Thursday, 21 July 2011

Richard Box - Field

‘Field’ 2004 Richard Box. from EcoArt Project on Vimeo.

‘Field’, was inspired by childhood stories from a friend who played underneath overhead power-lines, in his back garden. These stories came to mind as I was reading research into human radiation effects by Bristol University physics department, where I was Artist in Residence for 2003, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

The installation ‘Field’ was created by planting 1,301, reclaimed, 58-watt fluorescent light tubes, 100mm into the earth, equidistant from their neighbours, covering an area of 3,600 m2 underneath a 440KV overhead power-line, at Tormarton, South Gloucestershire, UK. Becoming visible at dusk the electromagnetic field emanating from the power-lines above, on its way to earth, lit the tubes.

‘Field’ used an everyday glass object to create a highly interactive artwork that was successful on many different levels. The piece drew attention to the presence of the electromagnetic field in a dramatic way, making the invisible, visible.

The grid layout of the tubes plotted the electromagnetic pollution emanating from the overhead power cables. Being placed at the same height and equidistant from their neighbours meant they all had an equal chance of lighting. People’s proximity to the tubes affected the way that they lit. By standing next to and taller than a planted tube your head effectively stole its electromagnetic energy, putting the light out. The different experiments that visitors devised and reported back to me are too numerous to list here. Over 4000 people visited the three week installation, all left with a heightened awareness of the electromagnetic pollution present in our environment.

More information here, here and here.

The Museum of British Folklore

"In Britain in the 21st century, there exists a rich, living of annual folk festivals and traditional rituals, many of which have existed for hundreds of years while others are relatively new. It is therefore a surprising fact that there exists no properly funded centre in Britain to research and celebrate our native traditions and vernacular arts. It is my aim, that over the next few years, such an institution will exist, which will address this situation"

As a child, I devoured the information in my parents copy of 'Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain', published by the Readers Digest in the mid-sixties.

Inside its black, embossed covers, was a rich and magical world of Green Men, Stone Circles, Witches, Giants, Haunted Houses and Seasonal Customs. Single-handedly, it engendered my life-long interest in the folklore traditions of these Islands.

Many of our family holidays were spent in the British Isles, and particularly in Devon, where my mother was evacuated during the war. When I was seven, we visited St. Ives in Cornwall, and I wandered around a tiny museum filled with Victorian toys and penny slot machines. Dotted among the exhibits were fine examples of the British Vernacular arts: Corn Dollies, Staffordshire figurines, Nailsea glass canes and horse-brasses.

Sadly, the museum no longer exists. However, the memory of my visit to it has remained. I have only to smell Patchouli oil to conjure the memory of the museum’s owner; her mane of black hair, and her dark, smoky eye make-up. She was a veritable siren from a silent movie as she showed me, wide-eyed, around her magic kingdom, painstakingly explaining the exhibits to a child filled with wonder at the sight of them.

Over the past fifteen years, I have been involved in researching the many folk traditions of the United Kingdom, as well as actively participating in a great number of the events including 15 years at the Jack in the Green festival at Hastings, which has expanded every year with 23,000 attendees in 2008.

In recent years, there has been a great deal of ongoing debate in both the media and in the public arena as to the changing perception of an indigenous British Folk Culture. What is perceived as contemporary 'popular' culture has been examined so that answers may be sought to the ongoing place of ancient customs in our so-called modern society.

Often, our perceived notion is little more than an understanding of how we as an island nation have, over the last half century in particular, embraced-and actively imported- popular cultures from other places-particularly the United States. Our own Folkloric traditions are often overlooked, despite their being a vital means of preserving and perpetuating our homegrown myths, rituals, community and countrywide histories. Thus, the 21st century study of Folklore, far from being merely historical, also provides a crucial means of understanding and interpreting a culture from the inside out.

It is with this aim in mind, that I intend to establish a permanent collection and national exhibition centre that celebrates and promotes the Folk Culture of the British Isles. In 2008, I actively met curators, small museum directors and archivists responsible for existing folk collections throughout the country. My research also bought me into contact with the Charity Commission, several fundraising consultants and individual practitioners, writers and musicians, so as to gain a fuller understanding of what might be involved in the programming and day-to-day operation of a small museum. I have drawn up a number of diverse policies and agendas, which would affect the operation of such an institution, ranging from Health and Safety issues to Child Protection, Equal Opportunities to Financial Management Control in addition to the crucial Mission Statement for the museum.

