London Underground

Date: 5 May 2002 | Season: Shoot Shoot Shoot 2002 | Tags:

Sunday 5 May 2002, at 3:00pm
London Tate Modern

As equipment became available for little cost, avant-garde film flourished in mid-60s counter-culture. Early screenings at Better Books and the Arts Lab provided a vital focus for a new movement that infused Swinging London with a fresh subversive edge.

Antony Balch, Towers Open Fire, 1963, b/w, sound, 16 min
Jonathan Langran, Gloucester Road Groove, 1968, b/w, silent, 2 min
Jeff Keen, Marvo Movie, 1967, colour, sound, 5 min
John Latham, Speak, 1962, colour, sound, 11 min
Stephen Dwoskin, Dirty, 1965-67, b/w, sound, 10 min
Stuart Pound, Clocktime Trailer, 1972, colour, sound, 7 min
Simon Hartog, Soul In A White Room, 1968, colour, sound, 3.5 min
Peter Gidal, Hall, 1968-69, b/w, sound, 10 min
Malcolm Le Grice, Reign Of The Vampire, 1970, b/w, sound, 11 min

Made independently on 35mm, in collaboration with William Burroughs, Towers Open Fire is rarely considered in histories of avant-garde film, despite its experiments in form and representation. It combines strobe cutting, flicker, degraded imagery and hand-painted film to create a visual equivalent to the author’s narration. Gloucester Road Groove, featuring Simon Hartog and David Larcher, is a spirited celebration of youthful exuberance, the excitement of shooting with a movie camera. Jeff Keen’s vision is a uniquely British post-war accumulation of art history, comic books, old Hollywood and new collage. Positioned between happenings and music hall, he performs dada actions in the “theatre of the brain”. Marvo Movie is just one of countless works that mix live action with animation, but is notable for its concrete sound by Co-op co-founder Bob Cobbing. Speak, with hypnotic flashing discs and relentless noise track, anticipated many of the anti-illusionist arguments that the Co-op later embodied. The film was made in 1962, but its advanced radical nature made it largely unknown until later screenings at Better Books brought Latham into contact with like-minded contemporaries. In Dirty, Dwoskin accentuates the dirt and scratches on the film’s surface while interrogating the erotic imagery through refilming. The systematic cutting of Stuart Pound’s film, and its cyclical soundtrack, derives from a mathematical process that condenses a feature length work (Clocktime I-IV) into a short ‘trailer’. Soul in a White Room is a subtle piece of social commentary by Simon Hartog, an early Co-op activist with a strong political conscience. Peter Gidal questions illusory depth and representation through focal length, editing and (seeming) repetition in Hall. Reign of the Vampire, from Le Grice’s paranoiac How to Screw the C.I.A., or How to Screw the C.I.A.? series, takes the hard line in subversion. Familiar “threatening” signifiers, pornography and footage from his other films is overlaid with travelling mattes, united with a loop soundtrack, to form a relentless assault.

Screening introduced by Stephen Dwoskin.