This is Now: Film and Video After Punk, a major new touring project that looks at artists’ film and video from the post-punk era (1979–85). The project comprises seven screening programmes and is developed in partnership with the BFI National Archive.

In the early 1980s, clubbers, art students, New Romantics and members of the post-punk scene used inexpensive, domestic technology to find new modes of expression and subvert the mainstream media. Independent VHS tapes were released, stridently bypassing censorship, and Super 8 film was embraced as a cheap yet distinctly lyrical and direct new medium. The DIY approach of punk was powerfully reborn.

The period also saw new perspectives and voices emerge. More female, gay and black filmmakers pushed themselves forward and often they were friends; squatting flats, clubbing and developing new styles and techniques together. When not working with Derek Jarman, John Maybury and Cerith Wyn Evans led the charge amongst the Super 8 crowd, casting friends such as Leigh Bowery and Siouxsie Sioux in fragmented, dreamlike scenarios. Isaac Julien and Grayson Perry also made films as did major pop video director Sophie Muller in her early days. Meanwhile artists from the short-lived, but highly influential Scratch Video movement cut-up and transformed material appropriated from popular film and television to produce dense, rhythmic and often witty montages.

These programmes focus on work from the early 1980s that explore the blurred lines between media images and identity, creating new dialogues between the self and the world. It was an uncertain, politically contentious time; a time in which – very much like today with the internet – technology appeared to ease life, yet also created gaps between people. Artists considered what images and technology could mean and be in their fullest sense.

The majority of the Super 8 and 16mm films in these programmes have been out of circulation for thirty years and have only recently been digitally scanned at 2K and remastered. The project forms part of the BFI National Archive’s ongoing work to restore significant yet marginalised areas of historical British experimental film.

Home Taping

The mainstream media was treated like a giant library to be plundered for provocative play and subversion in the early 80s. Whether filming their TV screen with a Super 8 camera or by deftly copying tape-to-tape, artists grabbed and juxtaposed disparate material to disrupt the dominant ideologies of the age and create new visual music. Includes notable examples of the Scratch Video phenomenon, including works by George Barber, Gorilla Tapes and the Duvet Brothers.

The Attitude Assumed: Still Life With Still Born UK 1980. Dir Cerith Wyn Evans. 20 min
Skinheads and Roses UK 1983. Dir Jill Westwood. 8 min
Pop Dolphin UK c.1983 Dir Jeffrey Hinton 18 min
Tilt UK 1984. Dir George Barber. 6 min
Branson UK 1983. Dir George Barber. 2 min
Blue Monday UK 1984. Dir Duvet Brothers. 4 min
The Commander in Chief UK 1984 Dir Gorilla Tapes. 4 min
Art of Noise: Legs UK 1985. Dir George Barber & George Snow. 7 min
Passion Tryptych UK 1982. Dir Cordelia Swann. 3 min