Adam Pugh

Category: Writing

The Centre and the Periphery September 2020 (unpublished)

It seems unbelievable now, but there was a time, not so long ago, when many independent cinemas in this country looked not so very different from their commercial counterparts. They either imported the commercial model of governance and operation unchanged, or else bolted onto this corporate chassis ersatz art programmes and learning departments as a […]

66th Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen Art Monthly #438, July 2020

Viewed from most angles, at least for pre-internet curmudgeons, the very idea of an ‘online festival’ is painful, contradictory even. But needs must, and many film and art festivals have had scant time to decide whether to move to a remote model or else be cancelled entirely. What the experiment in Oberhausen this year confirms, […]

Fulfilment Centre Essay for 'WORK', Animate Projects, February 2020

Do we need work, or does it need us? The changing face of labour in the last few decades – towards automation, atomisation, autonomy – has, as all four of these films uncover, twisted even its own etymology. Here, dancing around between distribution hubs and foreclosed town centres, attentive companionship and relics of resistance is […]

49th International Film Festival Rotterdam Art Monthly #434, February 2020

Despite the bewildering array of thematic taxonomies at International Film Festival Rotterdam set on cross-referencing every film, somehow a distinct theme-between-themes remix emerged around collectivity, and it was this that enriched a small corner of the sprawling programme.  Whether as a means to make work, as something formed by the work, or as a route […]

This is a film? 65th Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen Art Monthly #428, July-August 2019

‘This is a film?’ opens Gerard Depardieu in Marguerite Duras’ Le Camion (The Lorry), 1977. ‘It would have been a film,’ replies Duras. ‘It is a film.’ It would have been in order that it is, unfolding entirely in the conditional, requiring cinema to undo itself by replacing illustration with imagination. Curiously, given its length […]

Circa Projects & Giles Bailey: Festival of the Not Art Monthly #424, March 2019

Eschewing the headed notepaper, marketing department and regular funding invariably associated with successful arts organisations in favour of what might be described as a studio-based curatorial practice founded on peer-led dialogue, Circa Projects doesn’t suffer the relative precarity of its situation as survivor but rather wills it as an essential condition for activity which is […]

Experimenta 2018 Art Monthly #421, November 2018

A programme strand within London Film Festival dedicated to artists’ moving image, Experimenta, a lonely noun in a sea of imperatives (LOVE! DARE! LAUGH!, the festival’s programme strands exhort) has for some time existed as a phantom limb; a stubborn barnacle on the granite rump of red-carpet galas and champagne breakfasts that define the capital’s […]

Radicality in stone: 64th Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen Art Monthly #418, July / August 2018

  What is striking about Oberhausen, a post-industrial, working-class city rebuilt extensively after the Second World War, is its enduring sense of the civic. With much in common, architecturally, with the New Towns movement of 1950s Britain, its neat public precincts and leafy boulevards testament to inter- and post-war Modernist resolve, it stands apart for […]

Back to the Future Essay for Moving Image Arts, Plymouth University

Uncompromising, abstract, a vessel for time before space, the cinema is the perfect site for artists’ moving image, and artists’ moving image is the perfect subject for the cinema. That the two have become estranged from one another belies the myriad resonances which still exist, and are pertinent now, perhaps, more than ever. To secure […]

Time Being: the films of Barbara Sternberg Catalogue essay for 63rd Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen

Descartes was wrong. The decision to sing is the first note of the song. —R F Langley, Touchstone Existing in suspension, Barbara Sternberg’s work plumbs the fathoms that separate the conscious and unconscious, the abstract and representational. Neither surfacing nor sinking, the central tension in her films is that of an unfulfillable quest, stalking the […]

New Artist Focus: Adam Pugh on Lucy Parker LUX website, March 2017

It is relatively easy to distil the political to a cool academicism, to view it only via the lens of historiography or to abstract it as a subject for detached art-historical amusement; rather less so to tackle the here-and-now, here and now; to seek an art which acts. London-based filmmaker Lucy Parker began making work on 16mm: […]

Liam Gillick, ‘Industry and Intelligence: Contemporary Art Since 1820’ Art Monthly #400, October 2016

