Ian Bourn

Self Portraits and Other Fictions


27 June – 8 July


Image courtesy of the Artist

Lenny’s Documentary

1978, 45mins, black and white, Umatic video

Ian Bourn on Lenny: “[He is] a mixture of all the friends I hung about with and people I met on the streets of Leytonstone. But he was also a possible version of myself, expressing things I’d never been able to before. The objectivity it allowed me meant I could mix humour and seriousness in what was an incredibly bleak vision of the world.” (quoted in Felicity Sparrow’s essay for Lux Online)



Image courtesy of the Artist

Black White and Green

2003, 7mins, colour, DVCam/DigiBeta

Set amidst the etched glass, well-worn marble tables and polished tiles of a traditional East-End London eel and pie shop, Black White and Green is at once a meditation on the aesthetics of pie and mash and an excursion into memory, fantasy and places best forgotten.


Selected Writing

The Work Programme – published in The Fortnightly Review, November 2016.

“Today is bright and cloudless in the Uplands B Business Park, which overlooks the Lea Valley and its sunlit reservoirs. I lock my bicycle to some railings near the rubbish bins in the car park of Landmark House. I could have come by bus, but I’m trying to keep fit…[continues here]”


Subjective Interfaces – published by Piece Of Paper Press in September 2016 as a limited, numbered edition of 200. Each book is made from a single A4 piece of paper.

“My WS1 book is taken and tossed to one side as if it were unimportant by Ms. M, who today is temporarily standing in for K, my usual advisor. M is all the time giving me an “I’m not going to stand for any nonsense” look. “What kind of work is it you are looking for Mr. Burden-on-the-taxpayer.?” “Anything in the arts sector. Anything connected with art, video art in particular. That’s my background. That’s what I’ve always been involved with. I have a degree—” “And have you any other skills? I’m saying this because what you are suggesting is a rather narrow area with limited opportunities. We need to widen the range of your job-search. Would you be interested in cleaning work for example?” “I don’t think I could do that.” “Would you consider training to become a cleaner?” “Well, I don’t think—” “Mr. Bone-idle, you need to consider making changes to your work plan, and to your profile. It is no use waiting for a job ‘making films’ when the chances of that are highly unlikely…[continues here]”


Subjective Interfaces and The Work Programme form part of Ian Bourn’s ongoing project Placement. Developed from diary notes, the project creates a portrait of an artist working without supplementary income or savings, trying to survive on state benefits, and residing in a country which itself is supposedly living beyond its means.


Ian Bourn on his films: “Visions of my life as someone else.”


John Wood and Paul Harrison: the men inside my television – published by Carroll/Fletcher, February 2015.

“TVs today are not pieces of furniture like they used to be. They are flat rectangles and have no depth.

“The world outside my kitchen window is grey and uninteresting. The view is limited. Beyond the glass, a low bramble hedge is vibrating vigorously in a stubborn and prolonged battle with a persistent crosswind. Snug behind the hedge is a drab wood slat fence with concrete pillars, its strong horizontal line cutting off vision at a height of six feet. Peeping over this barrier, but in reality about half a mile away, are the dark grey triangular tops of a row of pitched roofs, descending in size because of the angle of the street where they stand.

“A few spiky trees poke up here and there and just fidget slightly instead of sway, their leaves having fallen off months ago. Likewise the spindly prongs of TV antennae bend only slightly in resistance to the blast apparently coming from an off-stage industrial wind machine.

“This low-lying arrangement of flat shapes, tucked one behind the other gives the scene a theatrical quality. The world feels hunkered down as a long procession of small blotchy clouds speed across from right to left, through the middle of an otherwise empty sky.

“There is a moment in The Only Other Point (2005) by John Wood and Paul Harrison when the camera, on its slow endless track, left to right, through grey simplified sets suggestive of interior or exterior landscapes, reveals what looks like a courtyard or city garden. A smallish tree with plain green leaves growing in a square black pot comes into view. This is followed by a dozen bright green balls in a loose grouping, mysteriously hanging in space at roughly the same height as the tree. As the camera moves across and the relative positioning of everything changes with perspective, a moment arrives when the group of balls becomes perfectly aligned with the tree and, as though it were their sole reason for being (which it is), the balls temporarily become the fruit of the tree. The camera moves on, the alignments untangle, we pass through a dividing wall and all is forgotten as the next new ambiguous space is revealed.

“As I look from my window, I feel a similar sense of sadness at the passage of time, of things coming together and then falling apart…[continues here].


Ian Bourn (b. 1953) was educated at Ealing School of Art and the Royal College of Art, London. As a video artist, his screenings include Hayward Gallery, Tate Modern, National Film Theatre and Raven Row (London); The Kitchen (New York); Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam); and Image Forum (Tokyo).

Bourn was co-founder of HOUSEWATCH Artists’ Collective (1985 – 1992), whose site-specific film/performance projects included Conservatory (Lux/BFI, 1997), Paperhouse/Imaginary Opera (British Council tour of Japan, 1992 and Meltdown Festival, Southbank, London 1994), Little Big Horn (Southbank Centre, London, 1992), Night Assembly (Scottish Arts Council/Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh, 1987) and Cinematic Architecture for Pedestrians (Artangel, 1986).

Recent solo and group exhibitions and screenings include INSULA (London Gallery West, 2017), The Horizontal Within/The Horizontal Without (Lubomirov/Angus Hughes, London, 2017), Microcinema (Cambridge Film Festival, 2016), Subjective Interfaces (Piece of Paper Press and Peer Gallery, London, 2016), Experimenta: LFMC 50 (BFI Southbank, London, 2016), Contact Festival of New Experimental Film & Video (Apiary Studios, London, 2016), Video Room: Ian Bourn and Mark Dean (Museum Bojimans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2014, and Interior Domestic: Early Works by Ian Bourn 1979 – 1988 (Five Years, London, 2014).