The Epic Flight: Mare’s Tail

Date: 28 May 2002 | Season: Shoot Shoot Shoot 2002 | Tags:

Tuesday 28 May 2002, at 6:30pm
London Tate Modern

“From one flick of the mare’s tail came an unending stream of images out of which was crystalised the milky way. Primitive, picaresque cinema.” (David Larcher)

An extended personal odyssey which, through an accumulation of visual information, builds into a treatise on the experience of seeing. Its loose, indefinable structure explores new possibilities for perception and narrative.

David Larcher, Mare’s Tail, 1969, colour, sound, 143 min

Reinforcing the idea of the mythopoeic discourse and the historically romantic view of the artist-filmmaker, Mare’s Tail is a legend, consisting of layers of sounds and images that reveal each other over an extended period. It’s a personal vision, an aggregation of experience, memories and moments overlaid with indecipherable intonations and altered musics. The collected footage is extensively manipulated, through refilming, superimposition or direct chemical treatment. The observer may slip in and out of the film as it runs its course; it does not demand constant attention, though persistence is rewarded by experience after the full projection has been endured.

While studying at the Royal College of Art, David Larcher made a first film KO (1964-65, with soundtrack composed by Philip Glass), which was subsequently disassembled and small sections incorporated in Mare’s Tail (a recurrent practise that continues through his later works). Encouraged by contact with true independent filmmakers like Peter Whitehead and Conrad Rooks, Larcher set out on to document his own life in a quasi-autobiographical manner.

Though financed by wealthy patron Alan Power, Mare’s Tail was, in its technical fabrication, a self-sufficient project made before the Co-op had any significant workshop equipment. At times, Larcher was living in a truck, and stories of films processed in public lavatories in the Scottish Highlands do not seem far from the truth.  His relationship to the Co-op has always been slightly distanced, though his lifestyle impressed and influenced many of the younger, more marginal figures.

His next film, Monkey’s Birthday (1975, six hours long), was shot over several years’ travels across the world with his entourage, and this time made full use of the Co-op processor to achieve its psychedelic effect.

Screening introduced by David Larcher.