THIS IS NOW: FILM AND VIDEO AFTER PUNK is a major new touring programme rediscovering key underground films from the post-punk era in the UK (1978–85). This period saw an explosion in artist filmmaking amongst clubbers, art students, new romantics and members of the post-punk scene, who embraced cheap new domestic technologies and used them to bold and uncompromising effect.
The majority of these films have, for the most part, remained unseen until now. As part of a major restoration endeavour, the BFI National Archive has digitally remastered twenty Super 8 and 16mm films from this period, including titles by Isaac Julien, John Maybury, Sophie Muller, The Neo-Naturists, Grayson Perry, John Smith, Cordelia Swann, Jill Westwood and Cerith Wyn Evans.
Following the launch of the project at BFI Southbank in April 2014, THIS IS NOW is touring internationally throughout 2020–2021 with the artist moving agency LUX. The UK tour has been developed with the support of the BFI, awarding funds from The National Lottery.
THIS IS NOW: FILM AND VIDEO AFTER PUNK is a major new touring project that looks at artists’ film and video from the post-punk era (1978–85). The project comprises seven screening programmes and is developed in partnership with the BFI National Archive.
The early 1980s saw an explosion in alternative and independent moving image production. Clubbers, art students, new romantics and members of the post-punk scene used cheap domestic technologies to subvert the mainstream media and to find new modes of expression. Independent VHS tapes were released, stridently bypassing censorship, and Super 8 film was embraced as a cheap yet lyrical new medium. The DIY approach of punk was powerfully reborn.
Artists defied conventional ideas about how film should be made and who should make them. Female, gay and black filmmakers pushed forward; squatting flats, clubbing and developing new styles and techniques together. Derek Jarman collaborators, John Maybury and Cerith Wyn Evans experimented with Super 8, casting friends Leigh Bowery and Siouxsie Sioux in fragmented, dreamlike scenarios. Isaac Julien and Grayson Perry explored the politics of cultural and personal representation, and major pop video director Sophie Muller (Beyoncé, Rihanna, The Strokes) printed and layered images on 16mm.
THIS IS NOW celebrates the diversity of independent moving image production from the UK in the 1980s, a unique moment when cheap new technologies enabled new voices to be heard. A new aesthetic developed that would shape the look of film, television, fashion and music for many years to come. The BFI National Archive has restored twenty Super 8 and 16mm films from this period and the majority of titles are presented for the first time in over three decades. Developed over several years, these programmes revisit a key period in the cultural life of the UK and reflect on the currency that this work has with internet video and artist filmmaking today.
William Fowler, Curator of Artists’ Moving Image, BFI National Archive Distributed by LUX
New ways of thinking about identity, the self and the body were all part of punk’s powerful legacy. This unlikely cocktail of visionary experimental films and bright, brash pop videos shows how visual culture changed radically at the start of the 1980s. Genre boundaries became blurred and the use of masks and make-up challenged the conventions of identity construction and representation – often to the sound of a catchy electronic melody.
Still from John Scarlett-Davis, Chat Rap, 1983
The mainstream media was treated like a giant library to be plundered for provocative play and subversion in the early 1980s. Whether filming their TV screen with a Super 8 camera or deftly copying tape-to-tape, artists grabbed and juxtaposed disparate material to disrupt the dominant ideologies of the age and create new visual music. The programme includes notable examples of the Scratch Video phenomenon.
Still from Jeffrey Hinton, Pop Dolphin, c.1983
The moral, political and symbolic integrity of the image itself is interrogated and overturned in these richly textured films. John Maybury casts Siouxsie Sioux and fashion designer David Holah in one of the singularly most stunning and ambitious Super 8 works of the era, the existential genderfuck Court of Miracles. Young filmmakers bring on the post-modern age.
Still from John Maybury, The Court of Miracles, 1982
Grayson Perry, Anna Thew and Steven Chivers conjure strange, new, lo-fi worlds with the help of close friends and collaborators, resisting both modern, Christian patriarchy and the conventions of traditional movie-making. Folk tales and arcane beliefs are re-imagined on Super 8 and London is turned into a bleak, austere, post-apocalyptic world.
