British Artists’ Film and Video Study Collection

3 – 23 December 2011

Sheffield Institute Gallery
Sheffield Hallam University
City Campus
Howard Street
Sheffield S1

Light Writing considers the relationship between word and image in artists’ experimental film, video and performance

Film and video works
Steven Ball, Ulysses Carrión, Ian Breakwell & Mike Leggett, Steve Hawley, Louis Henderson, John Latham, Laure Prouvost, Steve Reinke, Richard Serra, Erica Scourti, John Smith, pete spence, Maria Theodoraki and Ryszard Wasko

Live event
Performance by Lawrence Upton and John Drever
7pm Thursday 8 December 2011

Curated by Duncan White and Steven Ball

Animated text is commonplace in everyday contemporary media, but artists have been experimenting with the interface of word, language, image and movement in film and video for decades through formal and performative exploration. This exhibition of works by historically significant, established and emerging contemporary artists encompasses a range of approaches to mobilising the visual, semantic and linguistic with puns, palindromes and performance; referencing literature, philosophy, poetry, and media.

The programme is part of Light Writing an event based research project into the relationship between word and image in experimental film and video led by Dr Duncan White based at British Artists’ Film and Video Study Collection, Central St Martins College of Art and Design.

Live event: 7pm Thursday 8 December 2011

“See you”
(25:00, 2011, UK)
Lawrence Upton and John Drever
A visual score as film by Wilton Azevedo from Choreographed Utterance by Lawrence Upton from hand-writing in the notebooks of Alaric Sumner.
Studio recording: Lawrence Upton (voice), Benedict Taylor (viola). Prepared sound-recording from the studio recording John Levack Drever. Live utterance Lawrence Upton. Live treatment and spatialisation John Drever. – Lawrence Upton

plus other performances to be announced

Exhibition 3 – 23 December 2011

Room A

Ian Breakwell and Mike Leggett
(47:00, 1970 & 2003, UK)
Courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery

Based on performances by Breakwell which took place in London (ICA), Bristol and Swansea, Unword is an extraordinary amalgam of text, performance, sculpture, radio and projection, all filmed and re-filmed to make a cinematic collage of sound and image. The series of Unword mixed-media performances during 1969-1970 incorporated the simultaneous visual recording of each event as part of the performance by Mike Leggett. The subsequently processed film footage would then become part of the multi-projection elements of the next Unword performance, which would also be filmed, processed, and then projected in the next performance, and so on. The stop-frame projection of the footage was on a Spectro analysis Projector, usually used for scientific examination, at 2 frames per second. The rarity of such projectors meant that the Unword stop-frame film which Mike Leggett edited after the end of the series of performances, could only be occasionally shown. In 2003 Mike Leggett and Ian Breakwell digitally reconstructed the Unword film at 2 frames per second, with a married soundtrack of the mix of found tapes of language lessons and eyesight tests plus voice-over narrations by Ian Breakwell which were used in the original UNWORD performances.

Unword was about language, the status of the word itself, its relationship to internal images and to the external world. In this series, Breakwell treated words as things, as if they were both objects and physical images. Again, the whole nature of infantile perceptions (which, unknowingly, we never abandon) is immediately raised. The Unword series paralleled certain discoveries in psychoanalysis about word function; with the difference that Breakwell’s experiments do not require a sophisticated specialised context for their presentation. Freud distinguishes conscious (and preconscious) mental processes from those which are unconscious, claiming that the former had been brought into connection in the mind with word-presentations, whereas the latter remained attached solely to thing-presentations. The process of an idea becoming conscious was closely linked to its attachment to words. According to this view, in childhood and schizophrenia, cathexis (or charges of libidinal energy) are sometimes withdrawn from the thing-representations, and invested in word-representations, which are then treated exactly as if they were things.’
(Peter Fuller, ‘Continuous Diary’, Art and Artists, May 1974, p.22)
– Ian Breakwell: Textworks 1966 – 1999, Loughborough University, 1999

Room B

(6:00, 1971, UK)
John Latham
For Skoob Tower Ceremony: National Encyclopedias (1966), Latham had constructed towers from volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica and then burnt them. This film attempts, instead, a precis of the entire encyclopedia, with one frame of film for each page: the history of human knowledge becomes an illegible, strobing stream of images. – Lux

Anal Masturbation and Object Loss
(6:00, 2002, Canada)
Steve Reinke
The artist decides to found his own art school and begins by assembling materials for the library. Finding too many words are available, he glues together the unnecessary pages of books. “Ever on the lookout for learning opportunities, Reinke envisions an art institute where you don’t have to make anything, and with a library full of books glued together. All the information’s there—you just don’t have to bother reading it!” —New York Video Festival (2002)

A Book
(7.52, 1978, Netherlands)
Ulysses Carrión
Drawing on his interest in concrete and visual poetry as well as the creation of artist’s books, Carrión uses video to question the integral structure of the text in an anarchic and violent restructuring of ‘reading material’.


