Thursday, 1 January 2009


To welcome in 2009 I announce a new, regular column about artists film that determinedly fails to mention either artists or films. I will write it once a week. As an idea I love it because it removes in an instant two key art critical issues: the time it takes to visit shows, look at the work, and formulate something in response,  and the worry that criticism just becomes a form of marketing. No longer.

Or, at least, what the No-Film Film Column promotes won't be reliant on what artists and films happen to be  showing in London's galleries and arthouse cinemas. If films insist on appearing here - perhaps disguised as fruit - it will be because they happen to appear in the mind-life-world-body-flux as I wander the supermarket, or wait for a Hammersmith and City line train at Aldgate East station.  This could, of course, be intolerably random and self-indulgent,  but the utopian hope is there.

This week's first column, then, seeks to widen the debate on artists film with some perceptive comments on the several huge inflatable snowmen hovering over Carnaby Street in Soho. Although, actually, amid the bustle of the Sacred cafe on Ganton street, I now realise I have very little to say on the inflatable snowman front. Sacred itself is busy and I have just been wondering how Susan Hiller's remark that "collage is a form of cognition" - in her excellent new book of essays, see yesterday's blog post - could apply to the search for a table.

Lattes, too, could be discussed here, although it is a familiar topic, and my original thoughts on the hearts and rosettas of latte art and their relationship to Ray Johnson are all behind me. I was also thinking of Susan Sontag's recently published journals and her frequent admonishments to herself to read more and bathe regularly. There it is! My new year resolutions have been written for me.  

It was hard to unpack snowman thoughts in the noisy cafe.  Instead, I got to thinking about the Invisible Cinema blog, which has been doing a splendid job of this kind of non-film film writing for several years, with its stated desire for "living experimental film and video." It's a desire that what is so enjoyable and thrilling about experimental film should be a matter of daily life and relationships rather than film screenings and galleries. Which, of course, is a sentiment I heartily approve of, although sometimes I have a mournful sense that films can't help or speak or answer and maybe reading Beckett or eating biscotti is a better option. 

But I wasn't doing either of those. I was in Sacred, incidentally, because I'd headed off to Soho to see the re-located Photographer's Gallery on Ramillies Street. In the spirit of this column I'm going to mention only the delicious brie, tomato and spring onion roll I had in the cafe. Actually, the roll had its own opinion on these matters, reminding me in  a loud, artificial voice that good art writing was a mix of The New Yorker, Vogue, Cabinet, Hello magazine and The Radio Times but it couldn't remember what proportion of each. 

I know how the roll felt. I was feeling somewhat sad that the Photographer's Gallery had abandoned its long term division into two buildings, on the same street but separated by a theatre so you had to come back out onto the street before seeing the rest of the exhibitions. This would have been a good location-quirk to hold on to when moving. Its new premises seemed too much like a single building, which it was. 

Actually, it was very nice to be in a new building, I felt like I was in a foreign city, and I got to thinking how good it would be if all art institutions moved around once a month to new premises, as long as they were all still quite central. No migrations to Peckham allowed.

In a lull period in Sacred I am able to formulate my thoughts about the inflatable snowmen outside. The snowman, of course, is an echo of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man in Ghostbusters, which I think it is safe to assume is not an artists film in the sense defined by A.L Rees in A History of Experimental Film and Video, and thus can be mentioned in the No-Film Film Column. 

Behind Marshmallow Man, of course, is the figure of the golem. There's something ghoulish about the Carnaby Street snowmen, which was surely unintended by the shopkeepers who paid for them to be elevated up there. It's become a laughing specter of a credit crisis, on its blobby look out for the next high street chain to be sent into receivership by a well aimed blast of snowman snowball spit direct from its pointed mock-carrot noise. 

I think that's all for now. If I'm really shifting into social reportage I am going to have to notice and remember more. Browsing the new Time Out I decide future editions of The No-Film Film Column will showcase different cup cake toppings in long sequences of photographs gleaned from the web. Happy New Year.