Let’s talk about expanded cinema – Poster session SEAPAVAA 2023

Dr Louise Curham from Curtin University’s iSchool starts a dialogue with audiovisual archivists of South East Asia about expanded cinema.

Here’s the recording of this talk:


And here’s what I say (not quite identical but pretty close)

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Hi everyone. Thanks very much for inviting me to be part of SEAPAVAA 2023. I want to begin by acknowledging I’m joining you from the lands of the Ngunawal people, the Aboriginal traditional owners of this land I’m on in Canberra.


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I’m here to talk about expanded cinema. I’ve been making, investigating and talking about expanded cinema for two decades as an artist, audiovisual archivist and more recently, as a scholar. What is expanded cinema? Its name can be traced to the American book from 1970 by Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema. It can be described as performance involving moving image media which activates the space in front of the projector lens.

I’ve spent time finding out about Australian work but quite a lot of my effort has been focused on British expanded cinema. Works like these from the Global North are well known well understood and accepted, and increasingly, collected and archived. From my recent investigations, the situation in Australia and New Zealand is mixed, a situation I have a hunch is similar across our Asia Pacific region. That’s why I’m here to start a dialogue with you about these works.

In this short talk I’m going to explain why these works matter, I’m going to report back on 2021 dialogues about this work in Australia and Aotearoa NZ and some of the reasons we uncovered for why this work is not well known.


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Why does this work matter? A recent book from the Tate on conceptual art in the UK sets out the link from expanded cinema to video art. The link is significant, there’s much to do to understand it better. But it’s not just the link to video art that’s important. Societies are dealing with the ever-increasing complexity of technology. Understanding how the public has engaged with new technology over time, including through the use of technology by artists, is important for us to understand the ethics and the impact of technology. That’s a big claim for artists getting out 16mm projectors in the late 60s and 70s, that they can help us understand our current techno-cultural situation but as that technology became available, it made sense to artists to do that. We know this because it’s been discussed a lot with regard to these works in Europe in the UK and in Japan. So their engagement is an important say for us to explore the impact of these technologies.


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In 2021 I was involved in a dialogue over 6 months with a group of artists, scholars and film programmers. Those dialogues showed that there are small groups who know about these works. Particularly important are people who’ve been involved in the communities that have produced them – the artists themselves. And this is where you, the AV preservation community, come in. My own experience with AV preservation tells me that those who must literally wind through the films, check the mag media and enter data into collection systems get to know about works and histories in a unique and valuable way. That’s my motivation for this conversation with you.

Insights from AV preservationists may be immensely valuable for a field like expanded cinema. This is because the works are hard to locate. In part, that’s because the language to describe them is mixed. Calling them expanded cinema is not something that has been systematically applied. The case study for this is the work that Dr Cathy Fowler at Otago University has been doing about scenes in New Zealand. Cathy’s work showed that seeking something called expanded cinema doesn’t get your far. But seeking something with 16 mm and live performance, for example, Super 8 and live performance, gets you further. But of course, those kinds of categories, such as ‘live’ can’t always be called up from collection management systems. One route is trawling through publications, exhibitions catalogues, film festival programs and conversations. But I hope reports from your practical contact might be another route.


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So, now I’m going to talk you through what we learn from our dialogue in 2021 and some of the themes that emerged. The dialogues were prep for the annual art history conference for Australia and NZ. For some months we met each fortnight to establish our common understanding. Sally Golding was part of this group. She is an Australian artist who spent 10 years in London and really led the experimental film scene and the expanded cinema community in London. The language that Sally used for her Unconscious Archives program was audio-visual performance. This goes by many names, noise, the experimental music scene, the expanded cinema scene. Some people might call it the handmade film scene or the artist-run film labs scene. Sally describes herself as an artist who focuses on networks.

Also in the conversation was Dirk De Bruyn. Dirk is a long-standing member of Australia’s experimental Film Community, an artist and scholar. He’s written quite extensively about experimental film, both, in Australia, and internationally.

Also on the panel was Dr. Cathy Fowler who had begun inquiries into the histories of experimental film in New Zealand and some of the examples she shared in that panel were really exciting. For example, Leon Narby’s Super 8 film performance installation from the 1980s, that happened at the opening of the Govett Brewster gallery. The fourth person involved in that panel was Jonathan Walley who is the author of Cinema Expanded, a really comprehensive book about expanded cinema practices, mostly from the Global North.

My own skin in this game is through my super 8 performance artworks. My investigations to try to find precedents for that Led me to 60s and 70s expanded Cinema. Notable for me was Jeffrey Shaw’s piece Corpocinema, but I soon found the London Filmmakers Co-op works and in my collaboration with artist Lucas Ihlein as Teaching and Learning Cinema we have taken up a practice of re-enacting these works, extending to preservation through re-enactment. So all five of us on that panel had skin in the game in different ways.

