Exhibition Guide


Second Floor, East


Ericka Beckman

You The Better


16 mm film transferred to digital

32 minutes

Courtesy the artist


Ericka Beckman’s films use hand drawn special effects and incantatory soundtracks to conjure up worlds in which individuals and groups compete for mysterious rewards. The logic of game play literally competes with what she has called narrative storytelling’s ‘sense of duty and need for closure’.


You The Better tracks an individual’s ability to adapt to complex and ever-changing social systems and how power is distributed across cooperative relations. It features the artist Ashley Bickerton as a ‘player’ who must first work out the mechanics of the game in order to compete against the ‘House’. But the game appears to be rigged – whichever strategy is adopted, individual play or teamwork, there seems little chance of winning. In refrains such as “subdivide, subdivide, subdivide” and “the subject in motion has got its own motion” Beckman channels Game theory and the ideas of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget into her trance-inducing musical soundtrack.


Ericka Beckman (b. 1951, USA) graduated from California Institute of the Arts in 1974, and first gained recognition for her Super 8 and 16 mm films in the late 1970s. Her work has been shown at Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Tate Modern, London. She was included in the Whitney Biennial, New York, in 1985, 1987 and 1991. In 2015 she had solo exhibitions at VeneKlasen / Werner Gallery, Berlin, and Mary Boone Gallery, New York, as well as at Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis. She lives and works in New York and Boston.



Third Floor


Lav Diaz



HD video

447 minutes

Courtesy the artist and sine olivia pilipinas


At almost eight hours, Melancholia presents a challenge to a cinema audience, and even more so to a gallery audience. In all his films Diaz attempts to represent the plight of the Filipino people, not as history but as a lived struggle. He mixes documentary and fiction, switching between different scenarios and conceptual frameworks, whilst maintaining storytelling as the primary mode. Melancholia is divided into three non-linear sections. Three characters are established, only later is it revealed that they are adopting their personas as part of a rehabilitation programme initiated by one of the characters to cope with the loss of loved ones in the resistance movement. Melancholia is a film about loss and grief, and about the necessary fiction of togetherness.


Since 1998 filmmaker Lav Diaz (b. 1958, Philippines) has directed over twenty films, including Melancholia (2008), Norte, the End of History (2013) and From What Is Before (2014).


First Floor, West


Luke Fowler



HD video

25 minutes

Produced as part of Artists’ Moving Image at the BBC

Supported by BBC Scotland, LUX and Creative ScotlandCourtesy of the artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow


Luke Fowler’s films listen to and ruminate upon the recent past. But rather than bring the past into the present he does the opposite, by inserting recently shot material into found footage in order to ask a simple question: was there something we missed? Depositions attempts to restore dignity to images of the travelling communities of the Scottish highlands culled from BBC documentaries and news features from the 1970s and 1980s. The film repurposes footage from the BBC archives and sound from the School of Scottish Studies to explore ideas of difference and the dichotomies that structure our world: science and superstition, the country and the city, community and the individual.


In a sequence towards the end of the film, footage taken from the archive of BBC Scotland shows communist folk singer and playwright Ewan MacColl delivering a monologue to camera about the “creaming off” of the commercial bits of the travellers’ culture whilst the “more subtle elements [are] ignored or devalued”. He finishes with a poetic flourish: “And in that wider scene the media play a dominant role, especially television, which looks like becoming a sort of cultural silicon chip encouraging us to live our lives in the flickering half light of someone else’s dreams.” The observation is rendered especially potent when the camera pulls back to a reveal the TV crew crammed into his small living room.


Luke Fowler (b. 1978, UK) is an artist, filmmaker and musician based in Glasgow. His films have been screened at Museum of Modern Art, New York, Tate Modern, London, Glasgow Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival, as well as in recent solo exhibitions at Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, The Modern Institute, Glasgow, and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, in 2015.


Ground Floor Centre


Stuart Marshall

Journal of the Plague Year


U-matic transferred to digital, silent

5 monitors, continuous loop

Courtesy of Maya Vision and LUX, London

Made for Vidéo 84, Montreal, and revised in 1991 for the exhibition ‘Signs of the Times’ at Modern Art Oxford, Journal of the Plague Year is a searing and elegiac response to the English media’s reporting of the Aids crisis in 1983 and 1984, and the experience from within the gay community. The historical narrative of Journal of the Plague Year unfolds over five monitors, each showing different representations of homosexual identity through the 20th century.

