Filmaktion Events at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
The Walker Art Gallery’s lecture room is a cinema at present, but the programme now showing bears little resemblance to anything happening at Odeon or ABC. This is film for film’s sake; film without the smooth illusion, with its technology laid bare, its techniques used as an end in themselves.
‘Like You’ve Never Seen Before’, Liverpool Daily Post. 22nd June 1973.
Between 22nd and 27th June 1973 the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool was the site of a week of unique events and screenings which reflected the film work emerging from the London Filmmaker’s Co-operative at that time. The events at Filmaktion could also be seen as a distinct British form of ‘expanded cinema', their multi-disciplinary events combined multiple film projections with performative or sculptural elements and an emphasis on audience interaction, often in environments outside the conventional cinema auditorium.
The offer from the Walker Art Gallery to host the events of Filmaktion was prompted by a letter sent the previous year by William Raban, then workshop leader at the Co-operative, soliciting interest from galleries and film theatres around the country for screenings of the work issuing from the Co-op. The title ‘Filmaktion’ was first coined for the Liverpool events and was then used at later dates as a collective term for the expanded film events involving some of the members of the Co-op who had a strong presence in Liverpool, in particular William Raban, Annabel Nicolson, David Crosswaite, Malcolm le Grice and Gill Eatherley.
Amongst the events and festivals of 1973 the Filmaktion show at the Walker Art Gallery provides a snapshot of expanded cinema in Britain at this time. It brought together many of the key artists then experimenting with the expanded possibilities of the medium and shows the great diversity of their explorations. Events included new multi-screen works by Malcolm Le Grice and David Crosswaite, daily installations by Gill Eatherley, Annabel Nicolson and others, evening screenings of single screen work from other members of the Co-op such as John du Cane and Peter Gidal and even children’s workshops. Working in close proximity over a seven day period in the gallery spaces at the Walker provided an intense working experience for the participants, encouraging a cross-fertilisation of ideas and working practices. The conditions at the Walker, with gallery spaces flexible to a range of different requirements and a mobile rather than a seated audience, produced a structure within which artists could experiment, often improvising in response to the space. Raban has since referred to Filmaktion in Liverpool as ‘the closest thing I experienced to a creative laboratory.’