Past Screenings

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).



They Are Here

We Help Each Other Grow


23 May – 26 June



We Help Each Other Grow

2017, 4mins

Video shot on thermal imaging camera.
Music: We’ve Helped Each Other Grow composed and performed by Mx World.
Performed by and co-choreographed with Thiru Seelan.

Commissioned by and screened in collaboration with Furtherfield.

“I had to go because I needed to save my life. I wasn’t myself. Just bone and flesh. I didn’t have a soul or anything.” Thiru Seelan, Global Citizen Interview, 20.02.17.

Thiru, a Tamil refugee dances on an East London roof looking towards the skyline of Canary Wharf. His movement is inspired by the dance form Bharatanatyam, traditionally only performed by women and taught to Thiru in secret by his younger sister.

When Thiru came to the UK in 2010, following a six month detention in which he was tortured for his political affiliations by police authorities, Canary Wharf was his first home.

His movement is recorded by a heat sensitive camera more conventionally used as surveillance technology and deployed to monitor borders and crossing points, where bodies may be recorded and captured through their thermal signature.

The song We’ve Helped Each Other Grow composed and performed by London based Mx World was chosen with Thiru. Mx is a prefix that does not indicate gender. In the UK, it can be used on many ‘official’ documents – including passports. The repeated refrain, ‘We’ve helped each other grow’ suggests a communal vision for self and social development.

We Help Each Other Grow was part of They Are Here’s exhibition Please Identify Yourself at Furtherfield 18 March – 2 April, 2017.


They Are Here (f.2006) is a collaborative practice steered by Helen Walker and Harun Morrison. They are currently based in London and on the River Lea. Their work can be read as a series of context specific games. The entry, invitation or participation can be as significant as the game’s conditions and structure. Through these games, they seek to create ephemeral systems and temporary, micro-communities that offer an alternate means of engaging with a situation, history or ideology. In parallel, they initiate multi-year socially engaged projects that become generative spaces for further works. They Are Here work across media and types of site, particularly civic spaces. Institutions they have developed or presented work include: CCA Glasgow, Furtherfield, Grand Union, Konsthall C (Stockholm), Southbank Centre, South London Gallery, Studio Voltaire STUK (Leuven, Belgium) and Tate Modern.


William Raban

Making Films Politically?


“The problem is not to make political films, but to make films politically.” Jean-Luc Godard.

On 18 May Close-Up and Carroll/Fletcher present the second part of Making Films Politically?, a short season of William Raban’s films. The programme features Civil Disobedience and Thames Film – two films exploring transient aspects of our natural and built environments to expose layers of historical, political and mythological meaning. The screening will be followed by a q&a with the director. Tickets are available here. Ahead of Part Two Carroll/Fletcher Onscreen presents two films included in Part One – London Republic and Available Light – and a short episodic reflection on Thames Film.

London Republic

In April 2016, two months before the UK referendum on membership of the EU, Raban uploaded London Republic to Vimeo.  Originally conceived as a political provocation that invited the audience to guess the outcome of the vote to decide London’s fate within Europe, London Republic has proved to be startlingly prescient of the UK’s vote to leave the EU and, perhaps, of the ultimate consequences…



Available Light

Partly as a reaction to the political climate in 2016 and partly as an exercise in film-making within strict formal constraints, in Available Light Raban filmed himself using ‘natural’ light to read Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. Shot over six days, Raban used time-lapse to compress the film to nine minutes. The images are offset by David Cunningham’s score, which is composed solely from the two words of the book’s title.

“When I set out to shoot Available Light I thought the film should be 8 minutes long. I therefore timed myself reading 2 pages of the book and calculated that by filming at the time-lapse rate of 1 frame every 2 seconds, the 858 pages would last 8 minutes. I shot the film over 6 days though some days when I was going to work I only filmed for 2 hours. The ‘rule’ was simple. I set up the book under a window and only filmed in available daylight. I started reading at 07.00 when there was just sufficient light to see but not sufficient to fully expose the image on camera and continued filming until it got too dark at evening twilight to read anymore. It was February and freezing cold in my studio so I had to take regular breaks to make myself a cup of tea, have a cigarette or take a quick lunch break. At those points where I took a short break, I put a bookmark between the pages, closed the book and stopped the camera. So you can see that in the case of that film human agency impinges significantly on the pre-planned systematic structure. Also, the film ended up being 9 minutes long because I hadn’t reckoned on some passages being difficult to understand therefore taking longer to read so that is another example of human disruption to the pre-planned system.” William Raban in an interview with Federico Windhausen (courtesy of LUX, full interview here).



“Another example, more minimal in its form but which recuperates time-lapse, is Available Light (2016).  The proposal is simple: while natural light is available, presumably the director himself – with only his hands seen – reads from beginning to end Das Capital by Karl Marx.  To this seemingly simple premise is added a fundamental soundtrack.  By means of little defined noises, David Cunningham’s music turns into a sound speech and represents what could be the awareness of whoever reads this masterpiece on political economy.  At first the sounds advance autonomously against the movement of the hands that turn the pages.  Little by little, music and movements are mimicked, until a near complete connection is almost complete. In time, one intuits that the word is ‘capital’ that is ringing, only in fragments but each time becoming clearer, although it never quite does so completely.  In short, in its entirety, it functions as a birth – a word game with the title – a political claim, a grain of sand that sets out to change the world.” William Raban Retrospectiva: Politica y Sociedad a ritmo de Time-lapse, Iago Paris, 6 June 2016.