Titled after Daniel Defoe’s account of the Great Plague of 1665, published in 1722, Journal of the Plague Year, in Marshall’s own words, ‘counterposes representations derived from both the public and the private sphere to demonstrate [the] struggle to determine the meanings of homosexuality’. An important and almost forgotten work of British video art, Journal of the Plague Year has been restored especially for ‘The Inoperative Community’ and is being shown for the first time in over twenty years.


Stuart Marshall (1949–93, UK) was born in Manchester, and lived and worked in London. He studied at Hornsey College of Art, London. He was a founder member of London Video Arts in 1976. He was represented in group exhibitions including ‘The Video Show’, Serpentine Gallery (1975), ‘Videotapes by British Artists’, The Kitchen, New York (1979), and ‘Performance, Film, Installation, Video’, Tate Gallery (1981). He curated the exhibition ‘Recent British Video’ at The Kitchen, New York (1983). He taught at Chelsea School of Art, London, Royal College of Art, London, and Newcastle Polytechnic. Towards the end of his life Marshall made a number experimental documentaries commissioned by Channel 4, concerning gay identity and the Aids crisis.


Second Floor, West


Anne Charlotte Robertson

Five Year Diary


Super 8 film transferred to digital

229 minutes

Courtesy Harvard Film Archive


Experimental filmmaker Anne Charlotte Robertson invented and inhabited a hermetic yet openly shared world in her Framingham, Massachusetts apartment, and later in her mother’s house. Within these intimate spaces Robertson used film to test and patiently expand her capacity to understand the complex world around her. With her Super 8 camera in hand, Robertson mused aloud about her periodic mental breakdowns and various obsessions: finding a husband, the preparation of food, her organic garden, her addictions, her weight.

When Robertson presented individual reels of the eighty three-part Five Year Diary she usually provided additional live commentary which was often recorded and added later as a soundtrack to that same reel, giving another layer to a work already crammed with voices. The result is a harrowing but also life-affirming and frequently funny work of first person cinema. In Five Year Diary Robertson constructs a community centered around herself and a cast of recurring characters, some real, some invented: her psychologist, her cats, Doctor Who actor Tom Baker (on whom she had a life-long crush), her mother and her niece Emily, whose tragic death leads to another breakdown.

Robertson’s pioneering work – totaling over thirty-seven hours – is being preserved by the Harvard Film Archive. Four hours of Five Year Diary have been made available for this exhibition, including reels that are being shown in the UK for the first time.


Anne Charlotte Robertson (1949–2012, USA) lived and worked in Framingham, Massachusetts. She began making films in the mid–1970s and completed her graduate degree at Massachusetts College of Art in 1985. In addition to Five Year Diary (1981–97), Robertson also made over thirty short films – mostly diaristic – including Magazine Mouth (1983), Talking to Myself (1985), Apologies (1990) and Melon Patches, or Reasons to Go On Living (1994). Prior to her death, she bequeathed her archive and estate to the Harvard Film Archive in 2012. Excerpts from Five Year Diary have been recently screened at Glasgow Film Festival, presented by LUX Scotland, Glasgow (2012) and at the Anxiety Arts Festival, British Film Institute, London (2014).



First Floor, East


Albert Serra 

Els noms de Crist [The Names of Christ]


HD video

193 minutes

Courtesy the artist

Albert Serra is an intriguing figure in the world of contemporary cinema. After being celebrated on the film festival circuit for the films Honour of the Knights (2006) and Birdsong (2008), he made his first work for a contemporary art institution. Els noms de Crist [The Names of Christ] was commissioned for the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), and is an episodic exploration of the production of a ‘difficult film’, loosely based on Luis de León’s 16th century book De los nombres de Cristo [The Names of Christ], in which a series of conversations take place between three friends at a country house, on the subject of the fourteen scriptural names of Christ.

In Serra’s transposition, a director (played by Serra himself) and a producer, along with various other characters, wander through the galleries of MACBA discussing the difficulties with the (fictional) film’s production. With a running time of over three hours Els noms de Crist makes demands that some gallery visitors are simply not going to be able to meet. But for those that do, the film is a complex work that draws parallels between religious asceticism and art, exploring the fragile communities that are necessary to hold together the production of a long narrative film, as well as the problems of translating literature into film and cinema into the spaces of contemporary art.


