SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT: The First Decade of the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative & British Avant-Garde Film 1966-76

Date: 1 May 2002 | Season: Shoot Shoot Shoot 2002 | Tags:

3 May–28 May 2002
London Tate Modern

The London Film-Makers’ Co-operative was founded in 1966 and based upon the artist-led distribution centre created by Jonas Mekas and the New American Cinema Group. Both had a policy of open membership, accepting all submissions without judgement, but the LFMC was unique in incorporating the three key aspects of artist filmmaking: production, distribution and exhibition within a single facility.

Early pioneers like Len Lye, Antony Balch, Margaret Tait and John Latham had already made remarkable personal films in Britain, but by the mid-60s interest in “underground” film was growing. On his arrival from New York, Stephen Dwoskin demonstrated and encouraged the possibilities of experimental filmmaking and the Co-op soon became a dynamic centre for the discussion, production and presentation of avant-garde film. Several key figures such as Peter Gidal, Malcolm Le Grice, John Smith and Chris Welsby went onto become internationally celebrated. Many others, like Annabel Nicolson and the fiercely autonomous and prolific Jeff Keen, worked across the boundaries between film and performance and remain relatively unknown, or at least unseen.

The Co-op asserted the significance of the British films in line with international developments, whilst surviving hand-to-mouth in a series of run down buildings. The physical hardship of the organisation’s struggle contributed to the rigorous, formal nature of films produced during this period. While the Structural approach dominated, informing both the interior and landscape tendencies, the British filmmakers also made significant innovations with multi-screen films and expanded cinema events, producing works whose essence was defined by their ephemerality.  Many of the works fell into the netherworld between film and fine art, never really seeming at home in either cinema or gallery spaces.

 “What follows is a set of instructions, necessarily incomplete, for the construction, necessarily impossible, of a mosaic. Each instruction must lead to the screen, the tomb and temple in which the mosaic grows. The instructions are fractured but not frivolous. They are no more than clues to the films which lust for freedom and re-illumination with, by and of the cinema. What follows is not truth, only evidence. The explanation is in the projection and the perception.” —Simon Hartog, 1968

“It is often difficult for a venue organiser/programmer to determine from written description what an individual or group of film-makers work is ‘about’, from where it comes, to what or whom it is addressing itself. Equally, it is difficult for a film-maker to provide such information from within the pages of a catalogue when for many, including myself, the entire project or the area into which one’s work energy is concentrated, is intent on clarifying these kind of questions. The films outside of such a situation become more or less dead objects, the residue (though hopefully a determined residue) of such an all-embracing pursuit.” —Mike Leggett, 1980

“The most important thing still is to let oneself get into the film one is watching, to stop fighting it, to stop feeling the need to object during the process of experience, or rather, to object, fight it, but overcome each moment again, to keep letting oneself overcome one’s difficulties, to then slide into it (one can always demolish the experience afterwards anyway, so what’s the hurry?).” —Peter Gidal, c.1970-71

Shoot Shoot Shoot, a major retrospective programme and research project, will bring these extraordinary works back to life.

Curated by Mark Webber with assistance from Gregory Kurcewicz and Ben Cook.

Shoot Shoot Shoot is a LUX project. Funded by the Arts Council of England National Touring Programme, the British Council, BFI and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Expanded Cinema

Date: 3 May 2002 | Season: Shoot Shoot Shoot 2002 | Tags:

Friday 3 May 2002, at 7:30pm
London Tate Modern Level 7 East

British filmmakers led a drive beyond the screen and the theatre, and their innovations in expanded cinema inevitably took the work into galleries. After questioning the role of the spectator, they began to examine the light beam, its volume and presence in the room.

