In a recent conversation, a friend and I were reflecting on how the current pandemic and the enduring struggle for social justice and equality carries dramatic losses, individual and communal. Individually, we mourn people dear to us – for some parents, grandparents, children, friends, or neighbours. Collectively, we regret the loss of people we did not know – people we would have never even met. We are also losing a generation of reference; people that have marked vital episodes of our recent history. Their critical inputs were sometimes canonical, sometimes counter-cultural. Whatever they were, they have already been part of a film, or they will be one day.
‘What would you make a film about?’ asked Ed Webb-Ingall to the neighbours of the Church Street area in his project People Make Videos, during a workshop that took place in summer 2016. Today, if I were to make a film about something, it would be about everyday life. Particularly now, as screens have come to define a substantial part of our lives.
I would dedicate the film to everything that is left out of the picture. And, I don’t mean the books on those shelves. I mean whatever is happening in the room we see behind the person in the right upper corner; the encoded sound that sneaks in through the computer’s microphone; what happens once the conversation or the meeting is over.
With these thoughts in mind this week, I have turned my interest to The Showroom’s projects around community video and television. Over the years, former colleagues Emily Pethick and Louise Shelley curated these with an emphasis on people’s agency in claiming their power to narrate through collected images and voices – the ability and will to protest overcoming individual or collective fears. Because somehow, today like then, we feel sheltered among others, we feel ourselves while amongst people.
This Fortnightly Highlight would not be possible without artist Anton Kats and members of the Fourth Feathers Youth Club and Community Centre, a collaborative archive we are updating with new content. And artist Ed Webb-Ingall, whose doctoral research on community videos in the 1970s was carried out partly in partnership with the London Community Video Archive and Church Street area locals. To Anton and Ed, thank you for your work then and now. And to our Church Street neighbourhood, a community that for years has been contributing to make this organisation a hub for caring and communal collaboration – we miss you dearly.
Elvira Dyangani Ose
Director, The Showroom
(Image: Anton Kats, Fourth Feathers TV: Take Over, Film still, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and The Showroom)