In the early 1970s, expanded cinema came to prominence in Britain – a movement of experimental film work by artist-filmmakers that challenged mainstream cinema – and a leading artist from that time is now curating an exhibition of key works from that period alongside pieces by younger artists who are incorporating our age’s digital technologies into their work.
But what exactly is expanded cinema? “It’s film when it’s moving beyond the restriction of a single screen, frame or channel,” explains Guy Sherwin, who was involved in the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative, which was set up in the 1970s to exhibit, produce and distribute expanded cinema films.
“People would use multiple projectors, four or five or six, and the audience would be sitting in a normal cinema but watching different projections of the film, and there would be live events interacting with the film.
“This exhibition has got particular films from the co-operative’s members. Malcolm Le Grice was a key player and he uses his body to cast shadows across the frame. And there’s a piece that I’ve made myself in which I’m holding a mirror in my hand and the film is projected off the mirror onto the walls, and the film shows me holding a mirror in a landscape.
“It’s an exploration of film’s potential,” Guy continues, “it’s a medium that’s got a lot more to offer than it’s actually used for. It’s a bit unusual to have it in a gallery because it’s normally shown in a gallery to a seated audience, but in this case we’ve made it into looped projections.
“There’s lots of old cinematic film on show, not very much digital – it’s a very tactile feeling, this film.”
This is the first curating work that Guy has done and he has really enjoyed putting together the commissions and working with the artists involved.
Guy studied painting at Chelsea School of Art in the 1960s and his subsequent work with film was influenced by the co-operative in the 1970s.
His films have been included in exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery, Tate Modern and Tate Britain, and he teaches at the universities of Wolverhampton and Middlesex.
Why is expanded cinema relevant today?
“The brief was that film is on the cusp of being thrown out altogether,” says Guy, 63, who lives in Hackney, “and people are thinking ‘what are we throwing away? Do we want to live in a 100 per cent digital world?’ The same debate is going on in photography.
“People think of film of being just what you see in the cinema or on TV, they’re not interested in how it’s made – but artists are, and my take on it is that celluloid, with its physical, tactile qualities, will continue to be used.”
- Film in Space is at Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, London NW3 6DG from Saturday, December 15 to Sunday, February 24 from Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm, with late opening until 9pm on Wednesday. Details: 020 7472 5500, www.camdenartscentre.org