Found Film Footage by George Clark
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Found Film Footage by George Clark

Rose Hobart, Joseph Cornell

Rose Hobart, Joseph Cornell

“One need not look for new, as yet unseen images, but one must work with existing ones in such a way that they become new,” Harun Farocki.

To accompany the article on artist filmmaker Duncan Campbell’s use of archives for his acclaimed films Bernadette (2009) and Falls Burns Malone Fiddles (2003) here are seven works representing different facets of found footage work, from pop art collages to political essays to promo music videos and subversive documentaries, these films explore the aesthetics, politics and ethics of appropriation in our mediated society.

1. Rose Hobart, Joseph Cornell (1936)

Prompting accusation of theft from Dali’s unconscious, this classic film from reclusive America surrealist Joseph Cornell is a non-linear tribute to his favorite actress, made by re-editing her exotic feature East of Borneo (1931) and giving birth to the concept of ‘found footage.’

2. America Is Waiting, Bruce Connor (1982)

Filmmaker and artist Bruce Connor, pioneered the use of found footage in his early works such as A MOVIE (1958) and Report (1963-67). America Is Waiting is a dense collage of industrial and military footage made to accompany the track by Brian Eno and David Bryne from their record Life in the Bush of Ghosts. The film and the music both paved the way for the development of audio and visual sampling and the emergence of the music video.

3. WR: Mysteries of the organism, Dusan Makavejev (1971)

Taking the aesthetics of soviet montage, Yugoslav provocateur Dusan Makavejev added the missing element of satire to create ‘Eisenstein with jokes’. Banned in his home country, WR is a international exploration of the relationship of radical politics and sex, exploring the controversial theories of sexologist Wilhelm Reich, rejected by Europe and imprisoned in USA. The film is available on DVD from the Criterion Collection.

4. Images of the World and the Inscription of War, Harun Farocki (1988)

German essay filmmaker Harun Farocki‘s most acclaimed film, Images explores the industrial processes behind the construction of images and what is seen and what isn’t when we look at images. Farocki reveals the gap between seeing and understanding, revealing how all images are ‘found’ and only reveal what they were produced to show.

5. Sonic Outlaws, Craig Baldwin (1995)

San Francisco based filmmaker Craig Baldwin has been making anarchic found footage films since the mid-70s. Sonic Outlaws explore emergent issues around intellectual property and freedom of expression through an investigation of experimental music group Negativland’s legal battle with U2, when they were hypocritically sued by the ‘liberal’ Irish rockers for this subversive EP ‘U-2′ and the use of unauthorised sampling. Full version available on DVD from The Other Cinema.

6. Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, Johan Grimonprez (1997)

A brilliant and prophetic exploration of the relationship of media, terrorism and the aeroplane industry, a brilliant visual essay from Belgian artist Johan Grimonprez. Full version available on DVD from The Other Cinema.

7. It Felt Like a Kiss, Adam Curtis (2009)

Watch It Felt Like a Kiss on the BBC website.

BBCs resident subversive, Curtis has built a substantial reputation for his powerful political documentaries constructed out of material from the BBC archives, such as The Trap (2007) and The Power of Nightmares (2004). His latest film, It Felt Like a Kiss, is produced in collaboration with theatre company Punchdrunk and presented online, embracing new forms of broadcast and experience.


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  1. [...] spotted a cool primer on Found Footage by George Clark over at the ace new Engine site. Amongst the seven video works he’s chosen [...]




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