Over the past 15 years, British artist, filmmaker and musician Luke Fowler has developed a practice that is, at the same time, singular and collaborative, poetic and political, structural and documentary, archival and deeply human. With an emphasis on communities of people, outward thinkers and the history of the left, his 16mm films tell the stories of alternative movements in Britain, from psychiatry to photography to music to education. Working with archival materials, his own 16mm footage, and sound recordings made in collaboration with sound artists such as Lee Patterson and Eric La Casa, Fowler has constructed complex portraits of psychiatrist R.D. Laing, experimental composer Cornelius Cardew, Marxist historian E.P. Thompson and reclusive environmentalist Bogman Palmjaguar. Whilst some of his early films – such as Pilgrimage from Scattered Points (2006) – dealt with music and musicians as subjects, in later works, most notably A Grammar for Listening (2009), sound itself becomes a key concern. Sound as process but also sound as a possibility for approaching filmmaking practice from a more acknowledged collective position. For Fowler’s work, the social and artistic relationship with an individual, and how such a relationship is built up into a collaboration, are essential.
Oscillating between a tradition that reaches back to filmmakers such as Gregory Markopoulos, Warren Sonbert and Robert Beavers – on whom P. Adams Sitney has written the filmmaker is “a hands craftsman, focusing the lens, pushing a filter across the plane of vision, making a splice” – and a collaborative, almost communal approach to artistic creation, Fowler’s own influences draw equally from experimental music, British Free cinema and American avant-garde film.
(text: Maria Palacios Cruz, Courtisane Festival)
- Tenement Film (Anna, Lester, David) (UK, 2009, colour, sound, 16mm, 24fps, 3X3’00 (9’00))
As the winning artist of the 2008 Film London Jarman Award, Luke Fowler was commissioned to produce four short films for 3 Minute Wonder, Channel 4s shorts strand.
The four films premiered on Channel 4 over four consecutive nights in April 2009. Entitled, Anna, Helen, David and Lester, they are a series of portraits of four diverse individuals brought together through a shared residence – a flat in a Victorian tenement in the West End of Glasgow. Composers: Lee Patterson (anna) Taku Unami (David) and Charles Curtis (lester)
- Abbeyview Film (UK, 2008, colour, silent, 16mm, 24fps, 9’00)
Commissioned by Abbeyview artist in residence (2007-2008) Nicola Atkinson Davidson as part of regeneration funding for a deprived housing estate in Dumfermline , Scotland. Rather than choosing a clear stance in relation to the subject of a deprived area, Fowler offers a contingent, at times contradictory, poetic snapshot of a community. The film resists traditional documentary and cinematic representation of housing estates, striving instead to build an aesthetic of ambivalence and hope.
- For Christian (UK/USA, 2016, colour, sound, 16mm, 24fps, 6’47)
“For Christian” was filmed during a residency I had at Dartmouth College, New England, in spring 2013. Through Larry Polanski in the electronic music department I met the composer Christian Wolff, who had taught comparative literature at Dartmouth until 1999. For Christian features short extracts from a longer interview which covered a variety of his compositional strategies from writing text scores for non-musicians to indeterminacy, cueing and his turn in the 1970’s to writing pieces with a consciously progressive content. A week or so later I travelled out to his farm in Vermont which he runs with his wife and son and filmed my impressions there. The film is bookended by two of his dedication pieces – one for Alvin Lucier and the other for David Tudor. (LF)
- Advance The Unknown (UK/DE, 2008-9, colour, live sound, 16mm, 18fps, 5’00)
I filmed a diary for the period just before and during the course of an exhibition, the film rushes were shown unedited and changed fortnightly. During this exceptionally bright and cold winter I moved house twice, visited friends in Berlin, recorded music, travelled by train etc.(LF)
- A Grammar For Listening Part I (UK, 2009, colour, sound, 16mm, 24fps, 22’00)
Over the centuries, Western culture has relentlessly attempted to classify noise, music and everyday sounds… Ordinary noises and the mundane sounds that are not perceived as either annoying or musical are of no interest.
How to create a meaningful dialogue between looking and listening? Luke Fowlers film cycle “A Grammar for Listening (parts 1-3)” attempts to address this question through the possibilities afforded by 16mm film and digital sound recording devices. In part 1, Fowler furthers his on-going dialogues with the sound artist Lee Patterson (Manchester, England).
With thanks to Lux and Gisela Capitain, Capitain Petzel gallery