The use of film and video by artists in Britain over the past decade has attracted much attention. Perhaps less well known are the histories of artists’ film and video which stretch back to the 1920s and, arguably, beyond. This ambitious display of 170 works by 130 artists aims for the first time to reveal the full range, variety and originality of these histories, from films made close to the cinema’s birth in the 1890s to work realised at the start of the twenty-first century. Many of the works have not been seen before in a gallery context, and some have not been seen publicly since their first screenings.
The display is presented in four day-long sequences. The films and videos have been clustered in shorter thematic and historical programmes. Some programmes suggest continuities of interest and approach across generations: film’s ability to encapsulate the everyday and to mimic memory; the challenges of portraiture and the creation of visual music. Other programmes reflect the ways in which artists have explored video and film at particular moments: the early 1970s, when conceptual filmmaking emerged and, in parallel, artists at the London Filmmakers’ Co-op focused on the materials of their medium; the 1930s, when a committed avant-garde worked on the margins of the mainstream industry; and the early 1990s, as artists began to respond to the possibilities of digital editing.
The display runs from May 2003 to April 2004. There are no repeats within a day, but each day-long sequence is presented for three months. A related series of longer films by British artists will be shown on Sundays in the Clore auditorium.