“Super 8 became to film what the famous three chords of punk were to music”
– Schmitz, M. ‘The Medium was the Message’ in Berlin Super 80, booklet accompanying the DVD ‘Berlin Super 80: Music and Film Underground West Berlin 1978-1984.'(2005) Berlin: Monitorpop.
Developed in the 1960s as a home movie making format, easily accessible to the amateur filmmaker, facilitating an ease of use through the pre-packaging of film into small 3 minute roll cartridges that can be placed quickly and easily into the camera, and then posted off to a laboratory for developing after shooting, screened on small portable projectors in the home. Super 8 cameras and projectors were easily and cheaply available in the 1980s, particularly in the second hand columns of newspapers as home video technology was beginning impact on the amateur home moviemaking market.
Around 1983 I bought my own first Super 8 camera and projector, second hand from the back page ads in the Nottingham Evening Post for £20, starting to shoot a few rolls of Super 8 as well as experimenting with an old clockwork 16mm Kodak camera that had belonged to my grandfather.
During the 1980s, Super 8 and 35mm slide projectors provided a far more accessible and affordable alternative to video projection, so the accumulation of film material for use in live performance contexts was far more versatile than off air video recordings. At the time video projectors were heavy, cumbersome, technically demanding to set up and extremely expensive to buy or hire (around £2000 to buy, and often several hundred pounds a day to hire). I collected a number of Super 8 film projectors for live work, and also owned several different Super 8 cameras, most of which were very small, portable, hand held devices. Far more compact and portable than the video cameras of the day.
Andy Lipman in his Scratch and Run article refers to View From Hear as Scratch video, although it would be the follow up piece Amen: Survive the Coming Hard Times which would adhere far more to the conventions and definitions of Scratch as a video edit driven genre re-mixing and cutting off air footage. View From Hear, drew on Super 8 and 35mm slide material, more so than off air tv footage. Although this did include footage of the Falklands conflict shot on Super 8 from a TV monitor, and archival Super 8 newsreel footage worked into the projected montage mix, of original super 8 footage shot at fairgrounds, firework displays, various urban cityscapes and the Remembrance Sunday parade in Sheffield City centre in November 1983. These materials provided not only the raw material for View From Hear, but also the raw material for the live performance/expanded cinema work. Hybrid practices working with both film and video, as video editing and screening facilties became more accessible and available, seemed a logical methodology to me – to explore and exploit all the technologies available, within the severe budgetry restraints I was operating under.
My own Super 8 practice would include shooting specific content for creative projects, travelogues and home movies. With each 50 foot cassette/spool of film lasting just three minutes, and costing even at that time £6 or £7 to be processed (if memory serves). I tended towards a short take, fast cutting style, to try and record as much as possible, in as impressionable way I could, which could then be slowed down and manipulated upon projection. With access to video cameras at Psalter Lane art college, this film footage could be copied to video and soundtracks added. Revisiting this material over the years, with more sophisticated cameras and telecine facilities for film transfer and digitisation, a wealth of creative and home movie explorations of Super 8 have been amassed in my filing cabinets, drawers and hard drives.
Cabaret Voltaire’s Crackdown
and Laibach’s Panorama
provide the soundtrack to footage shot in West and East Berlin respectively, in 1984, before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Footage shot in and around Sheffield, including the derelict Victoria Station and Kneepsend Power Station are accompanied by the soundtrack Hypertension
produced in collaboration with Martin King and originally produced for, and performed at the Lanchester Polytechnic Media Show in Coventry, England in 1984.
Footage shot around the derelict Clifton Bridge/Wilford Power Station, Nottingham, which would also be used in Health and Efficiency
and later in In Eclipse,
is accompanied here by the sound piece Illuminata
by Fabricata Illuminata. This copy comes directly from the Umatic video tape it was edited on and as a consequence displays drop out and video artefacting from the old tape.
Bluebell Woods (1985)
Section 25’s The Process from their 1984 album ‘From the Hip’ provides the soundtrack to an early morning trip to Derbyshire after a hard night’s clubbing…
A Cornish New Year (1984/85)
Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats album provides the icy cool to match the frosty atmosphere of the cornish new year, on a stay on the north cornish coast and a visit to Bodmin Gaol.
New Order’s Every Second Counts accompanies a transit van trip back to Cornwall by housemates and friends from Woodstock Road, Sheffield.
Endcliffe Park Fair, Sheffield (1984)
The soundtrack comes from binaural recordings of walks through a couple of funfairs in Sheffield in the mid 1980s, recorded for use in Fabricata Illuminata’s performance work. The film features an encounter with the late Barry Callaghan, film maker and lecturer at Sheffield Polytechnic, at the beginning – Barry is playing accordian with the Morris dancers. Much of this film was shot by my friend and housemate, Martin King.
Quiet Pillage (1986)
Is Nether Edge burning? The little lads running up to the copper near the end of the film seem to know something of who the culprits might be, as an old outhouse burns, just around the corner from my home in Woodstock Road, Sheffield… 23 Skidoo’s Quiet Pillage from the ‘Seven Songs’ album provides the soundtrack.
65, Woodstock Road (1986)
Included here, not for its filmic values – this is a very rough and underlit home movie – but it is the only footage I have of life in 65 Woodstock Road, where I lived for two and half years as an art student. A house that became a hub of so many activities and focus for so many friends and collaborators to gather, during what for me were very remarkable, memorable, productive and inspiring times.
23 Skidoo’s Gospel Comes to New Guinea
was a big favourite at the time, and now sits well as soundtrack accompaniment to the travelogue shot with my very first Super 8 camera, whilst travelling to Morocco in 1983…