Introducing the works
Richard Grayson

John Adams

Sensible Shoes, 1983
U-matic and Super 8 film transferred to DVD
12 minutes
Courtesy the artist


Sensible Shoes (1983) by John Adams is an inventive and finely detailed collision of image and text. A woman’s voice narrates a tale of a love affair that weaves in and out of responses and recollections triggered by images seen on the television. These we see on the screen – the ability to record and replay images from broadcast television was becoming more widespread with the entry of the domestic video cassette recorder onto the market – and they seem to construct a claustrophobic and enclosed space. Sometimes the images seem to synchronise with what she is saying, at other times they trigger a line of association, but always they seem to shape her text and inflect our understanding. Some of the words are abstracted from her voiced phrases – seemingly at random – to appear on the screen as text, and it is only at the end, after the credits, that we are given a piece of information that profoundly alters our understanding of the narrative.



Ian Bourn

Lenny’s Documentary, 1978
½" Reel-to-Reel transferred to DVD
Installation for Raven Row 2010
45 minutes
Courtesy the artist and LUX, London


Much video practice was in one way or another in a direct dialogue with television. Lenny’s Documentary, made by Ian Bourn whilst studying at the Royal College of Art in 1978 uses televisual conventions drawn from broadcast drama and from documentary to present a record of a man talking about his life and the city he lives in. In the grainy black and white footage we can detect echoes of the 1960s kitchen sink dramas, of the ‘Play for Today’ series and documentaries about working life. It also has a confessional element, Lenny talking directly and unguardedly to camera which encourages the audience to take it as an unmediated and improvised expression, that Lenny is talking to us. However the character is a carefully written construct, an act of imagination that allows Bourn to explore ideas of the fabrication of the real in the media and ideas of class and masculine construction.



Ian Breakwell
1974 Diary, 1974
269 plates; photographs and collage; each 29 × 21cm
Copyright the estate of Ian Breakwell, courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London

Ian Breakwell’s Continuous Diary, 1984
Digibeta (from 1" original) transferred to DVD
Producer Anna Ridley; Annalogue Productions for Channel 4 (1984)

A selection from the series
65 minutes

Courtesy the estate of Ian Breakwell


Works by Ian Breakwell are temporal bookends for the exhibition. The first dates from 1974 (exhibited at the ICA in 1977), and the second from 1984. Breakwell was a writer as well as an artist working with drawing, painting, photography, performance and installation as well as film and video, and he variously overlapped and combined these languages. The diary was a central strand of his work from the mid 1960s onwards. These were written, published as books, performed and became the matter for wall-based work, video installation and television broadcasts. 1974 Diary draws on conceptual and process practices – with the use of the grid, the repeated action, exploring the inherent seriality of the regular repeated action of writing a date and making a diary. In contrast to On Kawara’s date paintings, or his ‘I Went and I Met’ postcards however, Breakwell’s dates, rather than being a blank registration of time or association, are accompanied by a flurry of writing and comment and small shifting collages that bring the world outside the frame into play. Ian Breakwell’s Continuous Diary (1984) was commissioned and broadcast by Channel 4. The programmes combined readings by Breakwell, voice-overs, documentary images, and re-enactments to build a series of complex hybrid video essays developed from the written material of the journals.



Marc Camille Chaimowicz

Here and There, 1978
Installation: boards, emulsion paint, photographs, text

Partial Views of an Interior, 1978
U-matic transferred to DVD
Camera: Mick Hartney
Seating for Raven Row (prototype) 2010
16 minutes
Courtesy the artist and Cabinet, London


Marc Camille Chaimowicz has explored the poetics of private and personal space throughout his practice, which has encompassed installation, photography, tape/slide, film, video, performance and design. Here and There (1978/2010) is an installation that displays on panels photographs recording the details and intersections of a set of rooms. The panels operate as much as furniture as autonomous art objects. They flicker between the indexes of fine art and the decorative arts, shifting our understanding of the space in which we experience them, which oscillates between the aesthetic, the domestic and the dramatic. The work describes a world that is shaped by an early twentieth century European sensibility and imagination, with its echoes of Cocteau, Proust and Gide, of European film, of the lost realms of Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes. The artist uses objects and space to shape a world, and this world then shapes those who experience it: the artist and the viewer. Partial Views of an Interior (1978) registers the presences and slight movements in this realm and its soft washed out colour, suggests its contingency and fragility.



David Critchley

Pieces I Never Did, 1979
U-matic transferred to DVD; 3 monitors
31 minutes
Courtesy the artist


The generative power of language and the idea of the memoir are central to Pieces I Never Did (1979) made by David Critchley whilst at the Royal College of Art. He describes works and performances that he has not made. ‘I wanted to do a piece about sweeping, sweeping up rubbish’ he says, the three screens show the image and sound of him sweeping stuff with a brush on the studio floor, ‘but I never did that one’. The act of description brings the works into being and we are plunged into a Borgesian hall of mirrors where a thing seems to exist only in its representation. This disjunction is given an extra charge through the very physical nature of the actions he describes himself as (not) doing – throwing himself against a wall, screaming ‘shut up’ until he loses his voice. The work is formally complex through its use of choreographed imagery on multiple screens, so that in the representation itself we are denied an original or unique image.



