Experimental Motion: The Art of Film Innovation, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

22 October 2016 – 4 June 2017
Experimental Motion: The Art of Film Innovation at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery Royal Pavilion Gardens, Brighton BN1 1EE

A new display at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery will tell the story of experimental film-making in Brighton & Hove, from 1896 to the present day.

Unknown to many, both Brighton and Hove have played a rich and important part in international film history. Early film-making pioneers including George Albert Smith and James Williamson, who became known as the Brighton School and worked here at the turn of the 20th century, while Modern and contemporary filmmakers and moving image artists – like Jeff Keen, Ben Wheatley and Ben Rivers – have cemented the city’s status as a hotbed of experimental film.

Experimental Motion: the art of film innovation will explore Brighton & Hove’s success as a place for experimental film-making, and its significance nationally and internationally.

Suzie Plumb, Royal Pavilion & Museums (RPM)’s Curator of Film, Media and Toys, said: “Over the past 120 years this city has seen highly influential work produced by its filmmakers. These experimental films have moved the language of cinema and art forward internationally, yet the story is little known.

“Through looking at filmmaking techniques, such as editing, visual trickery and illusion, Experimental Motion will highlight the impact of these films on the development of the moving image. We’ll exhibit objects from as long ago as 1896 from the city’s extensive Film & Media collections, alongside films by the Brighton School, work by Modern and contemporary filmmakers and objects and work by moving image artists.”

Highlights of Experimental Motion will include:

– Rare objects from the history of film-making in Brighton & Hove, such as ground-breaking cameras made in the city. These include an 1896 experimental cine camera, the world’s first amateur film camera from 1899, and a 1900 special effects cine camera for reverse motion and close-ups – all made by Alfred Darling & Sons of Brighton. A camera for the world’s first commercially viable colour cine film process, developed by George Albert Smith of Hove and made by Moy & Bastie in 1910, will also be displayed, alongside diverse ephemera relating to the Brighton School and objects from the history of cinema.

– Film by key avant-garde director Jeff Keen (1923-2012), who was based in Brighton and began to make an impact with Dada-influenced work in the 1950s. His references included his experiences serving in World War II, popular culture and characters inspired by his family and friends, and he was an early proponent of montage, long shots and the use of multiple screens. His film is also characterised by his innovative techniques of scratching, painting and superimposing differing sets of images, and his use of visual props.

– A digital exploration of work by feature filmmakers such as Brighton resident Ben Wheatley (Sightseers, High-Rise, Down Terrace, A Field in England), who experiment with editing technique, equipment and simultaneous multi-platform release (cinema, home media, video on demand, TV).

– Work by Ben Rivers, a leading contemporary artist-filmmaker who co-founded the Brighton Cinematheque in 1996 – examples of whose work have recently been acquired by the city with assistance from the Contemporary Art Society. Rivers interweaves documentary and fiction and works in 16mm film, the materiality which is central to his work and informs the filmic choices he makes. 

– Work made in Brighton by amateur filmmakers and held within the collections of Screen Archive South East, which highlight the city as an inspiration for filmmaking.

– Film by artists David Blandy & Larry Achiampong who work with the image in the digital world, including anime and the narrative sections of computer games.

– Work by Brighton-based Ian Helliwell, a multi-media audio-visual artist who experiments with sound and moving image. 

– Immersive, interactive media-based projects by Brighton artist group Blast Theory. 

– Work by Semiconductor, Brighton-based contemporary art duo Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, who are interested in how we experience the material world through the lens of science and technology.

– Contemporary work by Tula Parker & Anna Weatherston.

– Hong Kong-based new media artist Choi Sai-Ho will take up temporary residence at the museum to develop a new piece of moving image work, working with the city’s Film & Media collections and those of Screen Archive South East. Sai-Ho experiments with sound and visual imagery to present his ideas, and he will draw inspiration from Brighton & Hove’s filmmakers as well as the city itself.

– There will be a call for filmmakers to submit their own short films, to be shown at a series of screening events and presented online during the exhibition

– 'RPM’s Museum Collective', a group of young people working with filmmaker Lindsey Smith, are developing new creative contributions inspired by Jeff Keen’s work that respond to the theme of experimental filmmaking.

Suzie Plumb said: “Two important aims are to open up our film and media collections to new audiences, and to show their significance in the history of moving image. We’ll therefore be part of CineCity film festival in November, with some extra screenings, talks and events throughout the festival around the theme of experimental filmmaking in the city.”