Article by Jazmina Figueroa in Berlin; Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013
Inspired by the monumental artistic contributions of British director and artist Derek Jarman, The Jarman Award is an annual prize that is awarded to UK-based artists who work predominantly with film and display an experimental approach to filmmaking within their practice. The most important aspect of the Jarman Award is that it provides an opportunity for the artist to broadcast work on major UK network television station Channel 4. Since 2009, the Jarman Award has allowed the unique opportunity for experimental works to be taken out of the museum or gallery context and exhibited through a mass media outlet.
For experimental film work to be broadcasted on network television is extremely significant because of the recent attention and criticism toward public works. A recent article in The Guardian argued that the accessibility of art is contributing to the death of our culture, as artists’ intentions are oriented toward pleasing popular taste and art market investors. The author was referring to a very small group of artists, who hardly represent the exciting and influential works that tend to be regulated to smaller galleries. Why do major art institutions continue to stray away from investing in something profound and challenging to the wider audiences?
Tenant by Grace Schwindt, 2012 (Extract); shortlisted for the 2013 Jarman Award
Germs by Rachel Maclean, 2013; shortlisted for the 2013 Jarman Award
Attempts to make art accessible to wider audiences are not new in the UK. In the 1960’s London-based artist collective, Artist Placement Group, were creating works within an industrial or governmental context and assigning the arts to a further social purpose. The artists involved with APG made work to serve a wider, diverse public and exhibited outside of art establishments.
Video artist David Hall, involved with APG, made a series of video works that were broadcasted on Scottish Television in 1971. The video series consisted of random interventions between regular television programmes, completely unannounced and uncredited. Hall’s series, titled Interruptions, was the first direct artist involvement in British television and made conceptual art accessible from the comfort of one’s living room. Hall continued to create work around these themes, collaborating with public television and broadcasting onto public networks.
Hall’s work contributed to the reception of video work outside of the museum or gallery context. Hall’s video interruptions of scheduled programmes re-appropriated the mass media tool to reveal a different way the viewer and the artist can engage with television, similar to the way post-internet artists are utilizing online communication as a medium for their work.
The Girl Chewing Gum by John Smith, 1973; winner the 2013 Jarman Award
The winner of this year’s Jarman Award was announced last week. London-based artist John Smith began working with film in the 1970’s and is most famously known for his video piece The Girl Chewing Gum (1973). Smith lays bare the process behind conventional cinematic cues, blurring the line between documentary and fiction. Along with his £10,000 cash prize, Smith will be commissioned to produce a series of film work for Channel 4.
Jazmina Figueroa is an artist and writer based in Berlin.