Make Your Own Damn Film #4

Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art

Back in April this year I was asked to show a work-in-progress cut of my documentary about artist Bob and Roberta Smith at the ICA. I wrote about it here at the time.
Now that 25 minute cut has taken on a life all of its own. It’s currently looping in Pierogi Gallery’s Boiler space in New York where Bob has a show (there is also some more recent footage projected onto his Gotham Golem sculpture).
The film is also being shown this Sunday, 20th November at the Crunch Festival of art and philosophy in Hay-on-Wye with Bob doing a talk afterwards about his recently launched, Art Party – a bohemian reposte to the Tea Party.
The photo at the top of this page is the reason this film came into being – my desire to find out what happened inside that shed, the mysteries of the Leytonstone Centre of Contemporary Art. Now I know – I think.


Westfield Stratford City drift (with rotting meat and Olympic village vertical slum)

Yesterday evening I got a call from artist Bob and Roberta Smith asking if I fancied exploring the new Westfield Stratford City that had just opened that day down the road from Leytonstone. I quickly grabbed my minidisc recorder and a mic and off we went.
Bob then played out the entire disc live and unedited on his Resonance fm show, Make Your Own Damn Music. This is a sample of the broadcast.

Make Your Own Damn Film #3: Women Should Be In Charge: Film Screenings & Panel Discussion

Women Should Be In Charge: Film Screenings & Panel Discussion

20 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.

Katherine Aranielo


Date Time Venue Book
Friday 20/05/2011
I Should Be In Charge screening
12:00 pm Lower Gallery
Friday 20/05/2011
I Should Be In Charge panel
6:00 pm Lower Gallery
Friday 20/05/2011
Katherine Araniello screenings
7:30 pm Lower Gallery

Please note

Films start at the advertised time. Doors open 15 mins prior to this. Latecomers are only admitted at the Duty Managers discretion.

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Make Your Own Damn Film #2


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.

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Make Your Own Damn Film #1

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.

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