Albert Serra (b. 1975, Spain) is a filmmaker and artist based in Barcelona. He is best known for his films Honour of the Knights (2006), Birdsong (2008), and Story of My Death (2013). Recent presentations of his films include ‘Albert Serra: Divine Visionaries and Holy Fools’, Tate Modern, London (2015), ‘Singularity’, Catalonia (at) Venice (2015), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2013), and documenta 13, Kassel (2012).



Ground Floor Front

Leslie Thornton

Peggy and Fred in Hell: Folding


16 mm film and video transferred to digital

95 minutes

Courtesy the artist

In Leslie Thornton’s Peggy and Fred in Hell, an open ended episodic work that has been in the making for over thirty years, its protagonists, real-life siblings Janis and Donald Reading, fall down a rabbit hole into a post-apocalyptic world where they are the only humans. With only the loosest backstory, Thornton began filming the children – who were her neighbours – in the early 1980s. She continued to work with them as they grew into teenagers and then young adults, and still maintains contact with them now. Over three decades she has continued to rework the material they shot together, periodically producing new ‘episodes’, and the project has evolved into one of the most singular and complex works of experimental film and video.

Peggy and Fred share their world with what Thornton has called the ‘Artificial Intelligence Network’, a being whose function is to teach and simultaneously learn from the children. Sifting through the detritus of our culture Peggy, Fred and the AI attempt to learn about each other and the world that has disappeared. One of the ways they do this is by watching TV. Thornton has written that Peggy and Fred only see other people on the TV, so they assume that they are also being broadcast; they ‘figure that people are watching and learning from, and ignoring them […] This constitutes their idea of the social’. The acuity of Thornton’s enquiry into surveillance culture, theories of new media and social organisation is as striking now as it was at the end of the cold war.

For ‘The Inoperative Community’ the artist has made a new 95-minute edit of Peggy and Fred in Hell, which incorporates footage shot in London whilst in residence at Raven Row in summer 2015. She has also devised a new environment within which to screen the film.



Screening Room



The screening room programmes begin with three films made in the immediate aftermath of the student demonstrations and workers’ revolts of May 1968 in France. In 1967 the French heiress Sylvina Boissonnas began to finance experimental projects by young filmmakers, mostly shot on 35 mm. Later called the Zanzibar Productions, these works tended to eschew plot, and often language, in search of a primal expression of disappointment and melancholy over the failure of the radical political movements of the 1960s to produce anything resembling change. By 1970 most of the filmmakers associated with Zanzibar had renounced filmmaking. With their narcissism and anger the films could be seen as the missing link between the late 1960s films of Jean-Luc Godard and Andy Warhol’s screen tests. Little seen since they were made, these films mix cinema verité and performance with a more materialist mode.

Jackie Raynal’s Deux Fois is the emblematic Zanzibar production. It is a film about the looks exchanged between the actors on screen – conspiratorial, hectoring – and the film’s audience. The editing is minimal and each sequence is seemingly unconnected to the next. At the beginning of the film Raynal announces that “tonight will be the end of meaning”, echoing a character in Godard’s Le Gai Savoir, made a year earlier, imploring that we “return to zero”. Raynal provides no programme to begin again but instead a blank stare, and an invitation to stare back.

Fun and Games for Everyone, which begins Wednesday’s programme, was shot at a gallery opening for the painter Olivier Mosset, whose circle or zero paintings were also an attempt to ‘return to zero’. Serge Bard’s high contrast 35 mm film turns the opening’s visitors – including Salvador Dalí – into stark graphic marks on the screen. Their conversation blends in with a psychedelic soundtrack by Barney Wilen and Sunny Murray. Patrick Deval’s Acéphale [Headless] was named after Georges Bataille’s secret society and journal. Its delirious, nightmarish and melancholic imagery is, like Deux Fois, shot in episodeswhich alternate between highly staged tableaux and more improvised moments.



