Women Should Be In Charge: Film Screenings & Panel Discussion20 May 2011
12pm – 5.30pm I Should Be In Charge
A free screening of the latest edit of a feature documentary about Bob and Roberta Smith. London-based film-maker John Rogers has been following the artist since July 2009 to make this film, I Should Be in Charge, due for completion later in 2011. John Rogers has worked on numerous projects with comedian Russell Brand and completed his first feature documentary in 2009, The London Perambulator. He also produces and co-presents a radio show on Resonance 104.4fm with Nick Papadimitriou, Ventures and Adventures in Topography.
6pm – 7.30pm Panel discussion and film
During the evening Bob & Roberta Smith invites people to sign up to a proposed new law, Esther’s Law, based on a sculpture by Jacob Epstein of his teenage daughter, which seems to challenge the male hegemony of art. Esther’s Law suggests that society should create a truly representative political system, including women making up 50% of parliament.
Taking this as a starting point, a panel of influential women chaired by curator and broadcaster Cecilia Wee including artist Sonia Boyce, Professor of Social Science Janet Newman from the Open University, artist Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre and Bob & Roberta Smith discuss whether Esther’s Law is necessary.
Artist Bob & Roberta Smith wants to see a parliament that is representative of the diversity of gender, ethnicity and range of abilities in contemporary society. But in an age where power is increasingly shifting away from organised nation-state politics and where grass-roots women-led organisations make a real difference, does it matter whether or not women are elected into Downing Street?
7.30pm – 10pm Selection of films by Katherine Aranielo
In a series of films Katherine Aranielo subverts and parodies contemporary issues around disability such as assisted suicide, media representation, prejudice, charity, ignorance and body aesthetics. She uses film, performance and other media to transform stereotypical representation into works that deliver their critique with humour and playfulness. Aranielo is a London-based artist and filmmaker who studied a MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths (2004) and has been shown at Tate Modern, Tate Britain and film festivals worldwide.
Date Time Venue Book Friday 20/05/2011
I Should Be In Charge screening
12:00 pm Lower Gallery Free Friday 20/05/2011
I Should Be In Charge panel
6:00 pm Lower Gallery Free Friday 20/05/2011
Katherine Araniello screenings
7:30 pm Lower Gallery Free
Films start at the advertised time. Doors open 15 mins prior to this. Latecomers are only admitted at the Duty Managers discretion.
I’ve reached that point where I’m looking around for inspiration.
Just been attempting what is turning out to be the most difficult sequence so far in this cut for the show at the ICA on 20th May.
It’s based around a short video I edited for Wire magazine back in 2009 when I had just started the project. I liked the basic feel but it doesn’t serve the purpose or rhythm of a longer form film.So I’ve been attempting to weave in and out of Bob performing Make Art Not War with the Ken Ardley Playboys with footage from interviews at Tate Britain, the Hayward Gallery and images from Bob’s Factory Outlet show at Beaconsfield.
The cut for the Wire took me about two hours start to finish. This time round, several hours in, couple of cans of beer, a bit of swearing and I’m still not convinced this sequence is working although it has some great moments.
Luckily something popped up when reviewing some interview footage of Bob that has serendipitous associations.
He mentioned being inspired by seeing the artist Christo wrapping Paris’ Pont Neuf in fabric. This was captured brilliantly by the Maysles brothers in a documentary, part of a series of films about the work of Christo. I’ve always loved these films and have watched them again and again.
The Maysles idea of ‘direct cinema’ greatly appeals to me, trying to capture the spontaneity of the moment, of letting action unfold in front of the lens. I love the honesty and simplicity of their films, the documentarian as benign witness.
A couple of years ago I was very fortunate to meet Albert Maysles in New York. It was when I had recently finished The London Perambulator and was considering what to do next. The octogenarian Albert proceeded to enthuse about his current and future projects, at least four of them at various stages of production, his eyes lit up wide and shining as he described scenes he’d shot and things he hoped to capture as the films progressed. It was a truly humbling and inspiring encounter.
