Luke Fowler: The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the Deluded Followers of Joanna Southcott
The film artist turns his attention to Marxist historian and CND activist EP Thompson as part of GENERATION
Luke Fowler’s ongoing fascination with icons of radical thought has extended from film works on punk band The Homosexuals and composer Cornelius Cardew to his Turner-nominated dissection of anti-psychiatrist RD Laing. Each of these has cut-and-pasted sound-and-vision collages of archive footage and newly filmed work to create a set of suitably world-turned-upside-down narratives. Like them, this 2012 study of Marxist historian and CND activist EP Thompson’s involvement with the Workers’ Educational Association is both an impressionistic portrait of its subject as well as a timely reminder of a vital figure all but airbrushed out of official history.
For this 61-minute piece, originally commissioned by the Hepworth, Wakefield, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Film and Video Umbrella, and now shown in Scotland for the first time as part of GENERATION, Fowler slows things down to play with form even more. As Ceryth Wyn Evans intones Thompson’s grimly poetic litanies over images of red-brick Yorkshire towns that move between the black-and-white bustle of the past and the barren back-streets and To Let signs of today, the film becomes both oral history project and living newspaper, complete with Brechtian captions and reflections of Fowler in assorted windows. As a conduit for working class autodidacts, the WEA has vital umbilical links with the free university movement and today’s autonomous zones. The Great Learning goes on.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh until Sun 2 Nov.