Still from Steven Chivers, Catherine de Medicis Part 2, 1984
Provocative filmmakers in the early 1980s pursued occult interests, treating the moving image like a mirror or a crystal ball; a surface of divination to remap perception and question distinctions between what is and what might be, the objective and the subjective, the body and the mind. The programme includes challenging, transgressive work originally connected to the industrial scene.
Still from Akiko Hada, The Branks, 1982
Early independent video releases were the revolutionary, DIY antidote to a television system that was only just gearing up to a fourth channel. They bypassed censorship and provided a platform to the marginalised and unsanctioned. This eclectic selection includes a very rare John Smith title and punchy, stuttering Scratch Video works by The Duvet Brothers, Kim Flitcroft & Sandra Goldbacher, Gorilla Tapes and George Barber.
Still from John Smith, Echo and the Bunnymen: Shine So Hard, 1981
Weaving together film and video, often utilising religious imagery and introducing colour effects and surface texture, filmmakers generated a new, vividly transcendental style by the end of the post-punk era. Key examples of this sensual, visually mature work are presented alongside other dynamic, hallucinogenic pieces that explore the dreamlike state.
Still from Cerith Wyn Evans, The Miracle of the Rose, 1984
Derek Jarman visits the United States and buys a copy of William Burroughs’ novel, Naked Lunch (1959). He then returns to the Slade School of Fine Art where he was studying painting (1963–67) and starts hanging out with gay artists, most notably David Hockney.
May: Super 8mm film stock is introduced by Eastman Kodak. It largely superseded the older standard 8mm format, as it had larger frames that yielded a clearer image.
Jarman attends film screenings at the Arts Lab and Better Books. The first American experimental film he sees is Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1963) at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts.
William Burroughs collaborates with filmmaker Antony Balch on the experimental film The Cut-Ups (1966), which was inspired by Brion Gysin’s approach to the cut-up technique’ and contains footage shot in Paris, London and Tangiers from 1961–65. Gysin had introduced Burroughs to the cut-up method at the Beat Hotel in Paris in September 1959.
Derek Jarman moves his studio (and in 1969 his dwelling) to a warehouse at 51 Upper Ground, near the corner of Blackfriars Road on the south bank of the River Thames, a place that was to become ‘a Mecca for London’s avant-garde’ with its parties thrown by Jarman with Peter and Andrew Logan.
A theatre student gives Derek Jarman a Super 8 camera, which he uses to film friends in his loft-style apartment at Bankside. Over the next ten years, Jarman continues to make ‘home movies’ with friends using props and whatever is at hand. He later says that these films are more important than his feature films.
Genesis P-Orridge establishes the music and performance art collective COUM Transmissions in Hull. Other prominent members included Cosey Fanni Tutti and later Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and Chris Carter.
Summer: Jarman and friends throw a massive party to bid farewell to their studio at 51 Upper Ground, which is scheduled for demolition. Tennesee Williams is reported to have turned up with no invitation. Ken Russell comes and asks Jarman to design sets for The Devils (1971).
Jarman moves to 13 Bankside (1970–72), on the top floor of a riverside warehouse alongside Southwark Bridge. To cope with the cold of his uninsulated attic room, Jarman famously set up a greenhouse as his bedroom. Bankside also became well-known for parties and hosted a constant steam of friends and visitors.
Studio Bankside, Derek Jarman, 1970–72, super 8, col and b/w
Super 8 with optical sound and loaded in 2-hour cassettes are used for in-flight movies.
Jarman borrows a 16mm projector and organises film screenings at Bankside, showing everything from Hollywood movies to Warhol, Genet, Cocteau and films from the London Filmmakers’ Co-op.
September: Sony introduces a new 3/4 inch analogue recording videocassette format called U-matic.
Andrew Logan holds his first Alternative Miss World competition at Downham Road in Hackney. David Hockney is one of the judges.
More on the history of the Alternative Miss World here.
Ways of Seeing, the highly influential four-part BBC television series by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb, is broadcast on television.
