Return of the Real: Introducing The Artists Cinema

By George Clark

anthem-apichatpong-weerasethakul.jpgThe Anthem, 2006

The art world’s growing fascination and support for artists’ film and video is widely welcomed, but the consequences for cinema, as galleries threaten to strip them of their most radical, formally innovative and complex work is rarely examined. The Artist Cinema, a custom built and rigorously programmed cinema that has been run during the Frieze Art Fair over the past two years, has been an attempt to reintroduce cinema both as a means of engaging with work but also to bring artists back to the cinema. This year five artists have been commissioned to produce work that will tour UK cinemas the bringing something of the Artist Cinema with them.

The artists each take idiosyncratic approaches to their films and the projects main brief – to make a piece of work for a space they cannot control. Here in their own works the artists describe the intention behind their films:

"In Thailand, […] there is a Royal Anthem before the feature presentation. The purpose is to honor the King. One of the rituals imbedded in our society is to give a blessing to something or someone before certain ceremonies. I would like to propose a Cinema Anthem that praises and blesses the approaching feature for each screening. An older lady will perform a ritual channeling energy to the audience to give them a clear mind. The ritual will ensure that after the feature film ends, life and the outside world will be better." –  Apichatpong Weerasethakul made the film The Anthem

"I’ve been working on experimental film on and off for about 15 years and have always felt a desire to make something completely narrative, so in this case making a narrative film is an experiment in itself for me. I generally compile stories from people that I find interesting – I ask them to tell me strange or strong experiences they have gone through and then I write a short story in which I interpret their account. The purpose of this is to make a series of shorts that one day will come together as a longer film" – Miguel Calderón made the film Guest of Honor

"Special Afflictions by Roy Harryhozen is inspired by the 1970s British horror film The Mutations. Four hapless sideshow features sit and gossip about their employer and ‘creator’, Roy Harryhozen, who has kidnapped them and altered them each with a ‘special effect’ – which has obviously gone wrong and resulted in each an abject temporal affliction. The notions of ‘effect’ and ‘affliction’ become confused for one person’s (Roy’s) ‘vision’ resulting in the wretched condition of his subjects" – Bonnie Camplin made the film Special Afflictions by Roy Harryhozen

"He who laughs last laughs longest [was] produced over the summer of 2006 at an event organised to find the person who can laugh continuously for the longest interval for a cash prize. The work, created to mark the 80th anniversary of the birth of television, touches upon ideas concerning audience participation and their status within broadcast media whilst focusing on the struggle to sustain one of the most primitive and deceptive forms of communication." – Phil Collins made the film He who laughs last laughs longest

"I find it fascinating to watch the face of someone who is reading, playing music or thinking, because these are often moments when people seem to forget their ‘social face’, being so concentrated on an interior activity; moments in which a mental space is reflected on the face – this surface between inside and outside."  – Manon de Boer made the film Presto – Perfect Sound

The films can be seen in cinemas across the country from January 2007.

George Clark is working on the tour at the Independent Cinema Office in partnership with LUX and Frieze Projects.