nick cope film & video

Scratch Video Re-visited

Scratch video ‘excavated’ for the opening night event; London Short Film Festival, ICA, January 2019.

The programme notes for the Rewind screening of Scratch videos in 2008 described Scratch being ‘generally forgotten about in contemporary culture’. Since then there has been a re-emergence of interest in Scratch. In writing about my own experience and engagement in the original scene of the early 1980s and the contexts for this in my PhD in 2012, a number of opportunities have arisen since for screenings of older work, as well as to present academic papers and publish both video content and written outputs.

Globus Hystericus (2013) revisited and re-examined Scratch methodologies, techniques and themes through practice, with the supporting research statement and academic peer-reviews in its online publication by Sightlines journal in 2014 articulating the critical and contextual resonance and relevance of the work.

In January 2015, I was asked to curate a programme of Scratch work for screening in conjunction with presenting the paper ‘Scratch Video Re-visited.’ at the UK Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) annual conference at Northumbria University. The selection featured my trilogy of Scratch works from 1984-6, and Globus Hystericus, as well as George Barber’s Greatest Hits of Scratch collections. The paper was developed further and submitted for publication with Screenworks (volume 7-3) special issue ‘Aesthetics/Politics/Activism/Art: What is Radical Film?’ and published online as ‘Revisiting Scratch Video’ together with the video Amen: Survive the Coming Hard Times (1984) in December 2017.

Scratch was the focus of Art Sheffield’s Up Down Top Bottom Strange and Charm International Arts Festival, in April-May 2016. I was asked to contribute my trio of video works to their Scratch installation and join a discussion panel for the opening weekend’s events. Felix Perry’s review for i-d vice.com locates the festival’s core concerns to the unique ‘hive of musical and artistic experimentation’ in 1980s Sheffield with the Scratch video installation forming ‘the undeniable heart of the exhibition.’

Friendly Fires in the Arundel Street installation space, Art Sheffield 2016.

Amen: Survive the Coming Hard Times (1984) was featured in Pavillion Arts touring programme The Problem of Perspective: Alternative Film and Video in Northern England. The series of screenings illuminating a distinctly northern perspective on the history of artists’ moving image in England was curated by Will Rose, and was shown across the north of England and London . Amen featured in screenings at; Brewery Arts Centre Kendal, LUX London, Showroom Cinema Sheffield and Hyde Park Picture House Leeds, January-March 2017.

Amen… screening at LUX London, February 2017.

Amen… was screened again in Sheffield in 2018, at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival at the Showroom Cinema, as part of ‘Without Brutality: 25 Years of the Art and Design Research Centre’ celebrating the work of Sheffield Hallam University’s staff and students’ work between 1969-93.

In winter 2018/19 the opportunity to screen this old archive of work in live audio-visual performance contexts arose. The first of these through curator and archivist Alex.G.Wilson and No Bounds – Festival of club culture, arts and technology. I was asked to provide visuals for a live DJ set by renowned UK music producer Adrian Sherwood. Having long been a fan and admirer of Adrian’s work and his Onu Sound record label, I jumped at the chance, headlining the Saturday night evening curated by artist Mark Fell at Trafalgar Warehouse, Sheffield, October 2018.

Wrangler performing with live Scratch video remix, London ICA, January 2019. (photos: E. Gabriel Edvy)

Scratch made a triumphal return to the ICA in January 2019, the gallery where it was first screened following its nascent beginnings at the Fridge nightclub, Brixton, in 1984. The London Short Film Festival asked Stephen ‘Mal’ Mallinder, founding member of Cabaret Voltaire, to curate an opening night event for the festival All This Scratching is Making Me Itch, dedicated to ‘Scratch aesthetic’ and an ‘excavation of the genre’. Mal asked me to be involved in remixing my old archive as part of a live audio-visual performance with his band Wrangler, and AV artist Dan Conway. With screens arrayed on three walls of the ICA’s large performance theatre and stacks of TV monitors, a programme of original Scratch works from the 1980s, newer work informed by Scratch, and live AV performances by Elsa Hewitt and Sweatmother set the scene for Wrangler’s headlining this opening night celebration.

These opportunities to revisit and remix old footage in contemporary live performance contexts are a welcome return to Scratch’s ‘spiritual home’ – the club context as recognised by both George Barber (1990) and Andy Birtwistle (2010) in their writing about Scratch (see Cope 2012, p.32). These and the response re-visiting Scratch has received through the screenings and publications outlined above underline the conclusions I make in my forth-coming chapter for The Radical Film Handbook (Routledge, 2019);

‘By unpacking the history of Scratch it becomes evident that the critical resonance, and radical waves of the movement continue to resonate thirty years after John Walker (1987) questioned its ability to survive the blows of mainstream media recuperation and can now be seen as a key herald of what new media theorist Lev Manovich calls ‘remix culture’.

screenings, performances, presentations, publications

Globus Hystericus video in collaboration with composer Professor Tim Howle, and journal article of supporting research contexts, Sightlines: Film-making in the Academy peer- reviewed online audiovisual journal, issue 1, Australian Screen Production, Education & Research Association, November 2015, ISSN 978-0-9943365-1-4. http://www.aspera.org.au/research/sightlines-globus-hystericus/

‘Scratch Video re-visited.’ Paper, Media Communications and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) Annual Conference, University of Northumbria, UK, January 2015.

Amen: Survive the Coming Hard Times (1984); Friendly Fires (1985); Suffer Bomb Disease (1985): Installation of Scratch video work; invited discussion panel member: Art Sheffield International Arts Festival; Sheffield, UK, April – May 2016.

Amen: Survive the Coming Hard Times and ‘Revisiting Scratch Video’ – video and journal article of accompanying research contexts selected for publication in ‘Aesthetics/Politics/Activism/Art: What is Radical Film?’ Screenworks special issue, the peer-reviewed online publication of practice research in film and screen media, Volume 7.3, December 2017 http://screenworks.org.uk/archive/volume-7-3/revisiting-scratch-video, ISSN 2514-3123.

Amen: Survive the Coming Hard Times (1984)Screening: as part of ‘The Problem of Perspective: Alternative Film and Video in Northern England’ a series of screenings illuminating a distinctly northern perspective on the history of artists’ moving image in England curated by Pavilion Arts, Leeds. Brewery Arts Centre Kendal, LUX London, Showroom Cinema Sheffield and Hyde Park Picture House Leeds, January-March 2017. http://www.pavilion.org.uk/events/2016/perspective/

Amen: Survive the Coming Hard Times (1984): Screening: as part of ‘Without Brutality: 25 Years of the Art and Design Research Centre’ Sheffield International Documentary Festival, Showroom Cinema, Sheffield, July 2018.

AV performance with Adrian Sherwood, FACT stage Curated by Mark Fell, No Bounds – Club Culture, Arts and Technology Festival, Sheffield 13 October, 2018. http://noboundsfestival.co.uk/artists/adrian-sherwood-live-av-

AV performance with Wrangler, Opening Night: All That Scratching Is Making Me Itch, London Short Film Festival, ICA London, January 11, 2019. https://shortfilms.org.uk/lsff2019/events/2019-01-11-opening-night-all-that-scratching-is-making-me-itch

‘Scratch Video Revisited’ in The Radical Film Handbook, Newsinger, J., Wayne, M. & Presence, S. (eds) University of Nottingham, Routledge, July 2019.

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