screening

Simon Payne is an artist and senior lecturer in film and media at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.

Andrew Vallance is a PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art and independent curator.

Assembly has been curated by Tate Film: Melissa Blanchflower, George Clark and Stuart Comer with Simon Payne and Andrew Vallance.