Open City Documentary Festival

7 – 13 September 2022
in London

In Dialogue: Luke Fowler & Morgan Quaintance

Location Genesis Cinema, Date Event has passed

Luke Fowler’s 16mm films tell the stories of alternative movements in Britain, from psychiatry to photography to music to education. Morgan Quaintance’s work – also often shot on 16mm – explores collective cultural, social, and political moments from the past that shape our present. Both filmmakers interweave archival footage with their own camerawork, articulating a relationship between the personal and the collective, the amateur and the professional. This screening, which will be followed by a conversation between Fowler and Quaintance, will present their work in dialogue for the first time. It focuses on recent works which take a personal turn and will also include a new sound work by Luke Fowler.

Mum’s Cards
Luke Fowler | 2018 | UK | 9’ | 16mm
Mum’s Cards is a tender and oblique film portrait of the ground-breaking sociologist of culture, Professor Bridget Fowler, who is also Fowler’s mother. A portrait constructed in absence – in which index cards, a system used for note keeping over many decades, serve as a proxy for an image of the scholar herself. Mum’s Cards also transcends the portrait form to address issues around class and gender in British academia, as well as philosophical questions around the organisation of knowledge.

Listening in a place (Heartlandscape Orkney)
Luke Fowler | 2021 | UK | approx. 30’

For this one-off performance, Luke Fowler presents a spatial sound composition from quarter inch reels and optical soundtracks that he re-discovered in Margaret Tait’s archive. This is the second work Fowler has made in tribute to the legacy of Tait, having also completed his short film Houses (for Margaret) for the centenary. This new work was produced entirely from sounds, music and poetry found in the late filmmaker’s tape archive. The tapes were digitised by Fowler as part of his ongoing research into Tait for a feature length portrait, which is forthcoming. With thanks to Dr. Sarah Neely (Margaret Tait 100) and Orkney Library & Archive.

Surviving You, Always
Morgan Quaintance | 2020 | UK | 18’ | digital

“We were teenage acid casualties.” Morgan Quaintance’s account of adolescent experiences with psychedelic drugs – told through still images and on-screen text – is contrasted with the transcendental promise of consciousness expansion advocated by the likes of Timothy Leary on the soundtrack. Quaintance’s highly personal narrative exposes the crude reality and violence of growing up in South London in the early 1990s (“there was no fourth dimension”) and is written from the perspective of the survivor.

For Dan
Luke Fowler | 2021 | UK | 12’ | 16mm

A companion piece to Mum’s Cards, For Dan explores an intense period of correspondence between the artist’s late father and his closest friend, radical university lecturer Dan O’Neill. Filmed in an eco-community in Queensland, the film impressionistically documents both the friendship between these two young men and sketches a partial political history of Australia in the early 1960s.

A Human Certainty
Morgan Quaintance | 2021 | UK | 20’ | digital

A heartbreak song, told through onscreen text, photographic stills and 16mm images – the beauty and sadness both unbearable and inevitable. Once again, Quaintance uses different layers of sound, music, images and text to build a personal narrative that is both looking inwards and outwards – autobiographical and romantic but not oblivious to societal issues and urban violence. Made during and between lockdowns, the filmmaker thinks about the lives of medieval saints and the photographer Weegee, whilst he considers separation, loss and death: “If the future is for the living, then memories are a graveyard for the dead.”

Followed by a conversation with Luke Fowler and Morgan Quaintance

Scottish artist, filmmaker and musician Luke Fowler (1978) has developed a practice that is, at the same time, singular and collaborative, poetic and political, structural and documentary, archival and deeply human. With an emphasis on communities of people, outward thinkers and the history of the left, his 16mm films tell the stories of alternative movements in Britain, from psychiatry to photography to music to education. Whilst some of his early films dealt with music and musicians as subjects, in later works sound itself becomes a key concern.

Morgan Quaintance is a London-based artist and writer. His moving image work has been shown and exhibited widely at festivals and institutions. He is the recipient of the 2021 Jean Vigo Prize for Best Director at Punto de Vista, Spain, and the 2021 Best Experimental Film Award at Curtas Vila do Conde, Portugal, both for the film Surviving You, Always (2021); the 2020 New Vision Award at CPH:DOX and the 2020 Best Experimental Film award at Curtas Vila Do Conde, Portugal , both for the film South (2020). Over the past ten years, his critically incisive writings on contemporary art, aesthetics and their socio-political contexts, have featured in publications including Art Monthly, the Wire, and the Guardian, and helped shape the landscape of discourse and debate in the UK. A key reference here is his 2017 text The New Conservatism: Complicity and the UK Art World’s Performance of Progression, available here: