Mike Dunford

‘I started out as a fine art student in Sculpture at Goldsmiths College in London in 1964. Deeply interested in then-current artists like Rauschenberg, and Warhol and the Happenings movement taking place at the time, and the broadening out of art practice, I made environmental artworks, sound sculptures, got involved in improvisational theater and used my dad’s old 8mm cine camera to start making experimental films. I had no knowledge of other work in this field when Malcolm Le Grice suggested I show my films at the Drury Lane Arts Lab which was holding regular weekly screenings at that time. This eye-opening introduction to the ferment of creativity going on led to joining the founding members of The London Film Co-op in setting up the first artists Film-Co-op at Robert Street which led in time to the Co-op’s in Prince of Wales Crescent and Gloucester Road in Camden.

I became deeply involved in the Structuralist/Materialist strand of film-work which emerged during this period, which grew partly out of the material conditions of our working practice in the Co-op of being able to produce all aspects of our work in an artisanal way on the premises. This, coupled with the deconstructionist aspects of our theory led to a particular style of film-making that characterized this moment in the history of experimental film in Britain. It’s important to remember, though, that there were as many variants on this body of work and thought as there were film artists making it.

At the same time I was interested in attempting to marry the politics of film-making practice of Cinema Action and the Berwick Street Collective with those of Co-op transgressive film-making practice in a synthesis that would echo the ideas of Dziga Vertov and Proletcult. A kind of film-making that would exemplify its social-political radicalism through its formal and self-reflexive properties. This aspect has stayed with me down through the years.

In 1974 I went to the RCA to do an MA in Film and then went to the States in 1976 and eventually became involved in video reportage in San Francisco, where I recorded, and later edited in New York in 1983, a couple of video works.

After returning to Britain in 1984 I got involved in John Hopkins video studio in Notting Hill Gate where I was able to produce a couple more video projects until I decided in 1996 to quit the poverty stricken life of an artist and work full time as a cabinet-maker.

It wasn’t until 2010 and the dispossession of our cabinet-making premises, that I started to think again about making video art, and since 2015 I have been producing more video pieces.

Things have changed very much since the days of the Film Co-op, and many of the ideas and practices that seemed so radical then have been absorbed into mainstream media as tropes to authenticate the narrative structures and ideologies of the status quo, but this doesn’t alter the need to continually re-invent our abilities to view the world we inhabit which will allow us to see its constructed nature and its potential for progressive change and to translate that into the way we work on media within it’.

Mike Dunford, 2018.


Reino Unido