Scottish National National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh until November
Luke Fowler's ongoing fascination with icons of radical thought has
extended from film-works on punk band The Homosexuals and composer
Cornelius Cardew to his Turner nominated dissection of
anti-psychiatrist RD Laing. Each of these has cut-and-pasted
sound-and-vision collages of archive footage and newly filmed work to
create a set of suitably world-turned-upside-down narratives. Like
them, this 2012 study of Marxist historian and CND activist E.P.
Thompson's involvement with the Workers Educational Movement is both an
impressionistic portrait of its subject as well as a timely reminder of
a vital figure all but airbrushed out of official history.
For this sixty-one minute piece originally commissioned by the
Hepworth, Wakefield, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Film and Video
Umbrella, and now shown in Scotland for the first time as part of
GENERATION, Fowler slows things down to play with form even more. As
Cerith Wyn Evans intones Thompson's grimly poetic litanies over images
of red-brick Yorkshire towns that move between the black-and-white
bustle of the past and the barren back-streets and To Let signs of
today, the film becomes both oral history project and living newspaper,
complete with Brechtian captions and reflections of Fowler in assorted
windows. As a conduit for working class autodidacts, the WEA has vital
umbilical links with the free university movement and today's
autonomous zones. The Great Learning goes on.
The List, July 2014