Summer: Jarman moves to a riverside studio on the third floor of Block A1 Butler’s Wharf next to Tower Bridge, where he lives and works until 1979. A thriving artist community begins to form at Butler’s Wharf and Jarman’s neighbours include Andrew and Peter Logan.
On the waste ground next door, Jarman films the ritualistic fire scenes for In the Shadow of the Sun, with a fire maze, candles and flashing mirrors. A soundtrack by Throbbing Gristle is added in 1980.
The Siren and the Sailor (aka At Low Tide), Derek Jarman, 1972, Super 8, col.
I’m Ready For My Close Up (aka Miss Gaby Gets it Together or All Our Yesterdays), Derek Jarman, 1972, Super 8, col.
In the Shadow of the Sun, Derek Jarman, 1972–74/1980, 50 min., Super 8 blown up to 16 mm in 1980, col.
Cabaret Voltaire, initially comprising Richard H. Kirk, Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson, is formed in Sheffield. Some of their early experiments were released on the Industrial Records cassette, 1974-1976.
Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti relocate from Hull to London. They move into a squat and obtain a basement studio in Hackney, which they name the ‘Death Factory’.
Genesis P-Orridge meets William S. Burroughs, who introduces him to Brion Gysin.
Derek Jarman films the 2nd Alternative Miss World, held at Downham Road, Hackney.
Derek Jarman (as Miss Crepe Suzette) wins the 3rd Alternative Miss World, held at Andrew Logan’s studio at Butler’s Wharf.
The Sex Pistols play at St Albans School of Art.
The Sex Pistols play at Chelsea School of Art.
The Sex Pistols play in Bromley linking up with the ‘Bromley Contingent’, who go on to have a substantial influence on fashion.
The Sex Pistols practice in Jarman’s studio and he films them on Super 8.
Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood give a talk at Fashion Forum – New Designers at the ICA, encouraging and exploring the crossovers between art, fashion and pop culture. The Sex Pistols are in the audience.
Derek Jarman shoots some of the first Super 8 footage of the Sex Pistols playing at the Valentine’s Ball at Andrew Logan’s studio in Butler’s Wharf. NME are there and the occasion is drug-fuelled and confrontational.
May: 2B Butler’s Wharf opens as a venue for showing performance or live work. Regular Saturday evening shows began with presentations by artists who had their studios there, but quickly extended to include work by other artists and associates. 80 shows were held there over 2 and a half years, over 30 of which involved film projection.
More on 2B Butler’s Wharf here.
Following a series of public profiling events, including the infamous gig at the freetrade hall in Manchester, McLaren organises a 1960s-style psych band night at Screen on the Green in Islington, North London. The Buzzcocks, the Clash and the Sex Pistols play, preceeded by a screening Kenneth Anger’s Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965) and Scorpio Rising (1964). John Maybury is there and has an ‘epiphany’.
COUM Transmissions’ now infamous Prostitution exhibition is held at the ICA. The exhibition represents the end of COUM’s art-related activities. Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanny Tutti, together with Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and Chris Carter, relaunch themselves as the industrial band Throbbing Gristle at the opening. The exhibition, which included performances as well as photographic documentation, pornographic images, tampon sculptures and other ‘props’ from previous actions, is met with hostile reaction from the public and national press. Tory MP Nicholas Fairbairn wrote in the 19 October issue of the Daily Mail: ‘Public money is being wasted here to destroy the morality of society. These people are the wreckers of civilisation.’
Summer: John Maybury designs and constructs ‘punk’ sets for Derek Jarman’s Jubilee (1978).
Cabaret Voltaire sign to Rough Trade Records, who later release acclaimed albums such as The Voice of America (1980) and Red Mecca (1981).
Steve Strange and Rusty Egan, founding members of the new wave synthpop band Visage, begin organising ‘Bowie nights’ on Tuesdays at Billy’s nightclub on Dean Street in Soho. They begin to make a name for themselves as a nightclub host and DJ respectively.
Commissioned by Island Records, Jarman produces a 12-minute promotional music video for three songs from Marianne Faithfull’s album Broken English: ‘Witch’s Song’, ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan’ and ‘Broken English’.
