film, experimental

film, experimental
   British experimental cinema has diverse origins and applications stemming from a diffuse avant-garde, involvements of film-makers in other arts, different kinds of support and a wide range of organizational networks. Many experimentalists came from art schools, such as the Slade School of Art (Steve Chivers, Lis Rhodes, David Curtis), the Royal College of Art (Peter Gidal, Cerith Wyn Evans, Patrick Keiller), the fine art department at North East London Polytechnic, now the University of North London (David Parsons, and John Maybury), and St Martin’s School of Art (Malcolm Le Grice, William Rabin, Isaac Julien, Kobena Mercer). Experimental film has been identified with scientific approaches towards painting and arts, supported by the Artists’ Film and Video Committee, set up by the Arts Council in 1972. However, ever since its origins in the 1920s with the Close Up circle and the British Documentary movement, experimentalism accumulated many influences from lyricism and surrealism to psychoanalysis and the American Underground. After 1974, it built loose organizational networks in the Independent Film- Makers Association (IFA) (formed to promote and coordinate the grant-aided sector, with collectives funded from the Regional Arts Associations), the Workshop Movement and Channel 4. The Workshop Declaration encouraged this by accrediting franchised workshops to different regional and collective ventures.
   A cooperative tradition of distribution and exhibition spread through another key institution, the London Film Makers’ Co-operative (LFMC), to groups such as Angry Arts, Polit-kino and The Other Cinema. The sheer variety of groups, such as Cinema Action, the Berwick Street Collective, Amber Films, London Women’s Film Group, Leeds Animation Workshop, Sankofa, Ceddo and Black Audio Film Collective, often reflected difficulties in finding common ground, but this also stimulated diffusion of experimental influences into the industry generally.
   This diffusion developed in films as varied as Richard Lester’s The Knack (1965), Lindsay Anderson’s If (1968), Karel Reisz’s Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966), Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Roeg and Cammell’s Performance (1970). Publicity spread through magazines such as Undercut (set up in 1980 under the LFMC), Framework, Screen and Sight and Sound, and at London’s National Film Theatre (NFT) and Institute of Contemporary Arts. Many famous and prolific British film-makers in the 1990s, such as Greenaway, Potter, Julien, Davies and Jarman, can be said to have important origins in experimental film.
   See also: avant-garde cinema
   Further reading
    Curtis, D. (ed.) (1996) A Directory of British Film and Video Artists, London: Arts Council of England/ John Libbey Media.
   ARTHUR McCULLOUGH

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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