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Art of the Frontier

Art at the Frontier of Film Theory presents moving image works, audio recordings, drawings, diagrams, photographs and archival materials in order to map the co-ordinates of two transdisciplinary, overlapping practices. It includes collaborations, conversations and interactions with figures such as Kathy Acker, Victor Burgin, Emma Hedditch, Mary Kelly, Mark Lewis and Kerry Tribe.

Art at the Frontier of Film Theory: Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen

22 March - 25 May 2019

These screenings accompany the exhbition Art at the Frontier of Film Theory: Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen at the Peltz Gallery.

Curated by Oliver Fuke and Nicolas Helm-Grovas in collaboration with Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image and the Essay Film Festival. Supported by CHASE.


Riddles of the Sphinx (dir. Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, 1977), 92 min.

Friday 22 March | Birkbeck Cinema

In 1977, Mulvey and Wollen made their most widely seen and influential film, Riddles of the Sphinx. This film, which was their second collaborative work, is directly related to their independent intellectual work. It is comprised of seven discrete sections, arranged symmetrically, and features a number of stunning 360-degree panning shots. The motif of the circle, present in both the camerawork and Mike Ratledge’s electronic soundtrack for the film, meshes neatly with the film’s overarching concerns: the circular nature of problems relating to motherhood in patriarchal society. Riddles of the Sphinx is widely regarded as one of the most important avant-garde films of the 1970s.


Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons (dir. Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen,1974), 99 min.

Saturday 23 March | Birkbeck Cinema

In 1974, Mulvey and Wollen made their first film together, Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons. This film, which is comprised of five chapters, is concerned with women’s relation to myth and language. Penthesilea is a key example of what might be called counter-cinema. The film’s chapters are made up of sequence shots intended to subvert the conventions of editing. Here, the length of a role of 16mm film determined the length of the shot, as opposed to the director’s choice or control, as in traditional Hollywood cinema. Penthesilea is also testament to Mulvey and Wollen’s longstanding commitment to mixing and combining different media and approaches to filmmaking, which continues throughout all their collaborative films. Its five chapters respectively focus on theatre, spoken-word, the plastic arts, film and television. Thus the film, despite its negation of editing, is a montage of these different media.


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Crystal Gazing (Dir. Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen 1982, 92 minutes)

Monday 25 March | Birkbeck Cinema

Crystal Gazing is an experimental feature film. Set during Margaret Thatcher’s first administration, it is concerned with the lives of four ‘cultural workers’ in London. One of the many remarkable aspects of this film is its dialogue with other forms of independent cultural production, most notably comedy, theatre, and music. It features a special soundtrack, much of which of composed especially for the film, by British musician Lora Logic.


Art at the Frontier of Film Theory: Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen

22 March - 24 May 2019 | Peltz Gallery

This exhibition uses the gallery space to refract the work of Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen through the prism of art. Primarily known as film theorists and filmmakers, engagement with art and artists has always been a central dimension of Mulvey and Wollen’s activities. Their numerous documentaries and ‘theory films’ about or featuring artists are evidence of this, as well as their role as important interlocutors for artists, together with their critical writings, teaching, artwork, and their curating of path-breaking exhibitions like ‘Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti’ (Mulvey/Wollen, 1982) and ‘On the Passage of a Few People Through A Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International’ (Wollen, 1989).

Art at the Frontier of Film Theory presents moving image works, audio recordings, drawings, diagrams, photographs and archival materials in order to map the co-ordinates of two transdisciplinary, overlapping practices. It includes collaborations, conversations and interactions with figures such as Kathy Acker, Victor Burgin, Emma Hedditch, Mary Kelly, Mark Lewis and Kerry Tribe.

As well as proposing that Mulvey and Wollen can be understood within the broader frame of artists or art theorists influenced by feminism and socialism, the exhibition utilises the university context to suggest their important role as teachers of younger artists and the mutual influence between academic and artistic work.

For more opening hours and details on the exhibition please visit the Peltz Gallery website: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/arts/research/peltz-gallery/peltz-gallery-exhibitions-and-events/Art_at_the_Frontier_of_Film_Theory