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Introduction
1975
3 - 21 March

Avant-garde British Landscape Films at the Tate Gallery.

'Avant-garde British Landscape Films' is a show designed to give the public its first comprehensive look at the work of several young film-makers who are making important movies in the area of avant-garde cinema…Their significance arises from the fact that they assert the illusionism of cinema through the sensuality of landscape imagery, and simultaneously assert the material nature of the representational process which sustains that illusionism. Deke Dusinberre, introduction to Avant-Garde British Landscape Films programme notes, Tate Gallery, 3 – 21st March 1975.

Emerging from the wider 'structural' film enquiries of the London Filmmakers' Co-operative in the early 1970s, a number of filmmakers were notable for their unique use of landscape imagery. The Tate's education department offered one of the gallery's first, if somewhat late, support of experimental film by screening three consecutive programmes of their landscape films between 3rd to 21st March. The work featured challenged traditional notions of landscape in both painting and cinema, showing an approach which the film writer Deke Dusinberre perceived as engaging with 'the major aesthetic discourse of modernism.'

In landscape's more conventional appearance in the cinema it continues to play the backdrop to human dramas. Filmmakers such as William Raban, Chris Welsby and Renny Croft were interested in how the temporal and spatial systems of the natural world, such as planetary movement, seasonal changes, tidal ebb and flow or more localised weather patterns such as wind and cloud movement, could actively determine how their films were made. In Raban and Welsby's double screen film River Yar, for example, a fixed view of the River Yar estuary is depicted through a complex combination of time-lapse and 'real time' filming, each of the two screens shows the estuary at the different seasonal points of the spring and the autumn equinox. The interplay of the different rhythms of film speed with the flow of the estuary tides, the shifts of light from day to night and the observation of changing weather, uses a rigorous systematic approach to filming which produced an image of landscape as an active and dynamic force. Welsby and Raban, who had both been exploring the relationship between landscape and the recording mechanisms of the camera for a number of years, were most prominently featured in the Tate programme. Other films included Renny Croft's lyrical double screen film Stream Walk, David Pearce's Heath Light and the 8mm films of Jane Clark and Mike Duckworth. The film programme, later reproduced in a dedicated Landscape issue of the film journal Undercut (Spring 1983) with Dusinberre's original foreword, shows not only how these filmmakers challenged landscape's traditional aesthetic but also how it was traditionally viewed, as a significant number were filmed on the domestic film gauge of 8mm and presented as double screen projections.
LR

Lucy Reynolds

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Still from Broadwalkby William Raban, which showed in the Avant-Garde Landscape film programme.

Courtesy; William Raban
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