Skip to main content

< Return to tour


By Angela Kingston

1. Introduction

Artists' films and videos are in some ways like fairy stories. They are often spun from nothing amongst friends and family.

Their setting is mostly the near-at-hand, the home, and their landscape is that which the artist chances upon. They are small in scale and intimate, fantastical and erotic, calamitous and funny.

There is shared imagery too. So many mirrors and all those beautiful sleeping women.

I am, also, interested in Marie-Louise Von Franz's (b. 1915) idea that, rather than representing dramas between different imaginary personages, a fairy story conveys the tussles of a troubled - or bewitched - individual psyche subject to different impulses. It is possible to think of many of the films and videos on this site in this way: as interior, psychological worlds.

For this tour I have taken single frames from films and videos featured here by Lux. I have stolen them (like the jewels Jack took from the Giant) and assembled them as a story-board. I have also taken extracts from well known fairy tales. Moments from the stories glance into moments of the films.

Here is an adventure which starts with the sun and ends with a moon (a honeymoon), via deathlike sleep and resurrection. There is, too, a crisis when a mirror misbehaves.

2. The Frog King

Still from Cast by Sarah Pucill, 1999

"In olden times when wishing still helped, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, which has seen so much, was astonished whenever it shone in her face."

Quoted in Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment, 1975

3. Hansel and Gretel

Still from Temenos by Nina Danino, 1999

"They went on all that night, and the next day from the morning until the evening, but they could not find the way out of the wood, and they were very hungry, for they had nothing to eat but the few berries they could pick up. And when they were so tired that they could no longer drag themselves along, they lay down under a tree and fell asleep."

Grimm's Fairy Tales, publ. Wordsworth Editions, 1993

4. Goldilocks and the three Bears

Still from Short Film Series by Guy Sherwin, 1975-2004

"While they were out in the woods, a little girl with golden locks of hair walked up to the house. First she peered through the window, and then she peeped through the keyhole; and then, seeing there was nobody at home, Goldilocks lifted the latch and walked in."

British Folk Tales: New Versions, Kevin Crossley-Holland, 1997

5. Cinderella

Documentation of Sweeping the Sea performance by Annabel Nicolson, 1975

"They took her pretty clothes away from her, put an old grey bedgown on her, and gave her wooden shoes. 'Just look at the proud princess, how decked out she is!' they cried, and laughed, and led her into the kitchen. There she had to do hard work from morning until night, get up before daybreak, carry water, light fires, cook and wash."

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: Complete Fairy Tales, Routledge, 1948

6. Little Snow White

Still from Rosemarie by Cordelia Swann, 1983

"But the Queen, believing that she had eaten Snow White's lung and liver, could not but think that she was again the first and most beautiful of all; and she went to her looking-glass and said: Looking-glass, Looking-glass, on the wall, who in this land is the fairest of all?"

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: Complete Fairy Tales, Routledge, 1948

7. The Snow Queen

Still from Focii by Jeanette Iljon, 1974

"...the looking-glass shook so violently with its own grinning that it slipped out of their hands; and having fallen down to the earth it broke into hundreds of millions of billions of pieces, and still more, which caused greater mischief than ever, for some of the pieces were no larger than dust, and these flying about in the air, whoever got them in his eyes saw the whole human race distorted..."

Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales, publ. Thomas Nelson & Sons, undated

8. Little Briar Rose

Photo of Sleeping Like a Log performance by Annabel Nicolson, 1974

"And, in the very moment when she felt the prick, she fell down upon the bed that stood there, and lay in a deep sleep. And this sleep extended over the whole palace; the King and Queen who had just come home, and had entered the great hall, began to go to sleep, and the whole of the court with them."

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: Complete Fairy Tales, Routledge, 1948

9. Little Snow White

Still from This Filthy Earth by Andrew Kötting, 2001

"The dwarfs, when they came home in the evening, found Snow White lying upon the ground; she breathed no longer and was dead. They lifted her up, looked to see whether they could find anything poisonous, unlaced her, combed her hair, washed her with water and wine, but it was all of no use; the poor child was dead, and remained dead."

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: Complete Fairy Tales, Routledge, 1948

10. The Little Mermaid

Still from Swollen Stigma by Sarah Pucill, 1998

"...the knife trembled in the Little Mermaid's hand, but then she threw it far out into the sea, which shone red where it fell, as if drops of blood bubbled up from the water. Once more she looked upon the Prince with dying eyes, then threw herself from the vessel into the sea, and felt her body dissolving into foam."

Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales, publ. Thomas Nelson & Sons, undated

11. Little Red Cap

Still from Grown Up by Catherine Elwes, 1990

"When he had made two snips, he saw the little Red-Cap shining, and then he made two snips more, and the little girl sprang out, crying: 'Ah, how frightened I have been! How dark it was inside the wolf'; and, after that the aged grandmother came out alive also..."

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: Complete Fairy Tales, Routledge, 1948

11. The Wild Swans

Still from The Silence is Baroque by Nina Danino, 1997

"All the bells rang of their own accord, whilst innumerable flights of birds gathered around, and there was a bridal procession back to the palace such as had never before been witnessed."

Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales, publ. Thomas Nelson & Sons, undated

Angela Kingston

< Return to tour