Peter Gidal



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Not on display

Peter Gidal born 1946
Film, 16mm, projection, black and white and sound
Duration: 10min
Purchased 2016


Hall 1968–9 by the British filmmaker Peter Gidal is a film comprised of fragmented views of an interior hallway. Systematically edited long, medium and close-up shots are used to depict the doorway, details of the furniture and architectural features of the space. Objects within the space – such as a bowl of fruit, posters on the wall and the door handle – are also represented, operating as something approaching a ‘still-life’. Yet the brevity with which the viewer is permitted to acknowledge these objects complicates this portrayal. The different images are presented in a pattern that forms a rhythm throughout the film; the fast cuts encourage the viewer to attempt to draw comparisons between the different objects, although no intelligible narrative emerges. A bell can be heard in the film but its source is ambiguous: it could be a doorbell or an alarm. After several minutes the incessant ringing fades to silence before coming back at the end of the film as the footage loops round again, but the sound is still without an identified source. The work is shown as a projection and was not produced in an edition.

Hall was made shortly after Gidal relocated to England from America. As with Gidal’s earlier Room – Double Take 1967, and in common with other structuralist filmmakers such as Michael Snow and Annabel Nicholson, the domestic space depicted in Hall is the artist’s apartment in London. This readily available environment provides the context for an exploration of the potential of the cinematic apparatus to focus, direct and destabilise the attention of the viewer.

Gidal grew up in Switzerland and in Mount Vernon, New York. From 1968 to 1971 he was a student at the Royal College of Art, London, where he was subsequently to teach advanced film studies until 1984. He became an active member of the London Film-makers’ Co-operative (the Co-op) in 1969 and was a cinema programmer there from 1971 to 1974, during which period he focused on work by British artists and filmmakers. Together with Malcolm LeGrice, Gidal is recognised as the driving force behind the Co-op in the late 1960s and 1970s and the foremost exponent of British structural cinema. He is equally known as a writer and theorist, in particular for Structural Film Anthology, in which his seminal essay ‘Theory and Definition of Structural/Materialist Film’, first published in the November 1975 issue of Studio International, outlined his position in relation to avant-garde filmmaking internationally (see Peter Gidal (ed.), Structural Film Anthology, London 1976, pp.1–21).

Further reading
Deke Dusinberre, ‘Consistent Oxymoron: Peter Gidal’s Theoretical Strategy’, Screen, vol.8, no.2, Summer 1977, pp.79–88.
Peter Gidal, Materialist Film, London and New York 1989.
David Curtis A History of Artists’ Film and Video in Britain, 1897–2004, London 2004, p.207.

Inga Fraser and George Clark
February 2015

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