Emitters of Light weekend at No.w.here

This year Art Licks, an organization founded in 2010 to promote the work of younger artists, curators and non-profit galleries working in various locations between Bermondsey and Hackney Wick in London, put on a three-day event to showcase the work of over 250 artists. As part of these events, the artist-run film space and laboratory, No.w.here, is running Emitters of Light, a weekend of installed film projections and displays in the lab and workshop part of their two-floor space in Bethnal Green. The event has been curated by Karen Mirza, James Holcombe and Sally Golding, all of whom work at No.w.here in various capacities.

The lab was turned into a uniquely hybrid workshop cum gallery and screening room, with films displayed on projectors, Steenbeck tables and rostrums. Visitors could look at the work, inspect equipment and talk to the organisers about No.w.here and what it has to offer, which is black and white 16mm film developing and printing facilities, cameras and editing equipment. No.w.here’s focus is on film production, though they also offer some digital facilities, but, as James Holcombe, who runs the lab and many of the courses that take place therein, points out, most people nowadays have a laptop running FCP or Premiere, rendering their offering of such facilities unnecessary. What follows is a brief review of some of the work, not a complete or systematic account of everything on display.

A variety of films were projected on the opening night, including new and old work by Karel Doing, Peter Gidal, Maria Anastassiou, Bea Haut, Jenny Baines, Vicky Smith, Oliver Bancroft and Patrick Beveridge. Vicky Smith showed a selection of films and loops that form part of her PhD project, which is concerned with the body and film, and how bodily traces evidence performative, often reductive or negative actions, including the partial removal by hand of the film’s surface. Smith’s work has become increasingly performance-based, and in her most recent phase she has been combining actual performance, using a bicycle, with film projection. Maria Anastassiou showed Dropped Frames, a black and white film of a hand dropping an object. The work is strongly reminiscent of Richard Serra’s 1968 film Hand Catching Lead, except that here the hand drops rather than catches, and the jittery, reiterative process is complicated by the jumpy frame-line, which a-rhythmically appears and disappears in the frame. Whereas in Hand Catching Lead the idea of film as a succession of frames is figured in the pieces of lead dropping repeatedly through the frame, in Anasstasiou’s film the frame line appears literally as an essential and disruptive-constructive part of the work. The film was back projected onto a rostrum table, evoking the idea of work in progress. The viewer has to stare into the rectangle of direct, as opposed to reflected light, and this complicates the sense of the image, which looks silhouetted, even though there is detail in its front side –texture in the forearm and so on.

Coloured loops by James Holcombe, and two beautiful high contrast hand-processed films, by Bea Haut and Jenny Baines, also featured. Haut’s film, Formatting and Filmwash, showed a woman washing 16mm film in a bucket, while Baines showed Stairs, Hackney Town Hall, made in un-split Standard 8 (which, contrary to Tacita Dean’s pronouncements, is still commercially available), of the stairs outside Hackney Town Hall. The steps are orientated vertically in the frame, so that we see continuous stripes in all four of the visible Standard 8 frames, through which an object periodically rolls across the frame, a small event in an otherwise static image.

The growth in the desire of younger (and not so younger) artists to work with film is fascinating and personally gratifying for a teacher working in the context of an increased domination of video production technologies. Over the last twenty five years, more and more students have turned to video, but in the last five there has been a remarkable growth in the number wanting to work with film. A visit to No.w.here will reassure those wanting to use 16mm or Super 8, but who are worried about costs, facilities and the availability of film stocks, that film is still very much around, not as a nostalgic or fetish object, but as a viable artistic medium. The experience of seeing works in which the medium, and the technology by which it is made visible, form an integrated and coherent whole, is utterly different from watching projected video, or even video on monitors. The noise and heat also become part of the experience, to say nothing of the variety of textural qualities, which are, again, very different from the frictionless surfaces of the video image.

Vicky Smith Loop no.3, opening night

Vicky Smith’s Loop no.3, opening night

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Bea Haut’s Formatting and Filmwash, opening night.

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General view, opening night, with projector and Steenbeck table in the background.

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Back of the Calder 16mm processing machine, showing chemical store in the background.

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The venerable Debrie 16mm contact printer.

The JK optical printer, immortalised on phone cam.

The JK optical printer, immortalised on phone cam.

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Equipment shelf.

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Vicky Smith: Loop no.3

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Maria Anastassiou: Dropped Frames.

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