FLAMIN, the organisation behind Selected 5, is all about showcasing flms that 'resis[t] conventional defnition'. It's true that, writing about works like these, I can't shake off the sense of inadequacy as a critic; it's somehow impractical to produce a qualitative assessment of what I'm seeing. Perhaps that's a good thing?
Despite the many exciting developments in digital flm production, there is still an instinctive suspicion in the industry and academy about flms - like those fequently shown in the Selected series - produced by one mind and a single pair of hands. There's a notion that it puts the audiences (and the money) right off.
So do these selected flms only appeal to select audiences? They do take the administrative aspect and the need for outsourced creative input out of contemporary British flm production, along with any reassurances that might provide. There's none of the ideological compromise that enables some flm-makers to trudge along producing samey, benign content with very little incentive to explore a diferent approach. Projects like Jarman Award, Jerwood/FVU and Selected are important to me: they champion flms with a sense of spontaneity and show artists at play, taking risks. They remind us that this happens.
Compared with feature-flm making, production time ofen comes at a smaller price where experimental flm is concerned, but that needn't make it cheap. It was interesting to consider how the circumstances of production affected the Selected flms; sometimes this is just another aspect that makes the work more personal, with some flms practically celebrating the fact they were shot by an individual. It became clear that the ability to do much of the work without the need for collaboration is as liberating for a creative as it is technically limiting.
A few of the flms shown as part of Selected 5 are feely available on the web; to be unearthed somewhere among those images of 'your face, online, photoshopped on a llama’s body, in perpetuity' (as Anita Delaney's flm A rat biting another rat puts it). You could watch a video as many times as you like; trawl for clues obsessively, or store it up for later. The flms are a precious resource, requiring only a few minutes of your time but possessing considerable 'replay value'.
In Nicholas Brooks' Friendly things fom the future, every day a woman digs up the same object (a pulsing pink torus) in her garden, time and again and impossibly. With each re-discovery the object requires less cleaning and is 'a little more perfect'. An object-text being lost and found again is fgured as a kind of restorative process that also generates meaning and coherence. Similarly, by the end of the evening at FACT I could go home, maybe a bit pickled, and watch these flms again, in a diferent context and at my convenience. I'd see something else perhaps, or forget why I reacted in a certain way at the screening in The Box.
Many of the artists featured in Selected 5 are London-based. I wonder if living in a metropolis, or at any rate in a world increasingly stretched for fee space and time, provokes people to make short video works? Though diverse in approach, the flms as a collective questioned the capacity of on-screen realms, and of spiritual fantasies, to compensate for the spoilage and pillage of non-virtual sanctuaries around us.
Min-Wei Ting's You're Dead to Me featured long, intense shots of the artist walking, sometimes lying among graves in a large cemetery in Singapore. Ting remarked that, since shooting the fllm, the site has been carved up to make way for the construction of a new highway. Primeval forests mesh with built environments in a number of the other works, too: in Niels Bugge's Gott mit uns it's a landscaped wood that serves as an eagle enclosure in a Glasgow zoo; in Nicholas Brooks' Friendly things fom the future we inspect smooth-carved stone sculptures in a landscape whose towering structures - concrete dreams, like the surviving follies of some real-world Jurassic Park - stand watch amid canopies and scrub, reclaimed.
Selected 5 archives too-familiar apocalyptic worlds (described by the disembodied voice of Charles Bukowski in Richard Sides' fllm, for example) as well as sentimental memories of the past (as in Thomas Lock's Memory Theatre). These are reflected through myriad screens, recording formats and interfaces - appealing to our senses with a corrupted, unfinching artifcial mirror-image of ourselves. We see a network of things: media with a sentient awareness of human vulnerability, carrying out a kind of digital necromancy of human thoughts, feelings and histories. Grotesque (but not entirely unappealing), there it is in front of us and continuing without us.
You can also read an interview with artist Lucy Beech here on the FACT blog.