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A Survey of the Avant-Garde in Britain; Gallery House, London

…Several otherwise remarkable films, like John du Cane's Frame, William Raban's Broadwalk and Ian Breakwell's Sheet, are weakened by their inability to know precisely when the idea has run its course and should be terminated. But that is only to be expected from artists who find themselves exhilarated by the possibilities of a new medium...
Richard Cork, 'Beware, infants of the silver screen', Review of Third Survey of the Avant-Garde in Britain, Evening Standard Oct 12th, 1972.

For a brief period in the early 1970s, Gallery House on Exhibition Road in South Kensington provided one of the few gallery spaces in Britain to show artists working with film and video alongside those working in more conventional art mediums. As part of the German Cultural Institute (now the Goethe Institute), the curators of Gallery House Sigi Krauss and Rosetta Brooks were receptive to film and video as an art medium, and this was reflected in a significant exhibition of 1972, A Survey of the Avant-Garde in Britain.

The Survey was divided into three parts and showed the diversity of mediums with which artists were now experimenting; performance was strongly represented as well as the ephemeral, 'dematerialised' sculpture which was emerging at this time. The third part of the Survey was devoted to film and video and included an eclectic mix of filmmakers associated with the London Filmmakers Co-operative such as William Raban, Stephen Dwoskin and Peter Gidal, alongside performance artists such as Ken McCullen and Stuart Brisley and John Latham, and David Hall and Tony Sinden's 60 TV Sets, the earliest example of multi-screen video installation in Britain. Film's role as a medium of performance documentation was also apparent in Anthony McCalls' film of his fire performance Landscape for Fire and Bill Lundberg's Fire Construction I and II. Ian Breakwell presented a film and slide presentation and Carolee Schneeman, who lived briefly in London at this time, showed her film Plumbline.

Video as a medium of documentation for performance and events was also strongly represented, seen in works such as Ken McMullen's video of Joseph Beuys at the Tate. The work of the Artist Placement Group (Stuart Brisley, John Latham, Ian Breakwell, David Hall) was shown through a series of interviews, which included a notable showing of David Hall's TV Interruptions, which had made witty medium specific interventions into television broadcasts at the Edinburgh festival the year before. Like APG, the commitment of artists to making work outside the confines of the art world was also apparent in the video documentations of the New Zealand artist Darcy Lange, which portrayed the industrial grind of factory work in Britain.

This wide ranging programme of films and videos was accompanied by a series of lectures debating contemporary theory and practice in art, with contributors such as the critics and historians Charles Harrison, Tim Hilton and the artists Victor Burgin and John Stezaker.

Lucy Reynolds

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