Simon Fraser University

Welsby films go on world tour

Sep 05, 2002 , vol. 25, no. 1

By Carol Thorbes
A Simon Fraser University filmmaker's use of moving images as visual art is spotlighted in a major retrospective exhibition touring the world.

Three of Chris Welsby's experimental films and a six-projector film installation are featured in Shoot Shoot Shoot-The First Decade of the London Film-Makers' Co-operative & British Avant-Garde Film 1966-76.

The Tate Gallery of Modern Art in London, England launched the experimental film and video exhibition in May. It is touring Europe, the Americas and Japan.

The exhibition will be at Vancouver Pacific Cinematheque and the Blinding Light in January 2003.

The London Film-Makers' Co-operative (LFMC), founded in 1966, became an international voice for filmmakers about structural materialism during the 1970s and 1980s.

The movement's members, including Welsby, used the medium of film to ask: “What is film?”

“The same question was being asked in all the arts during the first half of the 20th century,” says Welsby (above), a LFMC member since 1972.

“The project in each discipline was to ask what is music, what is painting and how can we imagine it being different from the way it is?”

Welsby, a film and video instructor at SFU's school for the contemporary arts, draws his influences from 20th century artists such as Mark Rothco, Sol Lewit and Agnes Martin.

Welsby's films and videos question the relationship between nature and technology. They encourage questions about the viewer's participation in that relationship.

Illumination TV, a company that produces arts documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4 in England, is currently filming a series of interview-based profiles about prominent contemporary artists. A segment will examine Welsby's practice and philosophies.

“I think that moving images will turn out to have been one of the most important visual art media since the turn of the century,” predicts Welsby.

“Many major art galleries exhibit experimental film and video as a key part of their exhibition programs. They also have major curatorial programs, the main purpose of which is to purchase moving image works.”

Originally from Exeter, England, Welsby made more than 30 experimental films and installations before coming to SFU in 1989.

He currently works primarily with digital video and is preparing for an Australian exhibition and film retrospective tour in February 2003.