Malcolm Le Grice, Castle One, 1966, b/w, sound, 20 min
William Raban, Take Measure, 1973, colour, silent, 2 min
William Raban, Diagonal, 1973, colour, sound, 6 min
Gill Eatherley, Hand Grenade, 1971, colour, sound, 8 min
Lis Rhodes, Light Music, 1975-77, b/w, sound, 20 min
Anthony McCall, Line Describing A Cone, 1973, b/w, silent, 30 min

In a step towards later complex projection pieces, for Castle One, Malcolm Le Grice hung a light bulb in front of the screen. Its intermittent flashing bleaches out the image, illuminates the audience and lays bare the conditions of the traditional screening arrangement. Take Measure, by William Raban, visually measures a dimension of the space as the filmstrip is physically stretched between projector and screen. To make Diagonal, he directly filmed into the projector gate and presents the same flickering footage in dialogue across three screens in an oblique formation. Gill Eatherley literally painted in light over extremely long exposures to shoot Hand Grenade, which runs three different edits of the material side-by-side. Light Music developed into a series of enquiries into the nature of optical soundtracks and their direct relation to the abstract image. The film can be shown in different configurations, with projectors side-by-side or facing into each other. Anthony McCall succinctly demonstrates the sculptural potential of film as a single ray of light, incidentally tracing a circle on the screen, is perceived as a conical line emanating from the projector. The beam is given physical volume in the room by use of theatrical smoke, or any other agent (such as dust) that would thicken the air to make it more apparent. More than just a film, Line Describing a Cone affirms cinema as a collective social experience.

Screening introduced by William Raban and Anthony McCall.

Programme repeated on Monday 6 May 2002, at 7:30pm


Shoot Shoot Shoot: Seminar

Date: 4 May 2002 | Season: Shoot Shoot Shoot 2002 | Tags:

Saturday 4 May 2002, at 2pm
London Tate Modern

A symposium and gathering which will re-examine the period in which many British artists embarked on radical experiments with non-illusionist filmmaking and made important innovations in multi-screen and expanded cinema projection. Discussions will address the emergence of an underground movement, its international significance, and the relations between avant-garde film and mainstream cinema, experimental video, painting, sculpture, performance and photography.

Speakers include David Curtis from the AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies, film historians Ian Christie, Al Rees, and others. An artists’ panel featuring Peter Gidal, Anthony McCall, Lis Rhodes and Chris Welsby will be chaired by Michael Newman (Principal Lecturer in Research, Central Saint Martin’s School of Art). Plus selected special screenings. Many of the filmmakers whose work is featured in the season will be present and encouraged to contribute.

Presented by Tate Modern in collaboration with the School of Art at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design.

This event will be webcast at

Double Screen Films

Date: 4 May 2002 | Season: Shoot Shoot Shoot 2002 | Tags:

Saturday 4 May 2002, at 7:30pm
London Tate Modern

Widening the visual field increased the opportunity for both spectacle and contemplation. With two 16mm projectors side-by-side, time could be frozen or fractured in a more complex way by playing one image against another and creating a magical space between them. Each screening became a unique event, accentuating the temporality of the cinematic experience.

William Raban & Chris Welsby, River Yar, 1971-72, colour, sound, 35 min
Sally Potter, Play, 1971, b/w & colour, silent, 7 min
David Parsons, Mechanical Ballet, 1975, b/w, silent, 8 min
Chris Welsby, Wind Vane, 1972, colour, sound, 8 min
David Crosswaite, Choke, 1971, b/w & colour, sound, 5 min
Malcolm Le Grice, Castle Two, 1968, b/w, sound, 32 min

Raban & Welsby’s River Yar is a monumental study of landscape, nature, light and the passage of time. It employs real time and time-lapse photography to document and contrast the view of a tidal estuary over two three-week periods, in spring and autumn. The film stimulates cosmic awareness as each day is seen to have its elemental events. Sunrise brings in the light and sunset provides the ultimate fade-out. The use of different film stocks, and the depiction of twins seen in a twin-screen format, emphasises the fractured and slightly disorientating view from Sally Potter’s window in Play. David Parsons’ refilming of a stunt car demonstration pulses between frames, analytically transforming the motion into a visceral mid-air dance. Wind Vane (Chris Welsby) was shot simultaneously by two cameras whose view was directed by the wind. The gentle panning makes us subtly aware of the physical space (distance) between the adjacent frames. With a rock music soundtrack, Crosswaite’s Choke, suggests pop art in its treatment of Piccadilly Circus at night. Multiply exposed and treated images mirror each other or travel across the two screens. Castle Two by Malcolm Le Grice immediately throws the viewer into a state of discomfort as one tries to assess the situation, and then proceeds a long, obscure and perplexing indoctrination. “Is that coming through out there?”