Catherine Elwes

Kensington Gore, 1981
U-matic transferred to DVD
13 minutes
Courtesy the artist and LUX, London

Artifice and the constructions of media are central to Kensington Gore (1981) by Catherine Elwes. The video combines footage of how to make a fake wound – the Kensington Gore of the title which is the name for the liquid used as blood in the theatre – with variously different descriptions of a bloody and violent event on a film set where the artist was working as a BBC make up artist. Some of these descriptions are delivered in the authoritative tones of ‘Received Pronunciation’, others as an interview. The slippery relationship between fantasy and fiction, the ways that the world is constructed and understood in different modes, expands into a meditation on class, gender and identity.



Roberta Graham

Campo Santo, 1981
Installation: mixed media, 4 channel sound
Courtesy the artist


The memorial is central to Campo Santo (1981) by Roberta Graham. This performance/installation work is an angry and bleak examination of gender, power and abjection and focuses on the victims of Peter Sutcliffe – ‘the Yorkshire Ripper’ – who killed at least 13 women and attacked seven more between 1975 and 1980. Some of the victims were sex workers which fuelled the lurid and misogynistic narratives in the press. Graham took photographs of the waste land sites where the bodies were found and displays them surrounded by detritus and the crumpled pages of newspapers reporting the crimes. The oppressive soundtrack combines the sound of the hissing airbrakes of lorries with extracts from Davis Grubb's novel The Night of the Hunter of the utterances of a nihilistic preacher inviting us to view the deaths in the wider context of how women are narrated in society.



Steve Hawley

We Have Fun Drawing Conclusions, 1981
U-matic transferred to DVD
7 minutes
Courtesy the artist


Steve Hawley’s We Have Fun Drawing Conclusions (1981) uses illustrations of ideal family life taken from the classic series of Ladybird children’s books ‘Peter and Jane’ which had wide circulation in British schools and homes in the 1950s and 60s. These books represent an ideal, white, middle class atomic family at home and at play. Peter helps his father wash the car. Jane is in the kitchen. Hawley reproduces and recombines these images and provides a wry narration that not only talks about how these representations generate sexually determined realms of action and expectation but expands into a consideration of how these are encoded into the structures and operations of language.



Susan Hiller

Monument (Colonial Version), 1980–1
Installation: 41 colour photographs, park bench, soundtrack (14 minutes)
Courtesy Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery)


A fractured, opened-ended, non-linear narrative and the constructions of self and identity lie at the heart of Susan Hiller’s Monument (1980–1). The work consists of photographs documenting ceramic Victorian memorial plaques in London of ordinary people – non-military, civilian, local – who died heroically. Displayed in a simple, ordered diamond shape, the edges of the rectangular plaques form a stepped edge which seems to imply that the series could continue into the space around it (in fact the number of panels on display coincides with the number of years the artist had lived). Viewers are invited to sit on a bench and put on headphones, so becoming a component of the work and immersed in a soundtrack that is a complex investigation into ideas of death, heroism, gender and representation. Susan Hiller describes the soundtrack as ‘a discourse full of holes to match a world made of fragments, linked to the names and acts memorialised before them’.



Stuart Marshall

The Love Show (parts 1–3), 1980
U-matic transferred to DVD
40 minutes

Courtesy the estate of Stuart Marshall and LUX, London


Stuart Marshall’s work engages directly with the artifices and hidden structures of television. He was influential as a practitioner, curator, teacher and theorist. In 1976 he was one of the founder members of London Video Arts, with others including David Hall, David Critchley, Tamara Krikorian, Brian Hoey and Stephen Partridge. LVA was an initiative, informed by the work of The London Film-Makers’ Co-op, designed to support the exhibition and distribution of work made by artists working with video. The Love Show (parts 1–3) (1980) is a complex critique of the operations of broadcast television, where Marshall uses many of its structures and approaches to reveal its own operations and explode the illusions of authority. Marshall was deeply involved in gay politics and theory and this underpinned his investigations into the ideological constructions and representations of gender and sexuality in the electronic media.



Cordelia Swann

Mysteries of Berlin, 1979–82
Tape/slide installation
24 minutes
Courtesy the artist


Images without text construct the world described in the tape/slide work Mysteries of Berlin (1979–82) by Cordelia Swann. It was inspired by The Mysteries of Udolpho, written by Ann Radcliffe in 1794, in which the heroine is kidnapped from the Pyrenees and transported to Venice – both places that the writer never visited. We experience a barrage of projected images accompanied by surging music. These photographs, shown in their entirety and in close up, seem to describe a dramatic world full of shadows, threat and romance. This is a representation of Berlin, shaped by thrillers and film noir. Much of Berlin itself was inaccessible and hidden behind the wall and it took on a strange charge of attraction, threatening and strangely erotic, as something denied by the dominant political narratives of the West. Most of the images used by the artist are not in fact of Berlin but were chosen from magazines, books and films for their closeness to how she imagined this alien zone.



Graham Young

Accidents In The Home, 1984
U-matic transferred to DVD
‘No. 17 Gasfires’
2 minutes
‘No. 8 Holiday Insurance’
4 minutes
‘No. 9 Indoor Games’
6 minutes
Courtesy the artist


Accidents In The Home (1984) by Graham Young is a series of video works that used domestic spaces to construct narratives without language. In ‘No. 17 Gasfires’ – which was broadcast on Channel 4 – we see a man gazing into a gas fire, listening to the rousing sound of Germanic music. We are shown a fan with streamers attached slowly panning to the right and left, and a model aeroplane made out of balsa wood and tissue paper. Then we see the plane flying towards the gas fire and the image freezes and the tape ends. In another video, a darkened living room is shown with suitcases being assembled to the sound of African music. These vignettes are poignant and poetic and do not determine a singular reading but seem to talk both of the isolation and oppression of the domestic space where even possibilities of removal and escape seem to be fraught and problematic.