London Gallery West is pleased to exhibit a touring programme of 1980s film and video works by the post-punk and scratch video movement, curated by William Fowler of the BFI for LUX. This is a rare chance to see early works by major artists such as Cerith Wyn Evans, Grayson Perry and Isaac Julien as well as filmmakers who successfully moved into the commercial world such as Steven Chivers, Sophie Muller and John Maybury. Produced mainly in the early 1980s during great social and political change, these radical works are particularly relevant today when tectonic shifts are also taking place in media, arts and society.
In the early 1980s, clubbers, art students, new romantics and members of the post-punk scene used inexpensive domestic technology to find new modes of expression and subvert mainstream media. Independent VHS tapes were released, stridently bypassing censorship, and Super 8 film was embraced as an economical yet distinctly lyrical and direct new medium. The DIY approach of punk was powerfully reborn. The period also saw new voices emerge. Female, gay and black filmmakers pushed themselves forward and were often friends, squatting, clubbing and developing new styles and techniques together. When not working with Derek Jarman, John Maybury and Cerith Wyn Evans led the charge among the Super 8 crowd, casting friends such as Leigh Bowery and Siouxsie Sioux in fragmented, dreamlike scenarios. ‘Scratch video’ artists cut-up existing material to create startling new juxtapositions and reveal hidden meanings, with extraordinary impact. It was an uncertain, politically contentious time, a time in which – much like today with the internet – technology appeared to make things more exciting yet also create gaps between people. Artists considered what images and technology could mean and be in their fullest sense.
Part of the BFI National Archive’s ongoing work to restore significant yet marginalised areas of historical British experimental film, the majority of the Super 8 and 16mm films in these programmes have been out of circulation for 30 years. Don’t miss seeing these rediscovered, vibrant and transgressive works.
Curated by William Fowler, Curator of Artists’ Moving Image, BFI National Archive. A LUX Touring project in collaboration with the BFI National Archive.