Thames Film

“When I make a new work, the thing I find myself striving for is to make an object of both truth and beauty. But of course truth is beauty so maybe the sole object should be to make an object of truth?”

William Raban.

Thames Film col

“Making films is about showing people things, not telling them how to interpret the world.”

William Raban.

“This is a vision of the dark Thames, of ‘Old Father Thames’ as an awful god of power akin to William Blake’s Nobodaddy; and, in Blake’s poem, Jerusalem, ‘Thames is drunk with blood’. In this film there is something fearful about the river, something monstrous, recalling Conrad’s line in Heart of Darkness that ‘…this also has been one of the dark places of the earth.’ Walking along the banks of the Thames, downriver, approaching the estuary, it is possible to feel great fear. One of the possible derivations of the word Thames itself is tamasa meaning ‘dark river’; the word is pre-Celtic in origin, so we have the vision of an ancient, almost primeval, time. And yet there is beauty and sublimity in terror. Raban has learned something from the great artists of the river, such as Turner and Whistler, and portrayed the Thames as clothed in wonder.” Peter Ackroyd on Thames Film.

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“The way my films look seems to be determined more by the necessities and conditions of their construction rather than by going out of my way to make beautiful images.”

William Raban.

By filming from the low freeboard of a small boat, Raban attempts to capture the point of view of the river itself, tracing the 50 mile journey from the heart of London to the open sea. Interspersed with images from Breugel The Elder’s painting the Triumph of Death, this contemporary view is set in an historical context through use of archive film and the words of the travel writer Thomas Pennant, who followed exactly the same route in 1787.

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“[In Thames Film] Modernity is put on trial: Pennant’s links between British imperialism, technological advances and the Thames are juxtaposed with derelict British imperialism, technological advances and pompous voiceovers from post-war newsreels anticipating the collapse not just of the Empire but also the ideals which supported it.” Gareth Buckell, review on William Raban DVD release (BFI 2005).

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“These examples of using camera movements to link particular ideas, are part of the larger project to determine the extent to which it is possible to construct political meaning by image and sound alone without dependence upon commentary or text. This has been the methodology that I had developed in Sundial (1992), A13 (1994), Island Race (1996) and MM (2002).”

William Raban.

“I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river

Is a strong brown god – sullen, untamed and intractable.

Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;

Useful, untrustworthy as a conveyor of commerce;

Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.

The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten

By the dwellers in cities – ever, however, implacable,

Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder

Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated

By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting”

From The Dry Salvages, T.S. Eliot

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Breugel, The Triumph of Death, c.1562. ‘In this setting, legions of skeletons advance on the living, who either flee in terror or try in vain to fight back. In the foreground, skeletons haul a wagon full of skulls; in the upper left corner, others ring the bell that signifies the death knell of the world. A fool plays the lute while a lady sings; behind both of them a skeleton plays along; a starving dog nibbles at the face of a child; a cross sits in the centre of the painting. People are herded into a coffin shaped trap decorated with crosses, while a skeleton on horseback kills people with a scythe. The painting depicts people of different social backgrounds – from peasants and soldiers to nobles as well as a king and a cardinal – being taken by death indiscriminately.’

“It seems to be easier for us to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and nature than the breakdown of late capitalism; perhaps that is due to some weakness in our imagination.” Fredric Jameson, Seeds of Time, 1994.

ThamesFilmcopy3 copy

Two reflections on Thames Film: Peter Ackroyd and Michael Chanan. Much of Raban’s interview with Jonathan P Watts discusses Thames Film.


William Raban on film-making

“Whilst I think my work has changed substantially over the past 45 years, the films I am now making are still informed by a structural film approach. It is especially evident in About Now MMX (2010), which uses grid-like camera movements to create a cinematic map of the city of London. Perhaps it is less obvious with films like the Houseless Shadow (2011) and Time and the Wave (2013), but nevertheless I see the methodology of using straight cuts and no special effects as linked back to minimalist principles. When making a film now I am always asking ‘what is the simplest and most direct way to achieve the desired affect?’”



“Four principles of political filmmaking:

(1) reflexivity: active audience participation rather than passive spectatorship;

(2) reflexivity: revealing the modes of production rather than concealing them;

(3) reflexivity: as understood in the social sciences – the effect that the researcher [film-maker] has on their subjects [content and audience];

(4) an ethical dimension of aesthetics – appearance determined by material conditions of production, it is not the pursuit of style.”

William Raban, Sequence, Winter 2012.


“The notion of the ‘picturesque’ suggests landscape to me, especially when you consider ‘issues of land ownership’. I see many of my films as ‘political’ but this acknowledges the pertinent observation by Jean-Luc Godard ‘The problem is not to make political films, but to make films politically.’ I digress from landscape. I used to be irritated by the generic term ‘landscape film’. I was suspicious of where people were coming from who used it. Given that there is an accepted tradition of English landscape painting, I thought it was an attempt to legitimate film as a fine art practice. Partly with that in mind, I started making urban landscape films with Moonshine (1975) and Autumn Scenes (1978) and of course, it includes my more recent London films as well. I have always seen LS Lowry’s paintings of the industrial northeast as landscape paintings and I think there is work to be done to reclaim the term ‘landscape’ to include the city as well as so-called natural landscapes.” William Raban.