Screening introduced by Malcolm Le Grice.


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.


Structural / Materialist

Date: 12 May 2002 | Season: Shoot Shoot Shoot 2002 | Tags:

Sunday 12 May 2002, at 3:00pm
London Tate Modern

The enquiry into the material of film as film itself was an essential characteristic of the Co-op’s output. These non- and anti- narrative concerns were fundamentally argued by the group’s principal practising theorists Malcolm Le Grice and Peter Gidal.

Roger Hammond, Window Box, 1971, b/w, silent, 3 min (18fps)
Mike Leggett, Shepherd’s Bush, 1971, b/w, sound, 15 min
David Crosswaite, Film No. 1, 1971, colour, sound, 10 min
Mike Dunford, Tautology, 1973, b/w, silent, 5 min
Peter Gidal, Key, 1968, colour, sound, 10 min
John Du Cane, Zoom Lapse, 1975, colour, silent, 15 min
Malcolm Le Grice, Little Dog For Roger, 1967, b/w, sound, 13 min
Gill Eatherley, Deck, 1971, colour, sound, 13 min

In explaining their (quite different) ideas in some erudite but necessarily dense texts Le Grice and Gidal have in some ways contributed to misunderstandings of this significant tendency in the British avant-garde. (For example, It is not the case, as is often proposed, that films were made to justify their theories.) Le Grice was instrumental in acquiring, installing and operating the equipment at the Co-op workshop that afforded filmmakers the hands-on opportunity to investigate the film medium. His own work developed through direct processing, printing and projection, providing an understanding of the material with which he could examine filmic time through duration, while touching on spectacle and narrative. By contrast, Gidal’s cool, oppositional stance was refined to refute narrative and representation, denying illusion and manipulation though visual codes. His uncompromising position resists all expectations of cinema, even modernist formalism and abstraction. The artistic and theoretical relationship of these two poles of the British avant-garde, who were united in opposing ‘dominant cinema’, is a complex set of divergences and intersections.

Originally intended as a test strip, the first film produced at the Dairy on the Co-op step-printer was Mike Leggett’s Shepherd’s Bush, in which an obscure loop of abstract footage relentlessly advances from dark to light. The two short films by Roger Hammond and Mike Dunford concisely encapsulate an idea; while Window Box exploits the viewer’s anticipation of camera movement and shrewdly transforms a seemingly conventional viewpoint, the permanence of the cinematic frame is the focus of Tautology’s brief enquiry. By translating footage across different gauges, Crosswaite and Le Grice explore variations in film formats: Film No. 1 uses permutations and combinations of unsplit 8mm, while Little Dog for Roger directly prints 9.5mm home movies onto 16mm stock. In Key, Gidal plays on the ambiguity of an image to challenge and refute the observer’s interpretation of it, while intensifying disorientation through his manipulation of the soundtrack. Du Cane’s Zoom Lapse comprises dense multiple overlays of imagery, vibrating the moment, while Eatherley’s Deck re-photographs a reel of 8mm film, which undergoes a mysterious transformation through refilming, colour changing and printing.

Screening introduced by Roger Hammond.


Intervention & Processing

Date: 19 May 2002 | Season: Shoot Shoot Shoot 2002 | Tags:

Sunday 19 May 2002, at 3:00pm
London Tate Modern

The workshop was an integral part of the LFMC and provided almost unlimited access to hands-on printing and processing. Within this supportive environment, artists were free to experiment with technique and engage directly with the filmstrip in an artisan manner. By treating film as a medium in the same way that a sculptor might use different materials, the Co-op filmmakers brought a new understanding of the physical substance and the way it could be crafted.