Serge Bard

Fun and Games for Everyone


35 mm film transferred to digital

53 minutes

Courtesy CollectifJeune Cinema

Patrick Deval



35 mm film transferred to digital

56 minutes

Courtesy CollectifJeune Cinema


Jackie Raynal

Deux Fois


35 mm film transferred to digital64 minutesCourtesy CollectifJeune Cinema





Thursday’s programme shifts the focus onto the UK independent film scene of the 1970s and 1980s. All these films subject documentary traditions, such as cinema verité, agit-prop and the essay film, to relentless questioning. Stephen Dwoskin’s Central Bazaar was shot in the filmmaker’s own living room – adapted especially for the production – where a group of strangers spent five weeks exploring fantasies and testing the limits of their social conditioning, in the manner of an encounter group. Dwoskin edited the results into a taut but open-ended exploration of hidden desires. Gavin Bryar’s soundtrack starts with a clap of thunder and incorporates soaring strings, organ drones, bells and prepared piano, laid on top of snatches of incomprehensible moans, sobs and breathy exhalations.

One of the key questions asked by Dwoskin’s film is: what does it mean to represent collectivity, and what is the relationship of this representation to ideas about realism? The second film in this programme also grapples with this question. ’36 to ’77 was originally conceived as the sequel to The Berwick Street Film Collective’s Nightcleaners (1975), a film that changed the terms of the discussion about political documentary and experimental film in the UK. However, unlike Nightcleaners, which questioned the very possibility of representing political struggle on film, ’36 to ’77, which has scarcely been screened, pursues a more nuanced investigation. The film persistently questions what are the qualities of memory, and the relation of the individual to the collective. A DVD featuring ’36 to ’77, alongside Nightcleaners is forthcoming from Raven Row and LUX, London.

The two films that complete Thursday’s programme also subvert expectations of the political documentary. Karlin’s For Memory is about the production of historical memory and the amnesia that shadows such productions. It is an elliptical essay film that weaves footage of historian and peace activist E.P. Thompson with interviews with Alzheimer’s patients and a number of other activists. Cinema Action’s So That You Can Live was the group’s most personal and reflective film. Gone are the political sloganeering and single issue campaigning of their earlier productions, replaced by a more subtle and revealing study of the life of Shirley Butts, an engineering union convenor who loses her job after a strike over equal pay. The film is framed by cultural critic Raymond Williams’ book The Country and the City (1973), which towards the end Diane, Shirley’s daughter, reads from to camera.



Stephen Dwoskin

Central Bazaar


16 mm film transferred to digital

142 minutes

Courtesy BFI National Archive

Marc Karlin, Jon Sanders, James Scott, Humphry Trevelyan

’36 to ’77


16 mm film transferred to digital

94 minutes

Courtesy BFI National Archive

Cinema Action

So That You Can Live


16 mm film transferred to digital

83 minutes

Courtesy BFI National Archive

Marc Karlin

For Memory


U-matic transferred to digital

114 minutes

Courtesy the Marc Karlin Archive (Hermione Harris, Holly Aylett and Andy Robson)





The films in Friday’s programme are about political activism and radicalism, made at some distance from the events they depict and discuss. In fact the very subject of these films is distance – and in particular, the distancing effect of certain modes of filmmaking. Ici et Ailleursincludes material shot for an altogether different film. Between November 1968 and September 1970 Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, working together as the Dziga Vertov Group, started work on a film that was to be called Jusqu’a la Victoire [Until Victory] and shot material in Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank. Funded by the Arab League the film was to support the struggles of the Palestinian people. When Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville returned to the footage some five years later they reorganised the material, and through the use of sound as much as image reflected on the fate of European radicalism in the 1970s. 

Yvonne Rainer and Helke Sander’s films were made after the heady early days of second wave feminism and each in different ways reflect on this period. Rainer connects these struggles to earlier ones and Sander rakes over and dramatises her own involvement, asking what kind of community was formed by the feminist movement. Johan Grimonprez’s dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Yrepresented a rare 1990s return to both the aesthetics – reviving interest in video montage and the essay film – and the radical politics of the 1970s, subjecting both to sustained scrutiny. Grimonprez recycled passages from two novels by Don DeLillo – White Noise (1985) and Mao II(1991) – staging a conversation between a hijacking terrorist and a novelist, asking whether the work of one doesn’t supplant that of the other. Made four years before 9/11, dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y questions the media’s active involvement in the representation of political violence.



Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin and Anne-Marie Miéville

Ici et Ailleurs [Here and Elsewhere]


35 mm film and video transferred to digital

52 minutes

Yvonne Rainer

Journeys from Berlin/1971


16 mm film transferred to digital

125 minutes

Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

Helke Sander

Der subjektive Faktor


16 mm film transferred to digital

138 minutes

Courtesy of DeutscheKinemathek, Museum für Filmund Fernsehen

Johan Grimonprez

dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y


Video transferred to digital

68 minutes

Copyright Zapomatik, Brussels

Courtesy of Argos, Brussels





After working with Jean-Luc Godard under the auspices of the Dziga Vertov Group, Jean-Pierre Gorin moved to San Diego to take up a teaching post at the University of California, alongside his friend the painter and film critic Manny Farber. In Routine Pleasures Gorin reflects on his relationship with Farber. The film is both a meditation on Farber’s theory of ‘termite art’ and an exemplar of it. For in Farber’s alternative to, or variation on, the auteur theory (about defining directorial signature) the artist voraciously eats holes in his or her art, leaving gaps to be filled by the viewer. Gorin certainly achieves this in the three films that have become known as his ‘Californian trilogy’.

Each film is as much about Gorin’s exile as his adopted homeland. Poto and Cabengo is ostensibly a documentary about twin girls whose family claimed they had invented a new language. The story aroused frantic media interest when it broke, but Gorin decided to make his film after this had abated, focusing not on the veracity of the claims, but on the nature of language and social organisation. His interest in collectivity as well as twinning continued in My Crasy Life, an examination of Samoan gang culture in Long Beach, California. This last film is perhaps the hardest to classify – it takes the essay form in a completely unexpected direction. Gorin has some of the gang members return to Samoa to enact fantasies about their cultural origins. He also equips a policeman’s patrol car with a sarcastic talking computer.


Jean-Pierre Gorin

Poto and Cabengo


16 mm film transferred to digital

73 minutes

Routine Pleasures


16 mm film transferred to digital

80 minutes

My Crasy Life


16 mm film transferred to digital

98 minutes

Courtesy of Janus Films, New York





Sunday’s programme has two distinct halves. The first offers up a triple bill by radical Catalan filmmaker Pere Portabella. Nocturno 29, titled after the number of years in Franco’s dictatorship, is a dream-like drift through a number of seemingly unconnected situations. Seven years before British film theorist Peter Wollen wrote of the ‘uneven’ parallel histories of two film avant-gardes – political and materialist – Portabella was building a bridge between the two. Vampir-Cuadecucand Umbracle similarly pursue discontinuities and fragmentation to build new filmic language. Both films feature British horror actor Christopher Lee. Vampir-Cuadecuc was shot on the set of Jesús Franco’s El Conde Drácula (Count Dracula), whilst in Umbracle, Lee is sent on puzzling peregrinations around Barcelona. The coding of politics in the language of film is at stake in both films, as it is in the last two films of the programme.


Mati Diop’s Mille Soleils follows Magaye Niang, the star of Touki-Bouki (1973) – by Senegalese filmmaker and Diop’s uncle, Djibril Diop Mambéty – to a screening of that film over forty years after its release. As a tribute to, and update of, the themes of the earlier film, Diop fuses documentary and fiction modes, connecting the Senegal of the past and present, whilst re-energizing the post-colonial politics of Touki-Bouki.

A similar dialogue with the past takes place in Eric Baudelaire’s film, The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, and 27 Years without Images which tells the stories of Adachi, Shigenobu and her daughter, May. Involved with Japanese cinema’s New Wave in the 1960s and 1970s, Adachi abandoned commercial filmmaking in Japan and fled the country to Beirut with the Japanese Red Army. Shigenobu, one of the group’s founders, was in exile in Beirut for almost thirty years until arrested and repatriated to Japan in 2000. She is accompanied by her daughter May who discovers Japan after twenty-seven years. May Shigenobu and Masao Adachi’s voice-overs bring together different temporalities and reflect on the proliferation and repression of images, over footage shot by Baudelaire in Japan and Beirut.



Pere Portabella

Nocturno 29


35 mm film transferred to digital

78 minutes




16 mm film transferred to digital

66 minutes



16 mm film transferred to digital

85 minutes


Courtesy Pere Portabella, Films 59



Mati Diop

Mille Soleils [A Thousand Suns]


35 mm film transferred to digital

45 minutes

Courtesy the artist and Anna Sanders Films, Paris


Eric Baudelaire

The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, and 27 Years without Images


Super 8 film transferred to digital

65 minutes

Courtesy LUX, London



Text © 2015 Dan Kidner and Raven Row