When I got back to London I soon threw myself in the Bob documentary and here I am now trying to finish it – wonder what Albert would make of my film – probably find what I’ve just done a tad busy perhaps – on the other hand that is in the service of being true to the subject. Who knows – at this stage you have to please yourself really.
Time to take a break from the edit and watch those Maysles films about Christo and Jean Claude.
The procrastination can continue no longer and I must sit down and start editing my documentary about the artist Bob and Roberta Smith. The final push has come via the invitation to screen some of the footage as part of an event at the ICA centred around Bob. I received an email yesterday saying that they need my ‘film’ delivered by 6th May.
This is only a work-in-progress cut running at about 20 minutes but it’s often daunting enough showing your closest, most trusted allies your unfinished work let alone presenting it in public at one of London’s most esteemed art institutions. It’s a great privilege though, the ICA is exactly where I’d love the film to end up so this is a kind of reversal.
Luckily I’ve shot some great footage over the last 20 months or so and my initial plan for the film to be a kind of bricolage looks like it works, which is a relief (for now). But this stage of an edit is a mixture of anxiety and excitement. Excitement that you are finally piecing together your film and seeing some great things in the footage. Anxiety over the inevitable technical hiccups to be resolved and the fear that you don’t actually know what you’re doing.
The diagram above is what you do inbetween the two states – I’m not sure it helps a great deal but you can look up and see it all there in little green bubbles, nod and then get back to the laborious task of transcoding hours of rushes.
Being as this is a fairly free-flowing profile of Bob, his work and his world filming never really stops – particularly as Bob is so active.
When I conceived of the idea of the film it was because I’d heard about this artist who lived in Leytonstone (where I also live) who had a gallery in his garden called The Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art. I had a vision of a short documentary about a man painting in his shed around the corner from my front door. We met for a pint in the pub that sits equidistant between our homes (and where I’m going in a moment). I got a call the next morning to film the opening of an exhibition that evening followed by a dawn assignment shooting Bob building a mobile brownfield site for the South Bank and it has carried on like that sporadically ever since taking me as far away from Leytonstone as New York, Walsall and Ramsgate.
Yesterday I was filming a protest in support of the imprisoned Chinese artist Ai WeiWei at Tate Modern. Bob was taking part in an ‘official’ protest outside the gallery when the spontaneous action in the footage above took place. It’s never dull with Bob.
Last night I had been filming Bob and Roberta Smith reading from his journals at Tate Britain and decided to walk along Millbank to Westminster to get the tube home. As I reached College Green, outside the the Houses of Parliament I came across the encampment of news crews still trying to untangle the mess of the General Election. It was 8.30pm, and there were only a few teams still broadcasting.
The was a strange feeling of tranquility hanging in the Westminster air, it was all very calm and quiet. Inside nearby rooms men, educated at the most expensive private schools in the country were working out who was going to be in charge. Earlier Bob and Roberta Smith had shown the audience at Tate a postcard from his recent show called ‘I Should Be In Charge’ – his painting of this declaration is on display in the windows of the Hayward Gallery just over the river from Westminster. Bob would make a brilliant Prime Minister
I contemplated whether I should get my camera out and film, and it was then that I recalled the scene in Patrick Keiller’s brilliant film, London, shot on the day after the election of the Conservation government in 1992. I have none of Keiller’s finesse nor a 16mm Bolex but felt I had had a duty to run off a couple of minutes of tape as an homage to Keiller’s opus.
On my two previous visits to New York I had failed to venture beyond Manhattan, it seemed more than enough for me and I had little idea what lie beyond it. This time I had a motivation to cross the water – to interview Joe at the Perogi Gallery for my ongoing documentary about Bob and Roberta Smith. This was also a chance to cover a bit of ground on foot beyond my habitual drifting.