Annabel Nicolson, Slides, 1970, colour, silent, 12 min (18fps)
Fred Drummond, Shower Proof, 1968, b/w, silent, 10 min (18fps)
Guy Sherwin, At The Academy, 1974, b/w, sound, 5 min
David Crosswaite, The Man With The Movie Camera, 1973, b/w, silent, 8 min
Mike Dunford, Silver Surfer, 1972, b/w, sound, 15 min
Jenny Okun, Still Life, 1976, colour, silent, 6 min
Lis Rhodes, Dresden Dynamo, 1971, colour, sound, 5 min
Chris Garratt, Versailles I & II, 1976, b/w, sound, 11 min
Roger Hewins, Windowframe, 1975, colour, sound, 6 min

Annabel Nicolson pulled prepared sections of film (which might be sewn, collaged, perforated) through the printer to make Slides. Fred Drummond’s Shower Proof, an early Co-op process film, exploits the degeneration of the image as a result of successive reprinting, intuitively cutting footage of two people in a bathroom. Guy Sherwin uses layers of positive and negative leader to build a powerful bas-relief in At The Academy, while Jenny Okun explores the properties of colour negative in Still Life. Considered and brilliantly executed, The Man with the Movie Camera dazzles with technique as focus, aperture and composition are adjusted to exploit a mirror positioned in front of the lens. For Silver Surfer, Mike Dunford refilms individual frames of footage originally sourced from television as waves of electronic sound wash over the shimmering figure. Contrasting colours and optical patterns intensify the illusion that Lis Rhodes’ Dresden Dynamo appears to hover in deep space between the viewer and the screen. Garratt’s Versailles I & II breaks down a conventional travelogue into repetitive, rhythmic sections. Roger Hewins employs optical masking to create impossible ‘real time’ events which, though prosaic, appear to take on an almost sacred affectation in Windowframe.

Screening introduced by Lis Rhodes.



Date: 21 May 2002 | Season: Shoot Shoot Shoot 2002 | Tags:

Tuesday 21 May 2002, at 6:30pm
London Tate Modern

Film is a unique tool for the investigation of time and space. The subjective time of the photographed image may be measured against the objective time of projection through the use of time-lapse, editing and duration.

John Smith, Leading Light, 1975, colour, sound, 11 min
Peter Gidal, Focus, 1971, b/w, sound, 7 min
Ian Breakwell & Mike Leggett, Sheet, 1970, b/w, sound, 21 min
Malcolm Le Grice, Whitchurch Down (Duration), 1972, colour, sound, 8 min
Chris Welsby, Fforest Bay II, 1973, colour, silent, 5 min
William Raban, Broadwalk, 1972, colour, sound, 12 min
David Hall, Phased Time2, 1974, colour, sound, 15 min

First tracing sunlight moving around a room, then a static study of illumination around a night-time window. The formal Leading Light might surprise those familiar with the more humorous works of John Smith. Peter Gidal uncharacteristically used the mechanics of an automated camera to construct the loop-like rhythm of Focus, which zooms through the “static reality” of a mysterious apartment. With an electronic score by Anthony Moore. Sheet develops from a conceptual basis and could be viewed as documentation of an event. The eponymous object is seen in different locations, making this one of the few experimental films that offer us incidental glimpses of London during this period. Le Grice’s film Whitchurch Down (Duration) takes three views of a landscape and combines them with pure colours and intermittent sound in progressive loop sequences and freeze-frames, positing duration as a concrete dimension. Shot to a pre-planned structure, Welsby’s dynamic Fforest Bay II uses speed as the instrument with which he demonstrates the disparity between the cinematic view and the film surface. Via time-lapse, manual exposure and refilming, Broadwalk by William Raban ranges from serenity to rigour. The perceptible traces of human movement appear as ghosts in the tranquil walkway. David Hall, a pioneer of video art, displays a command of the cinematic medium in the layers of superimposition that make up Phased Time2, building up aural and visual ‘chords’ while mapping out a room on the flat screen.