In 2009 the museum undertook a UK wide tour. A 1976 Castleton Caravan was bought and over 15 different folk festivals were visited. Members of the public got the chance to learn more about the museum project and could also make donations and meet the museum director. The tour was a valuable source of evaluation into discovering whether or not there was a need and an interest in a new national venue of this kind.

The response was overwhelming and the museum has now moved onto a two year exhibition programme, starting with an exhibition hosted by Compton Verney in Warwickshire, which looks at the history of fireworks in Britain.

For more information about the project, visit The Museum of British Folklore and join the mailing list for monthly updates about this exciting new venture.

Simon Costin.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Sir Benjamin Stone & The National Photographic Record Association

"Benjamin Stone is a national institution. Photography has been with him, as has been well said, not a hobby but a passion..." The Strand Magazine, 1910.

In 1897, Queen Victoria's Jubilee year, Sir Benjamin Stone (1838–1914) announced the formation of the National Photographic Record Association (NPRA).

Its aim was to record the ancient buildings, folk customs and other 'survivals' of historical interest for the future. The result would be a national memory bank that would foster 'a national pride in the historical associations of the country, or neighbourhood, [or] in family traditions'. Stone was a Birmingham industrialist, a Member of Parliament, an amateur photographer and a passionate collector of photographs. With his belief in 'straight' record photography, he set the agenda for the NPRA not only administratively but also intellectually and aesthetically. Of the 5883 photographs that the NPRA deposited at the British Museum between 1897 and 1910, 1532 were by Stone. Six years ago all these were transferred to the V&A, and a small selection could be seen in this display. The NPRA was part of a much wider photographic survey movement at the end of the 19th century, covering British archaeology, geology and ethnography.

The idea of photographic surveys survives to this day, operating at many levels, from local camera clubs and community projects to the National Monuments Record. While there are strong elements of nostalgia in the NPRA, it was also dynamic as our Victorian ancestors, like us, used photography to project what they valued about their past into the future.

Further information here, here & here.

Friday, 8 July 2011

The British Film Institute

The British Film Institute (BFI) is a charitable organisation established by Royal Charter to:

Encourage the development of the arts of film, television and the moving image throughout the United Kingdom, to promote their use as a record of contemporary life and manners, to promote education about film, television and the moving image generally, and their impact on society, to promote access to and appreciation of the widest possible range of British and world cinema and to establish, care for and develop collections reflecting the moving image history and heritage of the United Kingdom.

The BFI maintains the world's largest film archive, the BFI National Archive, previously called National Film Library (1935–1955), National Film Archive (1955–1992) and National Film and Television Archive (1993–2006). The archive contains more than 50,000 fiction films, over 100,000 non-fiction titles and around 625,000 television programmes. The majority of the collection is British material but it also features internationally significant holdings from around the world. The Archive also collects films which feature key British actors and the work of British directors.

The BFI runs the BFI Southbank (formerly the National Film Theatre (NFT)) and London IMAX cinema, both located on the south bank of the River Thames in London. The IMAX has the largest cinema screen in the UK, and shows popular recent releases and short films showcasing its technology, which includes 3D screenings and 11,600 watts of digital surround sound. BFI Southbank (the National Film Theatre screens and the Studio) shows films from all over the world particularly critically acclaimed historical & specialised films that may not otherwise get a cinema showing.

The BFI also distributes archival and cultural cinema to other venues – each year to more than 800 venues all across the UK, as well as to a substantial number of overseas venues. The BFI offers a range of education initiatives, in particular to support the teaching of film and media studies in schools. In late 2012, the BFI received money from the Department For Education to create the BFI Film Academy Network.

The BFI runs the annual London Film Festival along with the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and the youth-orientated Future Film Festival. The BFI publishes the monthly Sight & Sound magazine as well as films on Blu-ray, DVD and books. It runs the BFI National Library, a reference library, and maintains the SIFT (Summary of Information on Film and Television) database, which contains credits, synopses and other data on global film and TV. It also has a substantial collection of around 7 million film and TV stills.

