Skip to main content
Lux OnlineHomeThemesArtistsWorkEducationEducationToursHelpSearch
Artists Artist's home pageArtists essay index page
Simon PayneClick here to Print this Page
Malcolm Le Grice
If the general and overwhelming experience of cinema is one that represents coherent narrative space, then Le Grice's work tends to disavow the capacity for the transparency upon which cinema depends.

His exploration of printing and projection is 'anti-illusory' and illuminates many of the elements of cinema that usually remain hidden. For Peter Wollen, in 1975, Le Grice was at one pole of the 'two avant-gardes', that which took its lead not from the language of cinema but the legacy of the avant-garde and modernism in the (other) visual arts. After Manet (1975) is a good example in this respect. The piece reconstructs the generic scene of the Déjeuner sur l'herbe but fractures the location into four screens of separate but simultaneous time-frames, each filmed by the four active protagonists.

Le Grice has often referred to the 'structural' strategies of filmmakers such as Kurt Kren, George Landow, Paul Sharits and Michael Snow. In the long takes of Warhol's films Le Grice also saw 'concrete duration' as a device that would seriously test audience passivity. The multi-projector piece After Leonardo (1973), which presents numerously reproduced and refilmed images of the Mona Lisa, clearly follows Warhol too. If After Leonardo questions the status of the image through proliferation, White Field Duration (1973) operates through extreme reduction. There are some faintly recognisable textures towards the end of the piece, but otherwise the only 'pictures' are images of scratches and the light reflected from a blank screen that's been refilmed.

In its 'anti-art' tropes of appropriation, cut-up and confrontation, Castle 1 is Le Grice's most combative film. The soundtrack is a repetitive assortment of extracts from sources such as news reports, advertising slogans and organ music. The television and documentary film footage of industrial, political and military activities is similarly repetitive. While a shot of a light bulb also recurs, a real light bulb that hangs in front of the screen flashes on and off throughout the film, sporadically obliterating the projected image and illuminating the audience.

Le Grice approaches similar targets in the video Beware (1988), albeit in a more cautious and elliptical manner. A close-up shot of a fish on a kitchen table is intercut with footage from the windscreen of a car driving through pouring rain. In a bold typeface the words ROAD, RAIN and FISH intermittently flash up on the screen, followed later by- BEWARE ... MEDIA ... DISTRACTION ... DEMOCRATIC ... FASCISM.

Le Grice's video work is generally motivated by an attitude that is quite different to that which one would associate with Castle 1 or indeed Spot The Microdot or How To Screw The CIA (1969). He is no longer interested in combative deconstruction or the effects of distanciation, and he has instead spoken about searching for popular appeal. But it isn't the populism of mainstream cinema or prime time television that Le Grice aspires to. His most recent work suggests a search for that role which a more personal, poetic and associative practice might play.

Still from After Manet by Malcolm Le Grice, 1972
Go to top of                             page