Why are we seemingly locked in contemporary art’s cold embrace, an infinite present which elides future and past? How can we transcend ‘contemporary art’? To understand the former and prepare for the latter, artist Liam Gillick turns to lesser-known histories for lessons in Industry and Intelligence, a new genealogy which thinks backwards to revolutions in […]

Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen 2016: El Pueblo Art Monthly #397, June 2016

With more in common with a visual arts biennial than the standard film festival model, Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen is unusual for the intellectual space it sets aside for a substantial thematic programme—and, notably, for its continued commitment to doing so. ‘El Pueblo’, this year’s theme curated by Buenos Aires-based Federico Windhausen, promised a socio-historical take on the political […]

A milligram of radium in the tranquil dark Exhibition text for 'Animate OPEN: Parts and Labour', November 2015

‘Reality precedes the voice that seeks it, but as the earth precedes the tree, but as the world precedes the human, but as the sea precedes the vision of the sea, life precedes love, the matter of the body precedes the body, and in turn language one day will have preceded the possession of silence.’ -Clarice […]

Grace Schwindt: Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society (Site Gallery, Sheffield) Art Monthly #384, March 2015

Which begets the freedom of the other, the individual or the society? Is the idea of ‘individual political freedom’ itself a logical conundrum? These are the questions that Grace Schwindt’s rigorous, measured and intellectually demanding film tackles. Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society asserts a dynamic force between fractions and units, the […]

Profile of Gintaras Didžiapetris Art Monthly #381, November 2014

The page in front of you is a container for a particular text, for a fixed and determined semantic which points towards something else, more or less tangible. But the page is also a plane, a surface, an object with an edge. It is a history of all pages and all paper, yet it is […]

Oberhausen: Memories Can’t Wait – Film Without Film Art Monthly #377, June 2014

The theme for this year’s Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, ‘Memories Can’t Wait – Film Without Film’ was auspicious, both for the space and scale it afforded programmatically and for its application across historical and contemporary modes. In notable contrast to last year’s somewhat hermetic theme of ‘Flatness’, and perhaps by way of an antidote, ‘Memories Can’t […]

Camille Henrot: The Pale Fox (Chisenhale Gallery, London) Art Monthly #375, April 2014

Everywhere in Camille Henrot’s formidable exhibition ‘The Pale Fox’ is the frame, the bounded box, the vernacular of the desktop window. But here, too, is its antidote, in the form of the unformed, curved and chaotic, via ruptures, slippages, disjunctures or stoppages; and in the wild metastasis of the proliferation of the image. Curse and […]

Claire Hope: Group Photo this is tomorrow, March 2014

It is becoming difficult to know where we stop representing and start being represented; where the shift in agency from scriptwriter to actor occurs. Complicated by contradictory concepts of self and other, the individualist promise of capitalism and the consequent erosion of the social, it is this territory which Claire Hope’s assured new commission traverses. […]

Melvin Moti: Hyperspace (The Majestic, Leeds) Art Monthly #371, November 2013

The theory of a fourth dimension was pursued hungrily by artists in the early 20th century, with Marcel Duchamp, Theo van Doesburg and many of the cubists tackling the questions – geometrical, philosophical, epistemological – that it raised. Implicitly folding in this history, and guided by a beguiling Victorian text by Edwin Abbott Abbott, Flatland: […]

59th Oberhausen International Short Film Festival Art Monthly #367, June 2013

Into a structure which supports a relatively conventional international competition, the august yet still fleet Oberhausen International Short Film Festival incorporates expansive, invitational thematic programmes and monographic screenings, supported by discursive events. It was as moderator of one such session, intended to unpack curator Shama Khanna’s theme ‘Flatness: Cinema After the Internet’, that I attended. […]

Laure Prouvost: The Artist Book (Book Works) Art Monthly #366, May 2013

The artist’s biography that opens Laure Prouvost’s The Artist Book is, like her films, an exercise in translation and reception, authorship and authority. Or, rather, an exercise in mistranslation and obfuscation, authorlessness and – with a nod to Georges Bataille, who unwittingly provides the book’s cover – formlessness.  Or, as the ‘author’ puts it, in […]

Review: Members’ Show (Outpost, Norwich) Art Monthly #363, February 2013

A sense of resourcefulness pervaded Ruth Ewan’s strong selection for the annual Outpost Members’ Show, from the formal economy of the readymade to work which circled source and resource at a political level. Moving image featured heavily,  and both Stella Ouzounidou and Scott Massey addressed the market and the flow of capital via performative video […]

