James Williamson was a chemist based in
Hove. This early ‘trick’ film features a Victorian gentleman objecting
to being photographed. As the man’s head comes closer (with, for the
time, a sophisticated adjustment of focus), he opens his mouth and
engulfs the photographer. Many early films explored the point of view in
similar playful ways.
James Williamson was born in Scotland in 1885. He had a chemist’s shop
in Hove near G A Smith’s pleasure garden. From processing films, he
moved fully into the business of exhibition, and from 1897 began
shooting a few films of his own. By 1910, he had ceased production, to
concentrate on manufacturing film equipment. He died in 1938.
Basil Wright Song of Ceylon
38 minutes. Collection: BFI National Film & Television Archive
Song of Ceylon was commissioned by
the Government-funded Empire Marketing Board to promote tea from a
source within the Empire. Basil Wright understood that the Singhalese
belief-system he was recording would soon be eroded, not least by the
trade he was promoting. He underlines its fragility by using a
traveller’s 1640 account of the island as the film’s sole commentary. He
later described his experience of making the film as ‘a religious
Basil Wright was born in 1907. He worked with John Grierson from 1929,
but claimed he acquired his artist’s ‘eye’ from the American documentary
maker Robert Flaherty. He worked on Night Mail in1936 and many of
the most innovative documentaries of the pre-War period, and was
director of the Crown Film Unit in its final years. He later taught at
the University of California, and at the National Film School in London.
His writings include The Use of Film 1948 and The Long View
1972. The film prize of the Royal Anthropological Institute is
named after him. He died in 1987.
Edouardo Paolozzi History of
12 minutes. Collection: BFI National Film & Television Archive
‘The history of man can be written with
objects,’ wrote Edouardo Paolozzi in one of hundreds of notes for History
of Nothing in 1960. Like his paintings and sculptures of the time,
the film draws on the influential collection of ‘Pop’ imagery assembled
by Paolozzi during the 1950s, and shown as slides at meetings of the
Independent Group of artists and designers.
Sir Edouardo Paolozzi was born in Scotland in 1924. He studied at
Edinburgh College of Art, completed National Service, then studied at St
Martins School of Art and Slade School of Art, London. He moved to
Paris, then taught textile design at the Central School of Art, London.
A founder member of The Independent Group 1952, his slide projections of
found imagery Bunk could be described as the source book of Pop
art. This magpie collection also found a natural outlet in animated
films, of which Paolozzi made three with different collaborators.
Malcolm LeGrice After Manet 1973
53 minutes. Collection: Artist
Re-working the theme of the celebrated
painting by Edouard Manet of a lunch party on the grass, Malcolm Le
Grice questions ‘the conceptual relationship of the camera to the scene
in spatial terms’. Over four screens, he explores cinema’s palette —
positive and negative, black and white and colour, silence and sound,
static and moving camera — and demands that the viewer construct their
own synthesis of the scene from these views.
Malcolm Le Grice was born in 1940. He studied at Slade School of Art,
London. He founded the London Filmmakers’ Co-op workshop in the late
1960s, at the same time introducing film to fine art students at St
Martins School of Art and Goldsmith’s College, London. He has balanced
his continuing practice as a filmmaking artist with campaigning for the
artform in print, in his books Abstract Film and Beyond 1977
and Experimental Cinema in the Digital Age (BFI) 2001, in
higher education, and in committees at the British Film Institute and
the Arts Council. His most recent works have been digital video
David Lamelas To Pour Milk Into
a Glass 1973
8 minutes. Collection: BFI National Film & Television Archive
Courtesy the artist.
Many of David Lamelas’s works are exercises
designed to test how meaning is constructed in film. ‘I wanted to find
symbols for ‘container’ and ‘contents’ – to represent how the camera
frames – and what is shown on screen. ..I decided to use a glass and
milk. The eight sequences end with… the glass being shattered and the
milk splattering all over the table, which implies that there is no way
to contain information’. 2001
David Lamelas was born in Buenos Aires in 1946. He studied at the
Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes and St Martins School of Art. He
exhibited film installations at Prospect 71 Düsseldorf 1971
and Nigel Greenwood and Jack Wendler Galleries in London from 1972. He
moved to California in 1974 and now lives in Berlin and Los Angeles. He
recently recommenced video making.
Darcy Lange Osborn Steels Ltd
Bradford 1974 (section)
10 minute section: Furnaces – Charlie Helps, Alan Wright and Harry
Collection: Industrial Museum Bradford, courtesy Ian Ward.
As a New Zealander, Darcy Lange’s studies of
working life reflected his fascination with British class and power
structures. In 30-minute sequences, he observed the eating habits of
middle and working class families, their behaviour at home and at
school. His studies of work in Bradford’s factories ‘became performance
analysis; they searched the monotony of the work, they questioned the
workload and the suffering due to the work’.
Darcy Lange was born in New Zealand in 1945. He studied at the
University of Auckland and the Royal College of Art, London. Clay
portraits of Irish Road Workers (1971) were followed by film,
video and photographic studies (shot simultaneously) of people from
contrasting social classes. From 1973 he made studies of workers in
Nottingham, Bradford, London, Scotland and Spain, and of teachers in
Birmingham and Oxford, exhibiting at the Jack Wendler Gallery (London).
He returned to New Zealand in 1977, starting a new series Artists at
Work in 1998.
John Smith The Girl Chewing Gum
12 minutes. Collection: Lux
In a film made 16 years before Gargantuan
shown earlier in this sequence, John Smith causes viewers to doubt the
expected authority of the voice-over.
John Smith was born in 1952. He studied at Hornsey College of Art, North
East London Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art. He teaches at
University of East London and Central St Martins. Smith’s early wry
takes on structural film have given way to works that blend documentary
and elements of fiction and introspection; his wit equally apparent in
image and word.
Sarah Pucill You Be Mother 1990
8 minutes. Collection: Lux
A still life of a teaset penetrated by
projected images provides Sarah Pucill with a form of self-portraiture.
In the artist’s words ‘the film is an expression of the complexities of
breaking free from sexual and familial stereotypical roles and behaviour
Sarah Pucill was born in 1961. She studied at Manchester Metropolitan
University, the Slade School of Art and the University of East London.
Pucill makes photographic works as well as films, preferring the
close-up to the long-shot. Her imagery is strongly-rooted in feminist
theory, but combines this with a direct appeal to the senses
Jaki Irvine Eyelashes 1996
6 minutes. Collection: Frith Street Gallery
Jaki Irvine’s film tells two stories at the
same time. Her images observe a couple talking over a breakfast table,
perhaps discussing their relationship. On the soundtrack, a woman’s
voice describes a man’s obsession with (another?) woman’s eyelashes,
which make him uneasy. The viewers’ task is to look for conjunctions and
attempt a synthesis; in effect to construct their own ‘interior drama’.
Jaki Irvine was born in Dublin in 1966. She studied at Dublin School of
Art and Goldsmith College of Art, London. Irvine’s films are almost
always shot on the amateur gauge of Super8, and have the appearance of
fragments from longer narratives. They are sometimes further
deconstructed by being shown as installations, with different sections
on separate screens, so viewers have to assemble the work for
themselves. She lives in Dublin and Italy.