Next in our series of guest posts about DIY / emergency screen culture during shutdown, artists & founders of Moving Image Artists, Daniel & Clara, write about taking their monthly sharing & networking event online.
In Spring 2019 we moved from Portugal to the UK. Having spent several years living and working in the relative isolation of a small Portuguese seaside town, we arrived in London very eager to connect with other artists. We hoped to find a place where artists working with moving image would gather together to show work, share ideas and collaborate – something like the film co-ops of the 1970s and ’80s – an open artist-run space that we could get involved with. There is a vibrant moving image scene in the UK and there are many fantastic organisations dedicated to the various manifestations of moving image, each one with its own particular focus and vibe, but there seemed to be no one space where all types of creators could gather, share work and cross-pollinate. It was to serve this need that we started the Moving Image Salon.
Alongside our practice we have always strived to support others, it is important for us to do what we can to champion the creativity of our fellow artists. We are interested in all the possibilities of moving image as an art form and excited to see what other artists are doing and learn about their particular creative processes. Our goal with the Moving Image Salon is to create a space that isn’t medium, style or genre specific but that focuses on the creative possibilities of working with moving image – whether that is experimental film, video art, expanded cinema, celluloid, digital, VR, AR, installation or anything else in between and beyond.
Over the years we have organised a number of screening events, festivals and publications, and when planning the Salon we looked back over everything we had learnt from our successes and failures and let that inform what we would do. We knew that it should be free to attend and that it should be as open as possible while still having a clear structure. Each Salon would have a featured guest artist for the first half and an open platform for anyone attending to share work in the second half. We also wanted to create a space where every attendee is taken seriously, no matter what stage they are at in their practice. A space where creativity and imagination are valued on their own terms. A space of openness, fellowship, generosity and curiosity.
So less than a month after arriving in the UK we launched the first ever Moving Image Salon in a room kindly made available to us by Film and Video Umbrella. We invited our friend Toby Tatum to be the featured guest at the first event. We knew he would be perfect to start this off, not only because of the uniqueness of his beautiful landscape films, but also because we knew from our previous collaborations with Toby that he would understand the importance of the kind of space and conversations we were trying to open up for moving image artists. He also happens to be a very articulate artist who can elucidate the depths of his own creative process while offering sharp insights into moving image art in general.
The room was packed – several people over capacity – but we somehow managed to squeeze everyone in. We started by asking everyone to introduce themselves briefly and encouraging them be a part of the conversation and at any point to ask a question or share their thoughts. We hoped this would be enough to break the hierarchical spell that always exists between the host, the featured artist and the audience, and we were happy it did – the conversations flowed, the room buzzed with excitement and in the open platform several people shared their work.
We see our job as hosts not to make judgements over any of the work shown – our role is to ask good questions, to make observations and try to get to the heart of what each artist really cares about. We have found that if we can get an artist speaking openly and honestly about their creative process and personal obsessions then the conversations become truly riveting and insightful. Nothing inspires and reveals more than passion!
After the first Salon it was clear that we were not the only ones feeling the need for a space like this and there were many others seeking the same thing. This gave us the confidence to continue and in no time a community began to emerge around the Salon, with friendships, collaborations and projects growing from the conversations.
The Moving Image Salon took place once a month throughout 2019 and into early 2020, but when the first lockdown was announced in March 2020 like everyone else we had to cancel our upcoming events. There were suggestions of doing them online but at that time we felt it was better to wait until we could go back to doing them in person – for us the Salon’s magic was so much about being in a room with other artists, projecting films and the conversations that follow, that we didn’t feel we could carry that across to an online space. And at that time we also thought that the world would be back to normal within a few weeks or months!
As time went by requests for an online Salon increased, and realising restrictions would last much longer than anyone had expected, we decided to give it a try. In the Autumn we tentatively organised a one-off online session, a test to see what worked and what didn’t. By this point we had attended a number of online events and were starting to get a sense of what the limitations and possibilities were. Showing videos through Zoom is problematic, the quality can be very poor and the sound can lag, but we found that sharing Vimeo links was a good solution for this. The best use of Zoom seems to be for discussions and presentations so we decided this would be more the focus than showing films.
For the first online event we invited artists Kai Fiáin, Sapphire Goss and Karel Doing to be the featured guests. The session centred on discussing the immediate subject we had all been dealing with: the effect of the pandemic and lockdown on the creativity, imagination and creative process of moving image makers; the three artists had all been creating new projects during this time, either in response to the new conditions or somehow informed by the restrictions.
As we were all still attempting to navigate this new reality and dealing with what was now possible, it was invigorating to see that restrictions also offered opportunities that were previously unthought of. In spite of everything, we felt that the exchange and openness that we always seek to foster was still possible in this online space and had the added benefit that people from further afield could now also join in, so the event was a great success and presented a new possibility for us. We did a couple more testing sessions before setting the plans in motion for our current activities.
Following the success of our previous events, we have received an Arts Council of England grant for MIA NOW, a series of online Salons, masterclasses, mentoring and newly commissioned articles. MIA NOW launched in August 2021 with a Salon featuring artist Himali Singh Soin, and we have events every month between now and April 2022.
Something we have learnt from these experiences is that it’s important to be flexible, to adapt and try to understand what is needed. We know we can’t do everything, so we try to understand the limits and look at the situation and ask how can we deliver something meaningful with the resources available. The pandemic has shown us how everything that seems disruptive and negative also has a positive side, there are always opportunities available no matter how bad things seem. Creativity is so important, especially in these times of crisis. What it offers is a way of seeing things from a different perspective, it’s not about finding finite answers but a process of exploration bridging the gap between the known and as yet undiscovered. We hope that the Salon is a space for making this happen.
When the lockdown restrictions first started we were focused on how doing the Salons online wasn’t as good as in person, but we shifted our perspective to focus on what was possible and what the online experience can offer that the live one can’t. It is our intention to return to live in-person events in the future but the form these will take may change. So much has happened over the last year and a half that we can have no fixed plan of what will be best for the future – all we know is that artists will keep creating and that it is important to come together to share and support each other, and that if something we need doesn’t exist then we must create it!
The Moving Image Salon is free and open to any artist working with moving image.
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ALSO IN THE SERIES:
- RADIANT CIRCUS on DIY / emergency screen culture.
- Jade Evans on Carol Morley’s #FridayFilmClub
- Michelle Facey on Kennington Bioscope’s silent cinema channel KBTV
- Julia Brow of eco film club No Planet B on finding new content collabs
- Catriona Mahmoud on taking Screen25 community cinema online with Stream25
- Sarah Kathryn Cleaver on building Zodiac Film Club’s Instagram community
Vol:02 / REVIVAL?
Our next series of commissions will focus on the theme REVIVAL?, taking its title from our audience-backed #ReviveTheDark campaign. If CRISIS? asked ‘what happened?’, REVIVAL? will ask ‘what happens next?’. It will share a series of arguments for more diverse and distinctive cinema. And it will show how, rather than any single ‘great white film’ coming to save the cinema experience, the foot soldiers in this particular fight are the DIY exhibitors hacking the cinema experience to make it matter to them, and to the audiences who find their way to the light.
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