Cinema has become an attractive home for artists’ film and video in recent years, a fact partly explained by the sheer convenience of raked auditoria, comfortable seating and top-notch projection technologies for watching works from start to finish. This year’s Experimenta, the strand of the London Film Festival devoted to artists’ moving image, testified to this provisional shift from gallery space to cinema auditorium. It included ambitious feature-length artists’ films by the likes of Tacita Dean, Omer Fast and Ben Rivers, alongside programmes of shorter works by visual artists and filmmakers rooted in traditions of avant-garde and experimental film. There was no overarching theme but, rather, varied reflections on the afterlives of cinema in terms of digital and analogue technologies, memory and pleasure. One of the most extraordinary feature-length works here was William English’s Heated Gloves (all titles 2015), a portrait of Captain Maurice Seddon, a bachelor, heir to a lost fortune, aficionado of raw garlic and inventor of a range of electronically-heated clothing. Seddon was English’s close friend from the early 1980s until his death in 2014, and as a subject he is never shown merely as a kook or freak. The bulk of the film comprises TV footage of Seddon demonstrating his heated garments (low voltage electrified wires sewn into gloves, leggings, jogging tops) to reporters from Australia, Germany, Japan and Sweden, and from his appearances on the David Letterman and Johnny Carson shows. Bookending this is English’s own meditative 8mm, 16mm and video footage – recorded over a period of 20 years at the inventor’s ramshackle home – resulting in a work that reflects on time’s passing, technological redundancy and alternative ways of living.
First published in Issue 176