Experimental Film and Video: An Anthology

Experimental Film and Video: An Anthology

Experimental Film and Video: An Anthology

Experimental Film and Video: An Anthology


The past 40 years of technological innovation have significantly altered the materials of production and revolutionized the possibilities for experiment and exhibition. Not since the invention of film has there been such a critical period of major change in the imaging technologies accessible to artists. Bringing together key artists in film, video, and digital media, the anthology of Experimental Film and Video revisits the divergent philosophical and critical discourses of the 1970s and repositions these debates relative to contemporary practice. Forty artists have contributed images, and 25 artists reflect on the diverse critical agendas, contexts, and communities that have affected their practice across the period from the late 1960s to date. Along with an introduction by Jackie Hatfield and forewords by Sean Cubitt and Al Rees, this illustrated anthology includes interviews and recent essays by filmmakers, video artists, and pioneers of interactive cinema. Experimental Film and Video opens up the conceptual avenues for future practice and related critical writing.


There have been honourable exceptions like Mike O’Pray and Stephen Heath, but few of the leading film critics and theorists of the last forty years have spent much time with artists’ video and film. Though film-maker Laura Mulvey’s essay on visual pleasure remains one of the most cited in the humanities, her films are more and more rarely screened in graduate classes. the demands of genre study, narratology and industrial analysis of national cinemas have led media scholars away from their interests in the avant-garde; while the avant-garde, especially in the United Kingdom, have been driven further away from media-based funding towards the gallery world or the digital underground.

Political radicalism is not the cause of this: radicals like Ken Loach can still make feature films. But it may be a result of marginalisation by the film business and increasingly by funding agencies whose brief must stretch from popular entertainment to documentary intervention and grassroots training. Everybody has a reason to step aside.

Yet there is a powerful tradition of artists’ writings on vanguard media practice in the uk. the writings of Peter Gidal and Stuart Marshall informed many young artists’ projects throughout the 1970s and 1980s, sometimes as inspiration, sometimes in reaction, a constant articulation with emerging practices in film and video arts. the fabled inarticulateness of the creator was never much prized among film and video makers: talk was always integral to the art where making relied so heavily on other people’s help. I remember a New York based avant-garde filmmaker amazed that his London crew on a jobbing music video were all reading Kafka and going off to Fassbinder screenings. the art school tradition of demanding a written dissertation as part of the degree still impacts on the distinctive willingness of the uk artist to engage in ideas, and to generate them.

For lack of a continuous tradition of critical writing – despite the efforts of Undercut over the years – this collection is likely to prove a treasure trove for new readers. Piled up in one-off little magazines and catalogues, mimeographed sheets and letraset layouts are the fragments of a thriving culture swept under the carpet of history . . .

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