Underground, Vol. 5 Screenworks

The first ten years of British Structural-Materialist films led to a number of strands of practice based upon the original aesthetics, including an urban-based documentary/counter documentary form, as most evident in the work of artists such as John Smith, William Raban, and more recently, films by Mirza and Butler. These artists have in common the goal of contesting the authority and agency of the filmmaker to document, know or represent reality. John Smith accomplishes this in his films through a method, which sets an ironic mode of telling in contradiction to the apparent real time equivalence of the audio-visual content (Elwes, 2002: 64-71). This is apparent in films such as The Girl Chewing Gum (1976) and Worst Case Scenario (2001-2003). In addition, Raban can be observed to achieve this goal by defamiliarizing the audio-visual content through a unique method, which blends a technique of intellectual montage after the Russian constructivist filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein (Eisenstein, 1929: 29-30), with the Structural-Materialist concern for time and equivalence in shots. This is evident in films such as: Sundial (1992), A13 (1994), Island Race (1996) and MM(2002). Additionally, Mirza and Butler find ways in films such as Non Places (1999) and The Exception and The Rule (2009), to assert and contest the idea of the constructed nature of the documentary text (Mirza and Butler, 2010). Moreover Mirza and Butler may be observed to achieve this goal in their films, through a bricolage technique of overlapping and often contradictory narrators, set against the spectacle and effects of re-processed film and/or the effect of real time equivalence. In these different ways, these artists’ films are prefigured and shaped by a set of assumptions in which knowledge is already a given. The filmmakers begin with the assertion that the authorial regimes entailed with the act of documenting are irreconcilable with the notion of truth, and set out to illustrate or demonstrate this contention through counter documentary measures in their films. By Sandra e. Lim

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Volume 5 of Screenworks (2014) is edited by Dr Charlotte Crofts and associate editor, Dr Steve Presence, both based atthe University of the West of England (UWE) Bristol, with the support of the Digital Cultures Research Centre.