16mm film


I had been making performances and actions for five years or so before I thought about using film in the early 1970s. When I began I was not interested in making recordings of what happened on the grounds that the performance was the thing in itself. Visual records of whatever kind were irrelevant. I was not interested in trying to perpetuate a performance or prolong its life. It was sufficient for the performance to remain in the mind as memory for as long as it did. I assumed it would be unlikely for anyone to be burdened for such memories for long. Surprisingly this was not the case for some people. However, memory among other things is an instrument of the unconscious and cannot be entirely relied upon as a source of verifiable information.

I then began to work with photographers to make recordings of what took place. However photography is a complex medium and I found it more compatible to work closely with one or two photographers so that we might be able to approach the issue in greater depth. I worked successfully with the photographer Leslie Haslam for some years. Early on in our association we thought about using of film 16mm film largely because we had used still images in sequence to try to find `typical` sets of imagery which might stand for the performance as a whole. And we had some mixed success. And of course we thought about 16mm film.

However, the first successful attempt was made just prior to my work with Leslie Haslam. I made a performance at Gallery House (Goethe Institute London) entitled And for today... nothing. I discussed the possibility of making a film derived from this work with film maker Ken McMullen, and subsequently he shot some film in Gallery House. He approached it directly in terms of film which entailed working directly to the camera. I edited the film assisted by Anna Flannagan. The material exploded the real time constriction of performance. It offered a way forward where real time action ceased to be an iron bound stricture although it is as an essential condition of performance. 

16mm film has more gravitas than 8mm. The release from real time offered the opportunity to play and replay sequences to discover hidden values which only reveal themselves in time, unlike the industrial use of film where subject, style and the use of time and not least  cost, are generally subject to the demands of commerce. The scale of 16mm offers an intimacy with the processes involved. 16 mm is more or less economically viable within the context of non commercial use. It is amenable to the euphemistically termed ‘art film, independent cinema' etc... In these conditions 16 mm acquires a status connected to art and craft similar to other reproductive media which are used in terms of the fine arts, eg. print making and letterpress. Its intrinsic values offer a more personal, often poetic tenor. It reminds me of the personal scale of most poetry which itself has evolved out of the historic declamation of the public voice, to reside in the personal and particular. Although there is no real comparison to be made with poetry there is a difference between the public aspect of the use of 75mm which expresses the larger public presence as a vehicle of popular culture driven by commercial imperatives. 16 mm film is more the voice of the personal, the private the meditative, the independent voice.