Serpentine Gallery 7 May — 14 Jun 2009 Free

This exhibition was the first major presentation in the UK of film artist and musician Luke Fowler.

In 2008, Fowler was the winner of the inaugural Jarman Award for artist filmmakers, presented by Film London and More4 in partnership with the Serpentine Gallery.

Fowler creates cinematic collages that break down conventional approaches to biographical and documentary filmmaking. His films have often been linked to British Free Cinema of the 1950s, the distinctive aesthetic of which came out of a conscious decision to engage with the reality of British society. Fowler uses similarly impressionistic sound and editing, and avoids didactic voice-over commentaries and narrative continuity. The artist moves beyond simply referencing the work of his predecessors, however, intuitively applying the logic, aesthetics and politics of his subjects to the films he constructs about them. The results are atmospheric, sampled histories that reverberate with the vitality of the people he studies.

Pilgrimage From Scattered Points (2006) focuses on the English composer Cornelius Cardew, whose avant-garde Scratch Orchestra celebrated the idea that ‘anyone can play’ in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In this work, Fowler examines the conflicts that developed within the group leading up to its disbanding and combines archival video, photographs, interviews and previously unreleased music recordings.

The Nine Monads of David Bell (2006) is an investigation into the world of David Bell, resident at Kingsley Hall, the refuge set up by rebel psychiatrist R.D. Laing. Fowler’s installation includes audio recordings that document Bell’s changing psychological states, as well as a film that reenacts his dreams. The piece includes a variety of works on paper, including newspapers that Bell used as writing paper.

The exhibition also featured a work that was a highlight of the 3rd Yokohama Triennial, Composition for Flutter Screen (2008). A collaborative work with Japanese sound artist Toshiya Tsunoda, the film focuses on simple objects or phenomena seen under continually changing conditions. This new work, re-configured especially for the Serpentine Gallery exhibition, represented a new direction in Fowler’s use of sound and the moving image.

‘Mr Fowler has created a memory play; a sampled, impressionistic history; a dramatisation of fact… If he is one of our new historians of that critical time [of the Scratch Orchestra], I welcome him. He has a lot to teach us.’ –The New York Times

One important implication of Fowler’s work stems from the way it reopens a dialogue on historical figures and events… Fowler shifts responsibility for resolving the issue out of the frame and into the consciousness of the audience’ –Frieze

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