Light Reading’s ninth series continues with a dialogue between artists Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone and writer and assistant director of the LUX, Mike Sperlinger. Ellard and Johnstone will also present one recent work Proposal for an unmade film (set in the future) (2007) and a new work in progress, Machine on Black Ground (2009).
Ellard and Johnstone’s collaborative practice is a particular and highly subjective method of investigation into the conventions and effects of the representation of space in cinema. Ellard and Johnston’s recent 16mm films start from stories or alibis they tell themselves about the buildings they encounter. Or sometimes the films start from a simple but perhaps far fetched or intuitive formal analogy of some kind that intimates another kind of use or function for the building entirely. Theses stories, alibis and analogies then form the basis of a kind of shooting and editing script in which a poetic movement from one image to another is as important as any sense of narrative development.
Part of a trilogy of work in progress, Machine on Black Ground (2009) employs archival as well as original footage, combining images from early 1960s industrial documentaries, a concert by Tangerine Dream at Coventry Cathedral and recently shot abstract material of modernist stained glass architecture to suggest a utopian architectural project viewed from an “imagined subterranean space or vantage point.” In so doing, the film proposes two simultaneous formal analogies which suggest that different elements that make up an architectural structure can also be seen to act as a priori structural frameworks for the cinematic event; i.e. stained glass as filmstrip and the modernist cathedral as projector of light.
Proposal for an unmade film (set in the future) (2009) explores the representation of architectural space whilst playing on a set of material and experiential dichotomies. The idea of a “proposal” stands for elements of pre-production; source material and audition footage, whilst simultaneously projecting itself into a retrospective state of discovery and its viewing as archival material. The film is set in the volcanic landscape of the Timonfaya National Park in Lanzarote and intertwines shots of the utopian architecture of Lanzarotan artist César Manrique. The narrative that emerges is one that utilises cinematic convention and quotation in order to question the possibility of an objective placement of the work in time and the experience of architectural space it creates as a result.
Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone have collaborated since 1993. They are currently showing in the group gallery show In Search of the Unknown at Montevideo/Netherlands Media Art Institute, Amsterdam (2009). Other recent screenings and exhibitions include 38th International Film Festival, Rotterdam (2009), The Festival for Expanded Media, 22nd Filmwinter, Stuttgart (2009),), Oberhausen Short Film Festival (2008), Leeds International Film Festival (2008), The National Film Theatre, Southbank, London (2007), Open. New Directions in Pubic Space, Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Minnesota (2007)/ Chicago Architectural Foundation (2006) and Motion Path, (solo exhibition) De La Warr Pavillion (2006).
Mike Sperlinger is assistant director of the LUX and a freelance writer. He is the author of two books including “Afterthought: New Writing on Conceptual Art” (Rachmaninoff’s, 2005) and “Kinomuseum: Towards an Artist’s Cinema” (Kurzefilmtage Oberhausen, 2008)