Strange and Egan relocate their club night from Billy’s to Blitz on Great Queen Street in Covent Garden, which becomes widely acknowledged as home to the New Romantic movement. The club runs every Tuesday and attracts unusual, flamboyant and sharply dressed young people of various sexual persuasions, glamourising against the greyness of 1970s Britain. Helen Robinson’s Covent Garden shop PX inspires many of their looks. Steve Strange works as the doorman and is responsible for its exclusive door policy, frequently turning away patrons who aren’t dressed creatively enough and famously denying entry to Mick Jagger in a highly publicised incident. Boy George works as a cloakroom attendant. Synthpop bands Visage, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran become closely associated with the New Romantic movement.
The milliner and fashion designer Stephen Jones leaves Saint Martin’s and becomes a regular attendee of London’s Blitz nightclub. As one of the ‘Blitz Kids’, he hangs out with Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Jean Paul Gaulthier and shares a house with Boy George and Grayson Perry, competing with them to wear the most outrageous outfits to Blitz.
The Conservative Party win the general election and Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female Prime Minister of UK.
From Face to Face, Anna Thew, 18 min
Broken English: Three Songs by Marianne Faithfull, Derek Jarman, 1979, 12 min, Super 8 and 16 mm blown up to 35 mm, col. and b/w, includes ‘Witches Song’, ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan’ and ‘Broken English’ The Tempest, Derek Jarman, 1979, 35 mm, col.
David Bowie visits Blitz and asks Strange and three other Blitz Kids to appear in the video for his number 1 hit, ‘Ashes to Ashes’.
The Bow near Kings Cross where Jarman, Pet Shop Boys and Michael Clark went. The scene is centred around style and exclusivity.
Jarman and Genesis P-Orridge start collaborating on a series of short films and music videos, including In the Shadow of the Sun (1980), TG Psychic Rally in Heaven (1981), Pirate Tape (1982), Diese Machine ist Mein Antihumanistiches Kunstwerk (1982) and Imagining October (1984).
March: Spandau Ballet play at the Scala cinema, following two Buñuel films and an announcement/performance from Robert Elms.
May: Nick Logan starts monthly music, fashion and culture magazine, The Face (1980–2004).
July: Cerith Wyn Evans has his first one-man show at the London Filmmakers’ Co-op.
Robert Elms documents pop and fashion scene in The Face.
Terry Jones launches i-D magazine (1980 – present).
Oxford University students Carey Labovitch and Simon Tesler found Blitz magazine (1980–91).
Daily Telegraph describes discos as ‘dehumanising threat to civilisation’.
Compilation of William Burroughs records 1959–78 Nothing Here But the Recordings released by Industrial Records.
New Sounds New Styles magazine starts.
March: John Maybury has his first one-man show at the London Filmmakers’ Co-op.
The Brixton riots involve over 5,000 people and £7.5 million in damage as ongoing tensions erupt over rumours of police brutality against a black man in Lambeth, South London – an area afflicted by high unemployment, economic deprivation, racial tensions and poor relations with police.
Throbbing Gristle play their final performance at the Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco. Genesis P-Orridge and Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson go on to form Psychic TV, while Cosey Fanni Tutti and Carter continue to record together under the names Chris and Cosey, Carter Tutti and the Creative Technology Institute.
Super 8 films by Cerith Wyn Evans and John Maybury are featured in a two-person show, New Romantic Cinema or A Certain Sensibility, held at the ICA.
December: Andrew Czezowksi and Susan Carrington open new nightclub, The Fridge, on Brixton Road. Became a regular venue for showing video in a nightclub, often referred to as the birthplace of Scratch Video.
December 1981 – January 1982: John Maybury has an exhibition film and drawing at B2 Gallery, Wapping.
Cabaret Voltaire establish the label Doublevision to release videos by themselves and other industrial/experimental artists. In 1983, they start to release records as well.
Dimitri Hegemann founds Berlin Atonal, an electronic music festival that fostered experimental acts such as Psychic TV and Test Dept.
Whitehouse play first gig (Live Action 1) at Whisky Agogo, filmed on super 8 by Paul Hurst who films two subsequent gigs. Un Chien Andalou and excerpts from Texas Chainsaw Massacre are screened before.
