Part of Glasgow Film Festival
A DIY aesthetic permeates the film and video work featured in this collection of professional, student and experimental films in the eighties. Featuring work by Jill Westwood, Grayson Perry, Tim Pope, George Barber and many more, the symbolic meets the ritualistic, and it is, as with the punk movement itself, both transgressive and politically- minded in its remit.
Using Super 8, home taping and 16mm, these artists played with form, and the ubiquity of VHS shaped how these could be cheaply, quickly created for the first time.
The most successful, like Isaac John’s Territories (1984) scrutinises black culture in Britain through the frame of the Notting Hill carnival and inner-city riots, eschewing stereotypes. Meanwhile, Kenneth Anger’s lurid Occultist film making influences run rampant through Cerith Wyn Evans , John Maybury and Psychic TV’s promo for Unclean (1984) .
Grayson Perry’s The Green Witch and Merry Diana (1984) has some interesting ideas, such as animated figurines and toy motorbikes, a strange woman with a tail walking through a shopping precinct, and a witchy figure appearing seemingly at random. All very lo-fi and whimsical, but it’s perhaps better that he got into pottery.
Cordelia Swann’s iconoclastic Passion Tryptych (1982) depicts three embraces mashed together on split-screen: fraternal, sexual and comforting, to jarring effect. The slow-mo of her source material can be traced through to today in contemporary work like Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho.
John Maybury’s The Court of Miracles (1982) fuses Dadaism with modern pop culture, animal sacrifice and BDSM. Like Ron Athey’s performance art and Francis Bacon’s famous triptych paintings, it’s saturated with sexual and religious ecstasy. Siouxsie Sioux’s face, scrubbed of her theatrical make-up, is juxtaposed endlessly with Eastern imagery. It’s designed to challenge and subvert artistic expression, and censorship laws, and still holds up well as a cohesive statement.
Not all pieces are as successful- as with the indulgent work by Jill Westwood. The Wound (1984) which, although visually striking with black and white images of bodies and Occult symbolism, is hampered by an over-earnest voice-over, proclaiming,”I want you to kill me, Jill, but I don’t want to DIE!” Painfully adolescent, it sounds like Rik Mayall’s People’s Poet from The Young Ones. A fascination with self-harm seemingly out of context, too, is both worrying and ill-advised.
Still,in general a fascinating and disparate array of work from young people railing against Section 28, participating in anti-fascist and poll tax riots and providing an alternative voice to the prevailing Conservative government, which sought to suppress the outsider.