Some of the earliest artist’s videos in Britain were commissioned (and shot) by the German artist Gerry Schum. These were made for his pioneering ‘Television Gallery’, a series of broadcast exhibitions including Land Art 1969 and Identifications 1970. The image-quality of these tapes reflects their age.
The popularity of Walt Disney’s cartoons in the 1930s encouraged many artists in Europe to produce figurative animation for adult audiences. The films in this section helped establish the artform, although none of the artists involved were able to match Disney’s wide distribution and economic success.
A Woman’s Place
This sequence begins with classic feminist texts of the 1970s and early 1980s. These paved the way for more recent works in which women use their own lives as subject matter. Part of the feminist project was, in Catherine Elwes’s words ‘to validate women’s private experience in the public arena of art’. 1995.
The fantasy, absurdity and sometimes transparent artificiality of popular cinema has appealed to many artists. Some have been moved to make their own B movies, such as the three examples in this sequence.
‘What no human eye is capable of catching. your camera catches without knowing what it is, and pins down with a machine’s scrupulous indifference.’ Robert Bresson 1958
Empire and Its Shadows
The two long documentary films in this section were titled ‘songs’ by their makers in recognition of their poetic structure. They were made fifty years apart and in very different circumstances. Both reflect on race and culture and the consequences of Britain’s Imperial past
Conceptual Film: Actions
The works in this sequence were all shaped by a single idea. Their execution involved the recording of a simple action or actions; sometimes this is performed by the camera alone, sometimes with visible human participation.
The 1990s saw the arrival of digital technology which allowed for more complex manipulation of the video image. Artists gained the freedom to ‘cut and paste’ within moving images, to create visual collages and hybrid photographic spaces.
The works in this section draw on a European tradition of performance art. The artists use their own bodies as a medium, connecting with a language that is universally recognisable. The images created are deliberately disturbing.
Structural Film is the name that has been attached to some of the work produced by members of the London Filmmakers’ Co-op in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Modernist rather than post-Modern, it broadly combines analysis of the structuring of perception with an exploration of film’s material components.
Painted still lives can explore spatial relationships, but in two dimensions only. Film adds movement into depth and time and, as in the case of two of the films in this section, the possibility of transformation within the image.