British Journal of Photography is screening a day of films today (Friday 20 May) at the Photo London art fair at Somerset House.
One of highlights of the programme is a free screening of James Crump’s acclaimed documentary, Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art (2015), just released in the UK. The 72-minute film tells the story of how, in the late 1960s, a cadre of emerging New York artists sought to transcend the limitations of art. They were looking for a larger canvas to work on.
Troublemakers mines previously unseen photographs to resurrect the lives of artists who made earthworks, rather than artworks, and whose creations still exist – on a monumental scale – in the desolate deserts of the American southwest.
“In doing so, they thought they were going to end galleries,” says director James Crump, whose film explores how, in making works that can never be possessed as an object in a gallery, such artists stood in direct contrast to the emerging, hyper-speculative contemporary art world of the day, and, evermore so, the present day.
Gittoes established the Yellow House, a cultural centre to promote art, photography and filmmaking, documenting his struggle to engage with children who had never operated a camera, but were very familiar with weaponry. And so, Gittoes street kids begin to photograph the things they saw in their daily lives, including the immediate aftermath of a local bombing, with bloodied bodies stumbling past the boy’s shaking camera. Be warned, it’s not the kind of film to be consumed with an ice cream.
Snow Monkey will screen from 1.30pm, while Troublemakers will begin at 4pm.
Our programme of short films begins with a presentation of this year’s Ones To Watch, our annual talent search for the best emerging photographers. Nominated by curators, publishers, editors, festival directors and fellow photographers, the work of 16 artists – drawn from around the world, from Beijing to Mexico City – will be shown to an original soundtrack byJacob Brookman.
It follows with Juno Calypso’s short film adaptation of Joyce (2015), the fictional alter ego she inhabits for much of her work, through which she explores “modern rituals of seduction and the laboured construction of femininity”. Calypso showed the film alongside her stills photographs from the ongoing project at TJ Boulting this spring, having been named the winner of BJP’s International Photography Award.
As Chinese Visual Festival draws to a close in London, we present a rare opportunity to see an early work from one of the country’s leading new-wave filmmakers, Zhao Liang, director of acclaimed documentaries such as Crime and Punishment (2006), Petition (2009), and his most recent, Behemoth (2015), largely unseen in his home country.
In City Scene (2004-05), the photographer-turned-filmmaker and installation artist serves up a series of roughly-shot vignettes, reflecting on the social reality of urban China in the run up to the Beijing Olympics. Capturing small, seemingly insignificant moments in the lives of ordinary people, set against the backdrop of huge economic turmoil, his shorts are poetic and sometimes brutal or surreal. But the films are nonetheless simple and direct observation; his camera an alien interloper, witness to unfathomable change.
Diàna Markosian‘s series, 1915, a very personal exploration of the Armenian massacre a century ago, established the 27-year-old as one of the the leading documentary photographers of her generation. As way of exploring her own cultural heritage, Markosian met and connected with men and women – now over 100-years-old – whom survived the genocide, in a bid to understand her relationship with Armenia. She worked with her subjects to identify the exact coordinates of the home they’d left behind, then traveled there, taking a picture of what remained, and then bought it home to them.
And, in doing so, she began to use moving images for the first time. Her short five-minute film, The Endless Exile, is part of a much larger project, still in development. She’s allowed BJP to screen it at Photo London for the first time.
Inspired by the 1954 magical realist novel, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts by Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola, This is What Hatred Did is a conceptual exploration of a floating slum in Lagos. Spanish artist Cristina De Middel orientated her project around the young boy in the novel, who escapes to the bush when his village is attacked by militia. “The only way he can survive is by entering the bush, this magical territory where no humans are allowed and where all the Yoruba spirits live and fight. He spent 30 years there, trying to find his way back home. He was married twice, became a king, a slave, a cow, a jar, a horse, a goat, ate gold, silver and bronze, snakes and snails. He fought two wars and was sentenced to death half a dozen times.”
The metaphorical significance of this fantastical story played on De Middel’s mind. In her time in Lagos, she’d become familiar with Makoko, one of the city’s toughest neighbourhoods, which has grown out from the bush land described in the novel. “Makoko is a floating slum commanded by kings and with its own rules,” de Middel says. “A place where no logic seems to prevail, that is forbidden for those who do not belong. I decided Makoko would make for a great metaphor for the bush.”
Our shorts presentations will conclude with the premier of Gareth McConnell’s first film, a music video for It’s A Fine Line. Taken from their self-titled debut album, The Delivery is the first single, featuring Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, and for the accompanying video, the London-based photographer employs his signature multi-layered imagery, as seen in Close Your Eyes, which New York Times named one of the best photobooks of 2014.
McConnell was commissioned by cult record label Kill the DJ to create and design all products related to the forthcoming album release by It’s a Fine Line, including this film. The Northern Irish-born photographer has published numerous books, set up his own publishing venture, Sorika, and contributes to magazines including Dazed & Confused, i-D, Vogue Homme International and POP.
Our selected shorts (Ones To Watch, Joyce, City Scene, The Endless Exile, This Is What Hatred Did and The Delivery) will run together in a one-hour programme, shown twice, as noon and at 6pm. Our features, Snow Monkey and Troublemakers, will run in between, at 1.30pm and 4.30pm respectively. All films will be shown at the screening room on the lower floor of Somerset House (Embankment entrance) as part of the official Photo London programme. Entrance is free.
12-1pm Shorts programme
1.30-4pm Snow Monkey
4.30-5.45pm Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art
6-7pm Shorts programme