EXHIBITION | Film in Space Review
Jotta visits an exhibition of experimental film at the Camden Arts Centre, curated by Guy Sherwin.
“Today, the use of film as material is in a process of redefining itself against the dominant background of the digital world. The supposedly imminent extinction of film is an over-hasty (and commercially invested) dismissal of a medium of extraordinary visual richness and continuing relevance” – Guy Sherwin
Film in Space centers around the ‘expanded cinema’ movement that included Guy Sherwin. Artist, film-maker and curator of this exhibition, he began working with film in the early 70’s, a time when artists were making films as live projection events. These were performances rather than screenings, and would take place in spaces that were not associated with traditional cinema or gallery spaces.
The exhibition brings together key pieces from the ‘expanded cinema’ movement, as well as new works by younger artists who are continuing to explore analogue formats alongside their digital counterparts. It is worth noting that some of the pieces that were first shown in the 60’s and 70’s were not intended to be shown in a gallery space. They have undergone a transformation, from performative works into installation pieces. This does not detract from them, instead we are given a new insight into the work and are given the opportunity to engage with them in different ways. Also, the very nature of “performance” implies a finite duration, whereas installation pieces tend to repeat continuously. In order to mimic this temporality, two of the galleries will change throughout the exhibition, showcasing different works on different dates.
In this digital age, we are fully aware that analogue formats are constantly under threat, but seeing them used efficiently within a contemporary gallery environment, they did not appear like antiquated relics from a bygone era, but as powerful tools for creating an immersive experience. We are drawn to the 16-mm projectors, and invited to inspect them alongside the artwork. The tangibility of the process occurring before us (which we experience both visually and sonically) offers another dimension to how we engage with the work.
Some pieces include further three dimensional objects in addition to the projectors. In Gill Eatherley’s Pan Film chairs are placed within the gallery space mimicking a room we see within a projected film. The viewer becomes aware of a confluence between the gallery space and cinematic footage.
Due to the way Pan Film is installed, it is inevitable they we will cross the streams of light as they travel onto the opposite wall. In the world of cinema, the audience was, and still is, expected to assume a passive role when at screenings. The ‘expanded cinema’ movement allows for the audience to interact with the work. As they move freely between the objects, disrupting the flow of light, they are able to temporarily affect how images appear upon the gallery wall.
The majority of the exhibited work is made using analogue technologies which have been disregarded by digital enthusiasts. However, it was immensely refreshing to see work from forty years ago alongside work by younger artists, using these formats in ways that feel both contemporary and exciting. Film in Space successfully shows that film can be consistently re-interpreted and explored innovatively. It is a medium whose tactility is irreplaceable, offering a unique experience irrespective of the context in which it is used.
Film in Space: An exhibition of film and expanded cinema selected by Guy Sherwin at Camden Arts Centre until 24th February 2013.