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I’ve mentioned we uncovered some interesting themes around visibility.

I’ve explained naming can hide – looking up expanded cinema delivers mixed and unrewarding results. Looking up 16 mm live, mixed media – again it’s hit and miss, so this is patient work as Cathy found trawling through the Alternative Film newsletter in New Zealand.

The other thing we discovered through Dirk’s work to look into what’s happened to Super 8 works made in Melbourne was that disheartenment is a risk for preservation.

There was a very vibrant super 8 film scene in Melbourne through the 80s and early 90s but there are few formal archives. Dirk sought to get work digitised but met challenges – artists were incredulous there could be interest in the work decades later when it had languished without attention for so long. Not all works were expanded cinema, many were experimental film. When it came to actually handing over their films, Dirk noticed a pattern emerging where the film makers never quite got round to it. And what we discerned here was that they didn’t really think anyone would take them seriously and they couldn’t really see the point in sharing that work. The low status of these works seems hardwired into the environment. That disheartenment as a risk for preservation really interests me.

Cathy also discovered the importance of scenes to uncovering work in New Zealand. The way audio-visual performance has emerged has really been through local communities – a ‘night’, people show up with gear and a new work gets made. The scenes in New Zealand through the 70s and 80s were quite distinct, in part because of the geography of New Zealand where it’s not so easy to travel between cities. The works don’t necessarily stand well alone, they made sense as part of the events they were made for. To use a high profile example, works like Anthony McCall’s Line Describing a Cone, originally made for a room of people and cigarette smoke, is quite different encountered as a continuous video projection in a white cube. How do we go about meaningfully archiving scenes, bringing the vibrancy and complexity into being in the future? I have some ideas around that from my re-enactment work but for now I’m going to leave it at noting that as a challenge archiving scenes.

The final point that we landed upon was the challenge of how to actually tell these histories. From our discussions we resolved the story needs to be polyvocal with lots of voices in order to capture the vibrancy. They need to be non-hierarchical – we don’t want to establish a cannon. What we’re looking for are lists, a kind of comprehensive account because a scene is made up of its many parts and without those parts, you cut down the value overall. We explored different models for making connections – to bring edges together and to address different experiences of value for what we expect is an uneven, fragmented story.

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So why does this stuff about visibility, naming problems, disheartenment and the kind

of histories we want to tell impact on preservation? What we’re doing is capacity building for preservation. We’re not yet at the point where we can actually preserve these works because we don’t yet know what the works are. Compare that with for example, the London Filmmakers Co-op, there’s a whole lot of work about the history of that place and scene that’s gone on that enables the value to get expressed by, for example, collecting institutions, acquiring and caring for those works. So of course, the challenge with our media, with acetate film, magnetic tape, early video formats etc is that they won’t wait. We haven’t got another 50 years to sit on our hands and see what happens. We need to explore how we can bring these histories into visibility now. I gave you my sales pitch for why that’s really important about us understanding, technology, engaging with technology ethically, understanding video art’s roots and how we’ve arrived at these uses of media.

So I’m really hoping that I can open a dialogue with you about these futures of expanded Cinema. I hope we can build a dialogue and partnerships to explore these histories across our region together. Thanks for listening.


Curham, L., & Golding, S. (Convenors.). (2021). Let’s talk about expanded cinema [panel in the Art Association of Australia and NZ 2021 conference]. https://www.aaanz21.live/panels1/panel-4

Duguet, A.-M., Klotz, H., & Weibel, P. (Eds.). (1997). Jeffrey Shaw: A user’s manual, from expanded cinema to virtual reality = Jeffrey Shaw: eine Gebrauchsanweisung, vom expanded Cinema zur virtuellen Realität. Cantz, see Corpocinema , photographed in Amsterdam, 1967, p 8.

McCall, A. (1973) ‘Line Describing a Cone’ in Lightshow, Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney July 2015, https://www.mca.com.au/artists-works/exhibitions/light-show/

Straw, W. (2004). Cultural Scenes. Loisir et Société / Society and Leisure, 27(2), 411–422. https://doi.org/10.1080/07053436.2004.10707657

Walley, J. (2020). Cinema expanded: Avant-garde film in the age of intermedia. Oxford University Press.

Wilson, A., & Tate Britain (Gallery) (Eds.). (2016). Conceptual art in Britain 1964-1979. Tate Publishing.

Youngblood, G. (1970). Expanded Cinema (First edition). Dutton. https://archive.org/details/expandedcinema

Additional resources

Barton, C. (2014). ‘Post-object and conceptual art – The rise of post-object art’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/interactive/43829/real-time-1970 (accessed 2 May 2023), for information about Leon Narby’s Real Time.

De Bruyn, D. (2023). The Shoring Project. [single frame animation of the Melbourne Super 8 Film Group newsletters 1986-2000]. https://vimeo.com/user16477524

De Bruyn, Curham, L & Zuvela, D. (In press). ‘Ghost Writing – where is Australian experimental film?’ in Handbook of Experimental Film, eds. J Walley and K Knowles. Palgrave Macmillan.