The institute was founded in 1933. Despite its foundation resulting from a recommendation in a report on Film and National Life, at that time the institute was a private company, though it has received public money throughout its history—from the Privy Council and Treasury until 1965 and the various culture departments since then.

The institute was restructured following the Radcliffe Report of 1948 which recommended that it should concentrate on developing the appreciation of filmic art, rather than creating film itself. Thus control of educational film production passed to the National Committee for Visual Aids in Education and the British Film Academy assumed control for promoting production. The institute received a Royal Charter in 1983. This was updated in 2000, and in the same year the newly established UK Film Council took responsibility for providing the BFI's annual grant-in-aid (government subsidy). As an independent registered charity, the BFI is regulated by the Charity Commission and the Privy Council. In 1988, the BFI opened the London Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) on the South Bank. MOMI was acclaimed internationally and set new standards for education through entertainment, but subsequently it did not receive the high levels of continuing investment that might have enabled it to keep pace with technological developments and ever-rising audience expectations. The Museum was "temporarily" closed in 1999 when the BFI stated that it would be re-sited. This did not happen, and MOMI's closure became permanent in 2002 when it was decided to redevelop the South Bank site. This redevelopment was itself then further delayed.

The BFI is currently managed on a day-to-day basis by its chief executive, Amanda Nevill. Supreme decision-making authority rests with a chair and a board of up to 14 governors. The current chair is Greg Dyke, who took office on 1 March 2008. He succeeded the late Anthony Minghella (film director), who was chair from 2003 until 31 December 2007. The chair of the board is appointed by the BFI's own Board of Governors but requires the consent of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Other Governors are co-opted by existing board members when required (but if one of these is appointed Deputy Chair, that appointment is subject to ratification by the Secretary of State).

The BFI operates with three sources of income. The largest is public money allocated by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In 2011–12, this funding amounted to approximately £20m.[citation needed] The second largest source is commercial activity such as receipts from ticket sales at BFI Southbank or the BFI London IMAX theatre (2007, £5m), sales of DVDs, etc. Thirdly, grants and sponsorship of around £5m are obtained from various sources, including National Lottery funding grants, private sponsors and through donations (J. Paul Getty, Jr. donated around £1m in his will following his death in 2003). The BFI is also the distributor for all Lottery funds for film (in 2011–12 this will amount to c.£25m).

As well as its work on film, the BFI also devotes a large amount of its time to the preservation and study of British television programming and its history. In 2000, it published a high-profile list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes, as voted for by a range of industry figures.

“There’s a false dichotomy between commercial and cultural. They’re completely symbiotic. I don’t believe there’s a filmmaker out there who doesn’t want to make a film that’s so compelling that it sets the world alight and makes people want to see it” Amanda Nevill, Director of the British Film Institute.

The delayed redevelopment of the National Film Theatre finally took place in 2007, creating in the rebranded "BFI Southbank" new education spaces, a gallery, and a pioneering mediatheque which for the first time enabled the public to gain access, free of charge, to some of the otherwise inaccessible treasures in the National Film & Television Archive. The mediatheque has proved to be the most successful element of this redevelopment, and there are plans to roll out a network of them across the UK. An announcement of a £25 million capital investment in the Strategy for UK Screen Heritage was made by Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport at the opening night of the 2007 London Film Festival. The bulk of this money will pay for long overdue development of the BFI National Archive facilities in Hertfordshire and Warwickshire.

Further information here, here & here.

Sight & Sound is a British monthly film magazine published by the British Film Institute (BFI).

Sight & Sound was first published in 1932 and in 1934 management of the magazine was handed to the nascent BFI, which still publishes the magazine today. Sight & Sound was published quarterly for most of its history until the early 1990s, apart from a brief run as a monthly publication in the early 1950s, but in 1991 it merged with another BFI publication, the Monthly Film Bulletin, and started to appear monthly. The journal was edited by Gavin Lambert from 1949 to 1955. From 1956 to 1990 it was edited by Penelope Houston, and then in its relaunched form by Philip Dodd. It is currently edited by Nick James.