Screening introduced by Ian Breakwell.

This programme adapts its title from Malcolm Le Grice’s “Location? Duration?” exhibition of films and paintings at the Drury Lane Arts Lab in 1968.


Ron Haselden & Chris Welsby: Sea Seen Six Screen

Date: 22 May 2002 | Season: Shoot Shoot Shoot 2002 | Tags:

Wednesday 22 May 2002, at 8pm
London 291 Gallery

Shoot Shoot Shoot and Light Reading present a once only opportunity to see two important film structures of the 1970s. Ron Haselden’s MFV Maureen was shot on a fishing vessel in 1975, and originally presented over week-long periods in which the material was reworked on site and shown along stills and diagrams. Shore Line II by Chris Welsby (1977) offers a phasing, meditative view of the ocean over vertical frames. Both run loops on six projectors and will be presented for approximately 90 minutes each.

Ron Haselden, MFV Maureen, UK, 1975, b/w, silent, 6 x 16mm loops
Chris Welsby, Shore Line II, 1977, colour, silent, 6 x 16mm loops


Date: 26 May 2002 | Season: Shoot Shoot Shoot 2002 | Tags:

Sunday 26 May 2002, at 3pm
London Tate Modern

From personal montage through to exploration of the cinematic process, the work was sensuous and playful. As a creative group, the Co-op covered vital aesthetic ground and resisted categorisation. This programme does not pursue a single theme or concept, rather it demonstrates the broad range of work that was produced during this time.

The exposition section of Annabel Nicolson’s Shapes reveals its tactile evolution, as visible dirt is made evident by the step-printing technique. Moving into real time, the multiple layers of superimposition present strange spatial dimensions as the filmmaker toys with light, moving among the paper structures in her room. Footsteps engages the camera (viewer) in a playful game of “statues”. The film was often presented as a live performance in which Marilyn Halford crept up on her own projected likeness. Le Grice’s Talla adopts an almost mythical pose. Images slowly encroach on the frame as the visual tension rises, later to explode in spectacularly bending, twisting single-frame bursts. The brief, rapid-fire collage White Lite by Jeff Keen is made up of baffling layers of live action, stop-motion, obliteration and assemblage. Anne Rees-Mogg’s Muybridge Film, in homage to the pioneer of motion photography, constructs a playful film by breaking down a sequence into its constituent frames. Moment is an unmediated look, erotic but not explicit, as saturated as its celluloid. It’s a key work of Dwoskin’s early sensual portraits of solitary girls, in which the returning stare challenges our objective / subjective gaze. Chris Welsby’s Windmill II is one of a series in which propeller blades rotate in front of the camera, acting as a second shutter, controlled by an unpredictable and natural force. In this instance, the blades are backed with a reflective material that offers a glance back at the recording device intermittent with the zoetropic view of the park. In The Girl Chewing Gum, by John Smith, the narration appears to direct everyday life before breaking down, causing the viewer to question the accepted relationship between sound and image, the suggestive power of language. Chinese images and slogans are transformed by split-screen, ingrained dirt and hand-held photography to create a visual pun in Ian Kerr’s film, from “Persisting in our struggle” to Persisting in our vision.

Annabel Nicolson, Shapes, 1970, colour, silent, 7 min (18fps)
Marilyn Halford, Footsteps, 1974, b/w, sound, 6 min
Malcolm Le Grice, Talla, 1968, b/w, silent, 20 min
Jeff Keen, White Lite, 1968, b/w, silent, 2.5 min
Anne Rees-Mogg, Muybridge Film, 1975, b/w, silent, 5 min
Stephen Dwoskin, Moment, 1968, colour, sound, 12 min
Chris Welsby, Windmill II, 1973, colour, sound, 10 min
John Smith, The Girl Chewing Gum, 1976, b/w, sound, 12 min
Ian Kerr, Persisting, 1975, colour, sound, 10 min

Screening introduced by Marilyn Halford