Marine Hugonnier: ‘Ariana’ Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

The structures and mechanisms of power haunt Marine Hugonnier’s film Ariana. Set in the Pandjshêr Valley in Afghanistan, a fertile, verdant place walled in by the high peaks of the Hindu Kush, what begins as a document of a film being made becomes an allegory for the process of representation itself, and its attendant implications […]

Cyprien Gaillard: ‘Cities of Gold and Mirrors’ Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

“I, who have felt the horror of mirrors Not only in front of the impenetrable crystal Where there ends and begins, uninhabitable, An impossible space of reflections” —Jorge Luis Borges, Mirrors (in Dreamtigers) History forgets. Obscures, revises, obliterates, but principally, forgets; forgoes, forges afresh: an histoire. What should be a deeply layered, patinated place, Cancún, […]

Beatrice Gibson: ‘Agatha’ Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

“What I can name cannot really prick me,” Roland Barthes writes in Camera Lucida, positing that the photographic  image, ironically, is activated not by its sense of verisimilitude but precisely the opposite: the presence of the  indefinable, the unnameable. An image which is entirely explained and explainable – in which meaning exists in a closed […]

Aglaia Konrad: ‘Concrete and Samples’ Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

Aglaia Konrad’s work across photography and film surveys the built form with a quiet, careful regard. Her studies of  architecture function individually as documents, portraits, yet together transcend any reductive reading to form a  corpus which mines greater depths. Circling the indeterminate, liminal spaces where the built abuts the unbuilt, the   enclosed faces the excluded, […]

Apparent Positions Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

“The territory in question must be able to exist in any region on the surface of the globe; therefore we must study under what conditions it remains inaccessible, not only to ships, airplanes or other vehicles, but even to the eye. I mean that it might be possible, theoretically, for it to exist in the […]

Seamus Harahan: Cold Open (Gimpel Fils, London) Art Monthly #360, October 2012

Seamus Harahan’s is a ludic world of porous borders in which the agency of the author hesitates and modulates, confronts then eludes the viewer. In two new video works Cold Open, 2010, and Auftakt, 2011, the artist pursues a game of and about chance, and about the construction of meaning via inference and implication, creating […]

Benedict Drew: Gliss (Cell Projects, London) Art Monthly #357, June 2012

After the death of God, there was no return to earth or radical re-imagining: our secrets and fears stayed skybound. Now data is ‘served’ to us magnanimously, ‘pushed’ down to we leaden receptacles, we mute receivers. ‘On earth’ – whatever that may mean now – we search for meaning in barren soil under the beneficent […]

Where You Had Been: six films by Nick Collins, Peter Todd and Margaret Tait Screening notes

The light passes from ridge to ridge, from flower to flower – the hepaticas, wide-spread under the light grow faint – the petals reach inward, the blue tips bend toward the bluer heart and the flowers are lost. -HD, from Evening (in Sea Garden, 1916)   It is all too easy to look but not […]

Artists’ Film International (Whitechapel Gallery) Art Monthly #356, May 2012

The current iteration of Artists’ Film International explores, via five films, themes of displacement, migration, transience and loss. At the same time, the works crystallise some current threads in artists’ moving image practice: the documentary and the ‘social turn’; the abiding importance of the performative; and a rekindled interest in language. Indeed, a wider sense […]

Gabriel Abrantes & Daniel Schmidt’s ‘Palácios de Pena’ Experimenta blog, London Film Festival 2011

From the outset, Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s Palácios de Pena establishes for itself a sense of veiled purpose, effecting a curious disjuncture in both narrative and form. Sumptuously, meticulously photographed; cinematic; yet curiously at odds with its conventional mantle, it dances between feature film and long-form artist’s work, never quite allowing itself to be […]

Hannes Schüpbach: Moments of Becoming Artesian, forthcoming

“My own instinct is that the poles of existence and nonexistence alternate at an extremely fast speed, and that we float in  that alternation. We don’t experience the nonexistence, the moments between existence; there is no way to perceive  these moments as such. But accepting their presence aerates life, and suffuses the “solid” world with […]