Neo-Naturist May Day performance at Spanish Anarchist Centre Iberico on Harrow Road, former school now squatted. Venue is a favourite for the Anarcho-Punk scene. Political but also gothic with its proximity to Kensal Green Cemetary.
26–30 May: John Maybury’s Court of Miracles (Moments Before Desire) (1982) is screened at the ICA.
14–19 June: The Neo-Naturists live in the B2 Gallery for 5 days and transform it into a 24-hour live-in installation featuring Christine Binnie, Jennifer Binnie, Wilma Johnson, Grayson Perry and others.
Whitehouse play Centre Iberico with Neo-Naturist cabaret as support.
2–5 August: New Super 8 Film in London is held at B2 Gallery. It includes an installation and four days of events and live performance, by John Maybury (with Hermine and Charlie Pig), Michael Kostiff, Derek Jarman and Cerith Wyn Evans.
The original Betacam video format is launched by Sony.
The Final Academy Event at Ritzy Cinema, Brixton celebrating William Burroughs. Cabaret Voltaire, Z’EV and Psychic TV performing for the first time. It is organised by David Dawson, Roger Ely and Genesis P-Orridge. The Dream Machine is made after the event. It is a 16mm portmanteau film made by Derek Jarman, Michael Kostiff, Cerith Wyn Evans and John Maybury, all sequences shot on super 8 and blown up. Maybury’s transgressive sequence includes brief extracts from Driller Killer by Abel Ferrari and Everything Counts by Depeche Mode.
The Final Academy event is repeated on a smaller scale at the Hacienda in Manchester. Events and happenings also take place at B2, London (centre of operations) and in Liverpool.
Opening broadcast of the new Channel 4, which focuses on youth and alternative audience.
Twentieth Century Box: Fashion tx 29/8/82 – Look at the development of New Romantic fashion designers
Derek Jarman presents regular Sunday evening Super 8 and 16mm film screenings at B2 Gallery.
Landslide victory for the Conservative Party in the UK general election, Margaret Thatcher wins second term.
11–12 June: The Salon of 1983 (B2 Gallery) is held at the ICA and includes work by Judith Goddard, Derek Jarman, John Maybury, Cordelia Swann and Cerith Wyn Evans.
15–19 June: The Cultural Impotence of Stupid Boys No.2, a programme of new work in Super-8 and stereo by John Maybury, is screened at the ICA.
The Equinox Event is held at the London Musicians’ Co-op in Camden Town, the first extreme noise festival, features Jill Westwood and early version of Current 93.
‘A Manifestation of the Will’ at Magneta Club, first Coil performance.
‘How to Destroy Angels’ at Air Gallery, second Coil performance, Jill Westwood also performs. It is videotaped by Cerith Wyn Evans and organised by Diana Rogerson.
Third Coil performance at Recession Studios.
Berlin, Atonal Festival II. Fourth and last Coil performance until 1999.
A new network of night buses arranged in response to much late night clubbing.
Diana Rogerson on cover of The Face in fetish wear.
Gorilla Tapes, the British Scratch Video collective, is founded by Jon Dovey, Gavin Hodge, Jean McClements and Tim Morrison.
September: Derek Jarman spends an evening in Benjy’s, a gay nightclub in East London, as an experiment in filming dancing for Ron Peck’s feature film Empire State (1987). The footage is shot on a portable Olympus VHS camera, which was then considered cutting-edge technology. The film was never intended to be shown, but was released by Peck in 2014 under the title Will You Dance With Me?
Bruce Lacey wins Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World with his robot R.O.S.A.B.O.S.O.M. The event was held at Brixton Academy and was co-presented by Janet Street Porter and Simon Callow.
9–11 September: The Handsworth Riots take place near Birmingham and are the first in a wave of similar uprisings across the country in the autumn of 1985. Racial tension and unemployment are major factors. Filmed footage of the civil unrest form the basis of the Black Audio Film Collective’s 1986 film essay, Handsworth Songs.
Jarman is diagnosed as HIV positive. His illness prompts his move to Prospect Cottage, Dungeness, where he lived until his death in 1994.