Structural Film

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. 

Films showing in this section: 

4.42 Annabel Nicolson Frames 1972
4.49 Malcolm LeGrice Berlin Horse 1970
4.56 Peter Gidal Clouds 1969
5.05 David Parsons Work Print 1975
5.11 Postscript: Peter Greenaway Intervals 1968-73

Annabel Nicolson Frames 1972

7 minutes. Collection: Lux 

The Frames in Annabel Nicolson’s film are the film-images which are usually glimpsed in succession at 24-frames per second. Nicolson had access to a film-printer at the London Filmmakers’ Co-op, which allowed her to freeze the image on particular frames and film-fragments. Her film is a form of collage, with ‘looking’ and the boundaries between movement and stasis as its subjects. 

Biography:

Annabel Nicolson was born in 1946. She studied at Hornsey College of Art, Edinburgh School of Art and later St Martins School of Art. As cinema scheduler at the London Filmmakers’ Co-op in the mid-1970s, she broadened its scope, bringing performance fully into the programme, and forging links with the London Musicians’ Collective. Her performances and films focus attention on small-scale and ephemeral events, and foregrounded emphasise the malleability and also fragility of the film medium. 

Malcolm LeGrice Berlin Horse 1970

9 minutes. Collection: Lux 

Two film fragments provided Malcolm Le Grice with the material from which to make Berlin Horse: 8mm home-movie footage shot by the artist near Berlin, and archive footage of a related subject. He weaves these together in repeating cycles of action, refilming images from the screen and colouring them, to heighten the viewer’s awareness of film-time and the film-image. 

Biography:

Malcolm Le Grice was born in 1940 and studied at the Slade School of Art, London. He founded the London Filmmakers’ Co-op workshop in the late 1960s, and introduced film to fine art students at St Martins School of Art and Goldsmith’s College, London. He has championed the artform in print, in his books Abstract Film and Beyond 1977 and Experimental Cinema in the Digital Age 2001, in higher education, and through committees at the British Film Institute and the Arts Council. His most recent works have been digital video installations. 

Peter Gidal Clouds 1969

10 minutes. Collection: Lux 

Peter Gidal is both the chief theorist of the 1970s film avant-garde, and its most austere image-maker. Clouds , which depicts just sky and an occasional plane, keeps the viewer guessing as to what if anything is moving? Gidal wrote: ‘The anti-illusionistic project engaged by Clouds is that of dialectic materialism. There is virtually nothing ON screen, in the sense of IN screen. Obsessive repetition as materialist practice, not psychoanalytic indulgence.’ 1975 

Biography:

Peter Gidal was born in 1946. He studied at Brandeis University Massachusetts, the University of Munich, Germany, and at the Royal College of Art, London, where he later taught theory and practice. Also in the mid-1970s, he was cinema programmer at the London Filmmakers’ Co-op, and simultaneously a passionate advocate for the artform in the pages of Time Out and elsewhere. He is author of Andy Warhol, Films and Painting Studio Vista 1971, Structural Film Anthology BFI 1978, Understanding Beckett Macmillan 1986, Materialist Film Routledge 1990. 

David Parsons Work Print 1975

5 minutes. Collection: Artist 

David Parson’s filmmaking explores ‘the essential constituents of filmmaking: film stocks, camera, lens, tripod, film-printer and projector… [while] searching for the equivalent to the plastic manipulation available to painting’. David Parsons 1997. The title Work Print has a double meaning. This is the rough film-print on which the artist is working and ‘work’ is the subject of the time-and-motion-study film sequence he has appropriated. 

Biography:

David Parsons was born in 1943. He studied at Birmingham College of Art and the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, and was an influential teacher at North East London Polytechnic and St Martins School of Art, London. He now lives and paints in France. 

Postscript: Peter Greenaway Intervals 1968-73

6 minutes. Collection: BFI National Film & Television Archive 

Peter Greenaway was never directly associated with structural film, but he was certainly aware of it. One of his early heroes was Hollis Frampton. Like many structural films, Intervals is edited according to a mathematical system, and engages the viewer in word-games on the soundtrack. Many of Greenaway’s later films seemed to mock the seriousness and apparent lack of humour in Structuralism. 

Biography:

Peter Greenaway was born in Wales in 1942. He studied at Walthamstow College of Art, and was employed for eleven years as an editor at the Central Office of Information, where he was able to work on his own short films. His output of feature filmmaking and digital works for television has been punctuated by works which take the form of exhibitions, sometimes site-specific.