Grow your own ideas

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The South Bank Centre at the weekend was engulfed in a festival of homespun politics and DIY culture. Grow Your Own Ideas being inspired by the work of artist Bob and Roberta Smith.

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The roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall sprouted this magnificent wild flower garden.

During the Second World War bombsites became impromptu parks and gardens – the site around St. Paul’s was particularly lush with tall stems of flowers and blossoming Buddliea.

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Large areas of post-industrial London could look like this again – such a shame to sell the Royal Docks to the Chinese government when it could be reclaimed by nature.

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I’d filmed Bob and Roberta Smith making then installing his Mobile Brownfield Site outside the Royal Festival Hall for Pestival in 2010. His old Volvo and its trailer festooned with weeds, nettles and moss.

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Later in the afternoon on Saturday my film about Bob, Make Your Own Damn Art, was screened in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

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Then the Ken Ardley Playboys punk-rocked out against a backdrop of old archive film demonstrating home crafts.

Profile of a city – experiment

City Experiment from fugueur on Vimeo.

At the end of a project comes the sorting through some hard-drives – clearing the decks. The mind starts to think about the next film, without any pressure at this stage.

I found some fragments on a sequence in the London Perambulator folder – bits of archive footage from the Prelinger Archives, some ephemeral shoots of pre-Xmas crowds in central London and a tracking shot through Leytonstone station with my son holding the camera on his lap in a pram and was passed through (you can hear him campaign when go we back for another pass).

I’m wondering whether there is a germ of an idea in here that could be expanded into my next film – I’ve made two portraits of people, maybe the next one could be of a place. I’m shooting footage on walks I’m doing for a book (published in September 2013) – could that merge with some of the footage above. Who knows – it’s all up for grabs at the moment – this is the fun part.

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My Revolutions and The Angry Brigade

Last night finished reading Hari Kunzru’s brilliant novel, My Revolutions – an intense first person account of a man’s involvement in a British revolutionary group in the late 60’s and early1970’s.

While I recognised elements from things I’d read and seen about the Baader Meinhof Gang and the Weathermen (the scene in which the activists march down a street in crash helmets reminded me of this image from the Chicago Days of Rage) – the unmistakable parallel is with The Angry Brigade.

Britain’s own armed revolutionary cadre are often forgotten about, partly perhaps because as someone once said their name has a ‘Pythonesque’ quality to it (they also became known as the Stoke Newington 8 which still isn’t as sexy as The Red Brigade) – and that they avoided killing people, unlike the headline-grabbing murders of the European groups.
(Both Baader Meinhof and The Red Brigade have been subjects of highly stylised biographical films with good-looking actors – and the Weathermen have featured in an episode of The Simpsons – can’ think of any appearances of the Angry Brigade on screen).

I tentatively pitched the idea of a documentary about The Angry Briage to Channel4 around the time My Revolutions was published but to no avail (I think the lack of a body count was an issue and that the commissioning editor had never heard of them).

Just as well perhaps, because there is already the excellent documentary above.

Here’s a fascinating interview with the Angry Brigade member John Barker

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Make Your Own Damn Film #5

Tomorrow sees the ‘world premiere’ in of my documentary Make Your Own Damn Art – the world of Bob and Roberta Smith in the East End Film Festival. It’s 3 years almost to the day that I started filming – first at the Portman Gallery in Bethnal Green then damn the next morning as Bob created his mobile brownfield site to sit on the forecourt at the Royal Festival Hall.

The prospect of the post-screening Q&A has forced to me think again why I made the film in the first place. In truth, the possibly unexpected answer can be found on this blog – it came from my fascination with Leytonstone and wanting to learn about the place I had just moved to.

I’d seen a poster for the Leytonstone Centre of Contemporary Art and wanted to learn more about it and the artist who created it. The film in a way is the result of that curiosity. So although it’s about a unique voice in British art and the importance of art in society it is also as much about localism for me personally.
I wonder how that will go down at the Q&A tomorrow.

In the afternoon tomorrow I’ve got the huge honour of hosting the discussion and Q&A with Andrew Kotting and Iain Sinclair following the screening of their film Swandown.

I’ve been following this project – a psychogeographer’s dream ticket – ever since I first heard it mooted in 2007. So tonight I’ll be skimming back through my Iain Sinclair archive and re-watching Andrew Kotting’s short films in preparation – what a hardship.

Make Your Own Damn Film #4

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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.

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