Last Writes: 70×70 @ The Barbican

Here is a short piece written by Iain Sinclair for the 70×70 grand final.

According to the Psalmist: ‘The days of our years are threescore and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.’

Thanks to Paul Smith (for the original and unworkable notion) and to Stanley Schtinter (for working it), my first bonus year after that biblical allotment has been about flying, bunker to coop, Hackney Picture House to Elephant and Castle, talking about (and sometimes staying to view) a catalogue of 70 films. On a number of occasions, Chris Petit has stepped in for me, and improved the day with his insights into the current state of play; the era of decommissioning, films without film, museums of loneliness. Gareth Evans is always somewhere at hand, melting down defunct projects and alchemising them into something new.

The party comes to an end at the Barbican this coming weekend, June 7 & 8. Footfalls are welcome.

On Saturday we will screen a bunch of films rarely if ever seen (never in public places). The show begins with a 16mm piece made in Dublin in the early ‘60s, with Tom Baker (of future Witchfinder General fame), and continues, by way of a 1967 documentary about Allen Ginsberg, to 8mm diary records (in the spirit of Jonas Mekas) recording communal life in Hackney. Maggid Street,a fictional extension of this activity, was cooked up with the collaboration of the sculptor/poet/performance artist Brian Catling. And later finessed with graphics by Dave McKean. Catling, now a celebrated international artist, and author of The Vorrh (sold to major publishers in USA and UK), will be present. And there will be discussions with Chris Petit and Susan Stenger, whose compositions and sound retrievals form a major component in several of the films.

On Sunday, there will be a programme of more public features, television and sponsored film commissions. Three of the films, not available on DVD, were made in partnership with Petit: The Cardinal and the Corpse, The Falconer, Asylum. They will be followed by films made by Andrew Kötting, which will include the collaborative pedalo voyage from Hastings to Hackney, Swandown. And a trailer for the latest Kötting/Sinclair madness, By Our Selves, a tramp in the footsteps of the poet John Clare, Epping Forest to his home village, north of Peterborough. Clare is inhabited by Freddie Jones. Kötting is hidden inside a Straw Bear. There will be further dialogues, debates, with participants. As well as predictably unexpected bonus items.

One of the final 70×70 shows – a great triple bill – drew an audience of four people (three participants and a single outsider). I was not discouraged. Indeed, that afternoon felt very much like the best obituary for a certain kind of cinema and for the whole concept to travelling across London to locate the special places where films are curated.

The Barbican gathering won’t happen again, not for me. Most of these films will disappear into lock-ups and insecure vaults. (Apart from the Kötting pieces, which will be vigorously and constantly promoted by the performer/artist. And available at the touch of a website.) I look forward to finding out what happens. As the last chapter of this fiction of listing and (mis)remembering.

3 comments to Last Writes: 70×70 @ The Barbican

  • Glenn Wood

    The Cardinal and the Corpse, The Falconer, Asylum. Don’t let these rot away in storage, unseen. There are people outside London for whom these films having been alluring mysteries since the days of Driff’s Guide 3rd Edition. If they can’t be put out on DVD for some reason (are you out there, BFI?) drop them anonymously on to YouTube or Vimeo or hand them over to Ubuweb. Let them go feral.

  • Glenn Wood

    “have been” not “having been”. Darn. Shoot.

  • Noisemonkey

    I will upload Falconer at some point

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