To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative, this screening presents a selection of work by some of innovative film artists who gathered there in its formative years: David Crosswaite, Marilyn Halford, Malcolm Le Grice, Mike Leggett, Annabel Nicolson, William Raban, Lis Rhodes and John Smith.
Inspired by the example set by Jonas Mekas and his colleagues in New York, the London Co-op was founded in 1966. In contrast to similar organizations, the LFMC’s activity was not limited to distribution; within a few years it was running a regular program in its own cinema and, most notably, had a workshop in which filmmakers could control every stage of the creative process.
The workshop housed a continuous processor and step printer and was an essential, contributory factor in steering the direction of the uncompromising films produced at the LFMC in the 1970s. The tendency was defined by as “structural/materialist” by one of the group’s leading polemicists, Peter Gidal, alluding to what was then the dominant mode in avant-garde cinema but adding a qualification that suggests both Marxist philosophy and the physical presence of the medium that was foregrounded in British filmmaking.
A second, and equally significant, form of practice was expanded cinema, which made creative use of the mechanics of projection in the presentation of multiscreen films and performance works. Light Music by Lis Rhodes is exemplary in this regard. Two projectors face each other across the room, creating an environment in which the audience is participant. Its abstract imagery (an ever-changing array of horizontal lines composed as a musical score) is printed across the frame and optical soundtrack area of a 16mm film print, enabling it to be both seen and heard. – Mark Webber
The program will be introduced by Mark Webber, author of Shoot Shoot Shoot: The First Decade of the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative 1966-76 (LUX, October 2016) and co-editor of Flare Out: Aesthetics 1966–2016, a collection of essays by Peter Gidal issued by The Visible Press in April 2016.
Following the screening in the HFA cinematheque, there will be a special presentation of Lis Rhodes’ Light Music in room B-04, next to the theater.
All film prints courtesy LUX.
Introduction by Mark Webber
Friday November 4 at 7pm
Directed by Annabel Nicolson
UK 1973, 16mm, color, silent, 8 min
The original was standard 8mm material that I'd shot in a village in Italy. The material had gone through a process of deterioration. I'd used it in performing and taken it through an old Russian slide projector. I took the lens out of this projector so I could pull the film strip through it, and that meant the image could be focused on different surfaces. Instead of the image falling onto a screen, I could direct it around the room with the lens in my hand. In the process it got very torn and scratched, and it was that material I eventually put in the contact printer and made into the 16mm film Frames. – Annabel Nicolson
Directed by Marilyn Halford
UK 1975, 16mm, b/w, 6 min
Footsteps is in the manner of a game re-enacted: the game in making was between the camera and actor, the actor and cameraman, and one hundred feet of film. The film became expanded into positive and negative to change balances within it: black for perspective, then black to shadow the screen and make paradoxes with the idea of acting, and the act of seeing the screen. The music sets a mood then turns a space, remembers the positive then silences the flatness of the negative. – Marilyn Halford
Directed by Mike Leggett
UK 1971, 16mm, b/w, 15 min
Shepherd’s Bush was a revelation. It was both true film notion and demonstrated an ingenious association with the film process. It is the procedure and conclusion of a piece of film logic using a brilliantly simple device: the manipulation of the light source in the Film Co-op printer such that a series of transformations are effected on a loop of film material. From the start, Mike Leggett adopts a relational perspective according to which it is neither the elements nor the emergent whole but the relations between the elements (transformations) that become primary through the use of logical procedure. – Roger Hammond
Directed by David Crosswaite
UK 1971, 16mm, b/w & color, 10 min
The systems of superimposed loops are mathematically interrelated in a complex manner. The starting and cut-off points for each loop are not clearly exposed, but through repetitions of sequences in different colors, in different “material” realities (i.e., a negative, positive, bas-relief, neg-pos overlay) yet in constant rhythm (both visually and on the soundtrack hum) one is manipulated to attempt to work out the system structure… The film deals with permutations of material, in a prescribed manner but one by no means “necessary” or logical (except within the film’s own constructed system/serial). – Peter Gidal
Directed by John Smith
UK 1975, 16mm, color, 7 min
Images from magazines and color supplements accompany a spoken text taken from Word Associations and Linguistic Theory by the American psycholinguist Herbert H. Clark. By using the ambiguities inherent in the English language, Associations sets language against itself. Image and word work together/against each other to destroy/create meaning. – John Smith
Directed by William Raban
UK 1972, 16mm, color, 12 min
Originally, this was a four-minute time-lapse film that was shot continuously over a twenty-four-hour period. The camera was positioned on a busy pathway in Regent's Park, and recorded three frames a minute. The shutter was held open for the twenty-second duration between exposures, so that on projection, individual frames merge together making the patterned flows of human movement clearly perceptible. The time-lapse original was then expanded by various processes of re-filming to reveal the frame-by-frame structure of the original. – William Raban
Directed by Malcolm Le Grice
UK 1970, 16mm, b/w, 11 min
This film could be considered as a synthesis of the “How to Screw the CIA” series. It is formally based on the permutative loop structure, superimposing a series of three pairs of image loops of different lengths with each other. The images include elements from all the previous parts of the series. The film sequences that make up loops are again chosen for their combination of semantic relationships and abstract factors of movement. The soundtrack is constructed for the film, but independently, and has a similar loop structure. – Malcolm Le Grice
Directed by Lis Rhodes
UK 1975-77, 16mm x 2, b/w, 20 min
The film is not complete as a totality; it could well be different and still achieve its purpose of exploring the possibilities of optical sound. It is as much about sound as it is about image; their relationship is necessarily dependent as the optical soundtrack “makes” the music. It is the machinery itself that imposes this relationship. The image throughout is composed of straight lines. It need not have been. – Lis Rhodes