London’s late 1970s Super8 moment relates to its New York counterpart chiefly in the ephemerality underlying each city’s alternative moving-image scene. Originally screened in nightclubs and artist squats, projected in multimedia performances, or created in art schools by those who went on to thrive in fashion and music, the films celebrated in This Is Now risked fading from view until the British Film Institute’s remarkable archiving initiative. This opening program is anchored by The Court of Miracles, a lyrical featurette figuring among the era’s most ambitious works. In it, John Maybury crafts tableaux of scene luminaires Siouxsie Sioux, David Holah, Judy Blame, and others in an exquisite, metaphysical treatise on gender-bending and body modification. Found footage, layered images, and textual interventions heighten Maybury’s exploration of identity through the symbolism of images. Alternately, Isaac Julien and Vanda Carter tap into the medium’s political potential to probe the mediated construction of narrative. Julien’s Territories notably combined Super8, video, and audio elements in a hybrid documentary on the Notting Hill Carnival that affirms the experience of multicultural, diasporic British identity as both celebration and protest. Introducing another major genre from the period, Maybury and Cerith Wyn Evans’s music video for Genesis P-Orridge’s art band Psychic TV is a hypnotic collage featuring Leigh Bowery; far edgier than anything on MTV, “Unclean” was distributed by tape through the band’s own Temple Records.
Program 81 min.
The Court of Miracles. 1982. Great Britain. Directed by John Maybury. With Siouxsie Sioux, David Holah, Hermine Demoriane, Princess Julia, Judy Blame. Digital video from Super8mm. 44 min.
Glory Boys? 1983. Great Britain. Directed by Vanda Carter. Digital video from Super8mm. 4 min.
Territories. 1984. Great Britain. Directed by Isaac Julien. Digital video from Super8mm, 16mm, and video. 24 min.
Psychic TV: “Unclean”. 1984. Great Britain. Directed by Cerith Wyn Evans, John Maybury. Digital video from Super8mm, 16mm, and video. 9 min.