Subversion of the Mainstream Media

As part of the ongoing M+ Screenings series, This is Now: Film and Video After Punk examines the creative approaches and influences of artists during the post-punk era (1978–85). The project comprises six screening programmes, and is presented by M+ in partnership with the BFI National Archive and LUX.

The early 1980s saw an explosion in alternative and independent moving image production. Clubbers, art students, new romantics, and members of the post-punk scene used inexpensive domestic technologies to subvert the mainstream media and to find new modes of expression. Independent VHS tapes were released, stridently bypassing censorship, and Super 8 film was embraced as a cheap yet lyrical new medium. The DIY approach of punk was powerfully reborn.

Artists defied conventional ideas about how films should be made and who should make them. Female, gay, and black filmmakers pushed forward—squatting flats, clubbing, and developing new styles and techniques together. Derek Jarman and his collaborators John Maybury and Cerith Wyn Evans experimented with Super 8, casting friends Leigh Bowery and Siouxsie Sioux in fragmented, dreamlike scenarios. Isaac Julien and Grayson Perry explored the politics of cultural and personal representation, and major pop video director Sophie Muller (Beyoncé, Rihanna, the Strokes) printed and layered images on 16mm.

M+ Screenings: This is Now celebrates the diversity of independent moving image production from the UK in the 1980s, a unique moment when cheap new technologies enabled original voices to be heard. A dynamic aesthetic developed that shaped the look of film, television, fashion, and music for many years to come. The BFI National Archive has restored twenty Super 8 and 16mm films from this period; the majority of titles are presented for the first time in over three decades. Developed over several years, these programmes revisit a key period in the cultural life of the UK and reflect on the currency that this work has with Internet video and artist filmmaking today.