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Film as Film
Video Art
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Formal film 'does not imitate or represent reality, nor create spurious illusions of times, places and lives which engage the spectator in a vicarious substitute for his own reality. To this end, film-makers have paid increasing attention to the actuality of their materials and processes.'

(Malcolm Le Grice from Abstract Film and Beyond, Studio Vista, 1977 p152)

The four films represented here explore and challenge preconceptions of what a film image can look like. Made in the 1970s, these films offer, not representational images of the world, but images of the film-making process itself. Rather than conventional cinematic images of reality, we see the patterns and marks which make up the surface of the film strip (Annabel Nicolson), the image as a projected surface of light (William Raban) or the visualisation of the sound strip (Lis Rhodes and Guy Sherwin).

These artists come from a long tradition of imageless filmmaking, or 'formal' Film. Musical composition and rhythm, rather than conventional literary narrative, can shape the structure and duration of abstract film. Very often abstract images are created without a conventional use of the camera, marks are often painted or scratched directly on the film emulsion, or sometimes created using stop frame animation or light play. For some artists abstraction was a means of rejecting the accepted images of reality presented by mainstream film culture, creating a new film language. For others abstraction was connected to the debates and movements that they had encountered in modernist art. The abstract canvasses of cubism or abstract expressionism, for example, have found equivalents in the moving image, from the 'formal' films of Hans Richter in 1920s Germany to the flickering colour fields of Stan Brakhage in 50s America.

Polish pioneers Stefan and Franciszka Themerson were among the first avant-garde artists to explore the abstract qualities of the photogram in films such as Apteka and The Eye and the Ear.



Attention to the transient, fragile or precarious is usually somewhere at the source.

Dresden Dynamo

The image is the sound and the sound is the image.

Dot Cycle

A handmade film of a circular form fluctuating in rhythms of light and sound.


A double-exposed flickering rectangle of light, sliding diagonally in-and-out of frame.

The Eye and the Ear

'Rhythm is not the only sort of structural pattern common both to visual and to musical phenomena'.

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