Downtown from SoHo all is quiet, sun out, an April like the first time I came here in ’98. As warned Brooklyn Bridge was heaving with walkers – at once a brilliant and heart-sinking sight. Is this what the pedestrian highways I once proposed to Wycombe District Council would look like – a sweating mass of agitated perambulators.
From the bridge I got a very different sense of what New York appears to be – I think it’s often easy to forget that many cities are defined by what is at the periphery; so caught up are we by the buzz around the urban core. Maybe that’s the city dweller’s fear of nature – the force in that water so evident when looking down from the bridge; we scamper inland to cower behind bricks.
On the other side of Brooklyn Bridge I am without bearings for a bit and follow my nose. I have a strong image of Henry Miller wandering round here implanted by several readings of Tropic of Capricorn.
I want to find the apartment that Bob lived in on 3rd Street and amble in that direction.
Smith Street is a real hive of activity – loads of heaving cafes – people really lunch here eh? I go into Book Court and literally the first book I see is Alfred Kazin’s ‘A Walker in the City’ – “When I was a child I thought we lived at the end of the world”, he writes of Brooklyn.
The literary version of Brooklyn I’d built up was of somewhere rough-and-ready work-a-day and I see straight away how out of date that has become because at times I feel like there must have been a mass photo shoot for American Apparel in the neighbourhood. It’s a nice vibe though, a comfortable place for a wander.
I turn into 3rd Street and the mood soon changes – becomes run-down industrial, deserted except for a few cyclists. I stand on the bridge over the Gowanus Canal and suck in the rust. I don’t find Bob’s apartment – must have been knocked down. I move on round the corner to Perogi on 9th Street, hungry and stiff legged now.
This is the Brooklyn of my imagination.
The American Legion club, people milling around outside Liquor Stores. 177 9th Street is a locked industrial unit. I ring Joe, “North 9th Street Williamsburg” he corrects – miles away – but only about 4 subway stops from my hotel it turns out. I laugh, my walks are always wild goose chases – mis-guided excursions following after lost scents. People had very kindly offered to show me round Brooklyn but I know at heart that I need to get lost to find what I’m looking for.
I jump on the subway back to Manhattan then over to the gracious Joe who gives me a great interview at Perogi, complete with accounts of the show he did in Bob’s shed – The Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art. Strange how a walk round the corner from my house in London one evening led me here to Brooklyn.
When I first moved to Leytonstone I was intrigued by a poster on the stairs leading down from the Eastbound platform at the tube station for an exhibition at the Leytonstone Centre of Contemporary Art. The LCCA turned out to be a purpose built shed in the back garden of 49 Rhodesia Road E11 the work of artist Bob and Roberta Smith. For the show Hearing Voices, Seeing Things the gallery (shed) was relocated to the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park.
Later venturing round to 49 Rhodesia Road I was confronted by a turn-of-the-century terrace much like the one I live in not far away with no visable sign of a Centre of Contemporary Art. Suspecting it to be an art prank by a self proclaimed “jester of the art world” I dare not knock on the door and enquire of its whereabouts.
Bob & Roberta Smith appears to be a genuinely original and intriguing artist. In an interview Bob described the project as “a little model of the art world”. Bob (he’s one person so I’ll drop the & Roberta bit for now) also produced a series of his trademark hand painted signs to promote the cause of local shops in a work cryptically titled ‘Shop Local’.
The LCCA does seem to have made a genuine impression upon the art world, proudly appearing on the CVs of many an artist. How many took place in E11 or in the re-located shed I’m not sure but one exhibition, Fight, from September 2002 promised “A crazy day out in Leytonstone” and mentions another gallery space in the area The Leyton Wall Modern at 3 Brisbane Road E10.
I’m not sure whether Bob and Roberta Smith is still living at the house, maybe the forthcoming Leytonstone Arts Trail will give me the plausible cover to buck up the courage to find out.