The best books on artists’ film and video

Nicky Hamlyn Author Of Film Art Phenomena
By Nicky Hamlyn

Who am I?

I am an artist-filmmaker, writer, and Professor of Experimental Film at the University for the Creative Arts in Canterbury, Kent, UK. I have worked at the London Filmmakers’ Co-op and BBC TV. I have been making films since 1974 and teaching since 1988. I have published extensively on Artists’ Film / Experimental Cinema. I have edited and contributed chapters to numerous other books and journals, including Millennium Film Journal, MIRAJ, Film Quarterly, Sequence, and others. I have completed over 70 single screen works in 16mm and video, gallery film and video installations, and multi-projector film performances. These have been screened worldwide.

I wrote...

Film Art Phenomena

By Nicky Hamlyn,

Book cover of Film Art Phenomena

What is my book about?

This book is a critical study of aspects of artists’ cinema / experimental film, video, and sound. There is an emphasis on the nature of the medium in order to explore a range of approaches to non-fiction filmmaking, in which film and video are treated as akin to the other visual arts - painting and sculpture. Through a close study of a number of works, the discussion covers a range of topics, from framing to digital media, installation to interactivity, point of view to sound, and synchronisation. The work of eminent artists such as Stan Brakhage, Malcolm Le Grice, and Michael Snow is considered, as well as younger makers such as Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, Jennifer Nightingale, and Colin Crockatt.

The books I picked & why

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Artists' Film

By David Curtis,

Book cover of Artists' Film

Why this book?

David Curtis’ copiously illustrated book is a wide-ranging yet detailed introduction to the world of artists’ film, with over 400 filmmakers discussed. The survey is rooted in the historical avant-garde of the 1920s and ‘30s but covers work up to the present day. While major figures such as Steve McQueen and Bill Viola are mentioned, equal space is devoted to little-known filmmakers from France, Poland, and elsewhere.

A History of Video Art

By Chris Meigh-Andrews,

Book cover of A History of Video Art

Why this book?

A meticulously researched and detailed historical and critical account of Video Art from the 1960s onwards. Meigh-Andrews’ study rightly focuses not least on technology - cameras, analogue tape, editing systems, synthesisers, etc, given the high impact that continuously evolving technological developments have had in opening up new aesthetic possibilities for artists working with moving images.

Experimental Cinema in the Digital Age

By Malcolm Le Grice,

Book cover of Experimental Cinema in the Digital Age

Why this book?

LeGrice was a founder of the London Filmmakers’ Co-op in 1968 and has worked ever since as a film and video maker, teacher, and writer. His book collects a large number of theoretical and critical essays on a range of topics, from film as material to the way films variously position the spectator as a consumer and/or self-conscious critic, to comparisons between film and digital media, in aesthetic, technological, and ecological terms. The essays are always approachable, even when he is discussing more abstract theoretical problems. Many examples are discussed.

Cinema by Other Means

By Pavle Levi,

Book cover of Cinema by Other Means

Why this book?

While written from a Yugoslav perspective, this book is a fascinating study of films made using unconventional methods, materials, and equipment, including ‘written films’: films that exist as texts and that would be impossible to make as films. Levi draws on the historical and the post-war avant-garde; Dada, Surrealism, Lettrisme, Structural-Materialist film, and other movements that constitute a material and ideological rejection of conventional cinema and the way it treats the medium as a mere means to an end. In these works, produced in Japan, Europe, and the USA, the technology is turned on itself, interrogated, and repurposed to anti-illusionistic ends.

The Place of Artists' Cinema: Space, Site and Screen

By Maeve Connolly,

Book cover of The Place of Artists' Cinema: Space, Site and Screen

Why this book?

Connolly’s book traces recent historical shifts in artists’ cinema via a number of overlapping trends; multi-screen video projections in galleries, work that ‘references an earlier event through documentation, re-enactment or remaking’ and that which explores the relationship between cinema, screen architecture, and the museum or gallery space. The implications of these trends; the mobile as opposed to seated spectator or the making of work designed to run as continuous short loops, is considered via detailed discussion of works by a small number of key artists. Connolly, unusually and refreshingly, is not afraid to criticise, as in her discussion of Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s film Zidane

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