(3:30, 2001, UK)
John Smith
“re-bus n – a word or series of words represented by pictures of objects, symbols etc.” Webster’s Dictionary. Picture replaces word replaces picture.
– John Smith

Trailer Truths III
(2:30, 2004, UK)
Erica Scourti
Text taken from movie trailers is collaged together to create a new text that charts the crossing over from a critique of society to ominous direct action. The film parodies the notion of a Hollywood-style call to arms by using the language and form of mass entertainment.
– Erica Scourti

Visual Poem 12 for Paula Claire
(3:00, 1994, Australia)
pete spence
Paula Claire sent works for the International Visual Poetry Exhibitions over a number of years. The work she sent was on paper with a coinciding image for each sheet on clear acetate. When I made the film I used both the paper image and the acetate, I found I could move the acetate sheet over the paper image affording some interesting movement almost like Apollinaire’s Rain poem.
– pete spence

Spool Loops
(1:15, 2010, UK)
Steve Hawley
Spool Loops is a palindromic video, a development of Amen ICA Cinema, a much longer film which was completed on 20.02.2002, the last truly palindromic date. I have been working with language and video since my first video We Have Fun Drawing Conclusions in 1981, which knitted together images from Ladybird learn to read books into an absurd yet affecting narrative.
– Steve Hawley

Television Delivers People
(6:29, 1973, USA)
Richard Serra
Television Delivers People is a seminal work in the now well-established critique of popular media as an instrument of social control that asserts itself subtly on the populace through “entertainments,” for the benefit of those in power-the corporations that maintain and profit from the status quo. By appropriating the medium he is criticizing-using television, in effect, against itself, Serra employs a characteristic strategy of early, counter-corporate video collectives-a strategy that remains integral to video artists committed to a critical dismantling of the media’s political and ideological stranglehold.

Direct Language 5.1
(7:36, 2010, UK)
Steven Ball
The originating text is Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés (1897), a poem famous for its purposeful use of blank space and careful placement of words on the page, which allows multiple non-linear readings. This particular reading employs the progressive multi-screen function common to domestic camcorders in a real-time improvised animation, which through spatial and temporal transformation accelerates fragmentation and obfuscation, repurposing the original text as a video concrete pattern poem.

A Video by Marcel Broodthaers
(5:55, 2010, UK)
Louis Henderson
Through collage and fragmentation of archival material this video examines the dichotomous relationship between the textual and the visual, bringing them both onto a democratic surface of undifferentiation. The order of dependency of one on the other is abolished and the hierarchy disappears. In this way the archival material is put through a further process of reification that interrupts the institutional aesthetic order. In this way, the action of the video is a form of political intervention.

(0:28, 2010, UK)
Maria Theodoraki
The elements that constitute 25fps define one another, they define one another to such an extent that they become am absolute whole, they become inseparable. The work refers to this relationship where two elements exist only in the relationship, only as a relationship, only together, they did not preexist but they came to be in parallel, one from the other and for the other, starting from zero, having no purpose and representing nothing. In 25fps the two elements are the condition and the duration, the condition I set and the duration that results and at the same time the duration I set and the condition that results. The two elements are the text and the time and 25fps is the text of its time, and the time of its text.
– Maria Theodoraki

(4:00 1973, Poland)
Ryszard Wasko
“The gesture is, in this sense, communication of a communicability. It has precisely nothing to say because what it shows is the being-in-language of human beings as pure mediality”
– Giorgio Agamben, “Notes on Gesture”, quoted in Jan Verwoert, “Gestures Towards a New Life”, 123… Avant-Gardes

You are the Only One
(1:30, 2008, UK)
Laure Prouvost
Prouvost draws on the strange, daily, deictic assault of contemporary language in the same way, savouring the unasked-for intimacy of a faux-personal spam message or a threatening chain letter. These ridiculous demands nonetheless inflict tiny fractures on our sense of separateness and self- containment. We cannot rid ourselves of the residual hope that these carpet-bombing come-ons are really for us. But for Prouvost’s confiding personas, the desire for such a sense of connection constantly spills over… spirals off into conjecture and towards the further reaches of empathy, pathological projection.



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