Golding, S. (2018). Parsing Digital: Conversations in Digital Art by Practitioners and Curators. Austria: Austrian Cultural Forum London

Ihlein, L., & Curham, L. (2015). Reaching Through to the Object: Re-enacting Malcolm Le Grice’s Horror Film 1. Performance Matters, 1(1–2), 24–40. https://performancematters-thejournal.com/index.php/pm/article/view/14

Artists Film Workshop comes to Canberra’s Antics Hair Microcinema Friday 17 Feb 730pm

Join us for an evening of recent and brand new work by the Artists Film Workshop, all on 16mm.
Lab members Sebastian Vaccaris and Paddy Hay have programmed a stellar line-up, it’s a first for Canberra to see works from  AFW, Australia’s most prolific contemporary artist-run film lab.
The line-up includes Anybody Coming to Dinner byAudrey Lam (2022) and Fade by Callum Ross-Thomson (2017).

Some of you saw China Not China at PhotoAccess in 2019 during The Stand-in Lab exhibition. This is a work by the internationally reknowned experimentalists Dianna BARRIE & Richard TUOHY. This work has featured in literally dozens of international festivals and screened on Mubi. Not to be missed! The knowledge and processes to produce this work are painstaking and Dianna and Richard have spent literally decades refining their craft (and they’re still quite young).

Check out the program here on Sydney experimentalists’ website, the Workshop for Potential Cinema.
Founded in Melbourne in 2009, Artist Film Workshop is an open film collective which provides access to knowledge and resources for filmmakers and artists working in sound and vision with photochemical film. When you’re next in Melbourne, visit the workshop to explore the darkroom that includes a 16mm contact printer, optical printer with custom-made electronics, 16mm and 8mm cameras, and projectors.
AFW is prolific with a 100+ Melbourne screenings in the past decade. Paddy and Sebastian are delighted to take this one on the road and voyage North up the Hume! Reserve a free spot on Eventbrite. Make a donation to AFW petrol costs while you’re there. If you like Facebook events, here it is.
Hit the road on Sunday 19 Feb to go up to Sydney to be part of the Workshop for Potential Cinema’s ‘soup boiler’ bucket colour processing day with AFW experts. Here’s the invite.

Antics Hair Microcinema

The old Antics Hair Salon in Canberra will come to life again in January and February 2023 as Canberra’s newest microcinema.

What: film screening/film performance event
Where: 8 Petrie Plaza, Civic, Canberra
When: 8-930pm Sat 14 Jan
Tickets: $10 donation

Over the past couple of years a group of Canberra artists interested in projection, reflection and moving image have gathered on and off and worked together in different constellations. Join us for screenings at 10 Petrie Plaza (opposite Ted’s Photographics) in Civic in the shop front that was Antics Hair’s final location.

On Sat 14 Jan, join Rowena Crowe from Wollongong, current lead of Sydney’s artists film lab, Workshop for Potential Cinema and local artists Caroline Huf and Louise Curham. We will screen new works originated in 16mm and super 8, some shown on these gauges, some digital.

Here’s a still from Rowena’s Dear Internet
Dear Internet

Dear Internet (and other stories)  is a performance for hand cranked 16mm projection and automated projection.

Early projectionists who hand cranked the projector were opposed to the automation of cinema. Fearing they would be brushed aside by machines they striked in protest. Rowena Crowe’s short, expanded work Dear Internet pays homage to the craft of hand cranked projection and is a critique of our digital times. When digital fatigue descends analogue film acts as antidote. Dear Internet, is an assemblage of found materials arranged in resistance to algorithms, gate keeper passwords, and big data mining.


In mid Feb, join Local Djinni lead Fiona Hooton for another film event and later in Feb, we hope to welcome Ben Taylor from Montreal’s La Lumiere Collective. 


Facebook event here

Louise Curham on Otherfilm Festivals 2006-8

Reposting here an article featuring TLC’s Louise Curham speaking about her memories of the Otherfilm festivals in Brisbane, from the REMIX website.

OtherFilm are a collective dedicated to experimental, avant-garde and expanded forms of art.

Recollecting OtherFilm in Brisbane. The first event I went to was at Queensland College of the Arts in one of the gallery spaces on the river side of the road there, the Southbank campus, I was invited by OtherFilm which was Sally Golding, Danni Zuvela and Joel Stern to come up and make some performances.

Danni had been tracking the work that I had been doing with the Sydney Moving Image Coalition (SMIC), some of it myself and quite a lot of it with Lucas, Lucas Ihlein. Lucas and I still collaborate together as Teaching and Learning Cinema. Danni had got wind of our research on Australian expanded cinema, which we had both become really independently become interested in expanded cinema. And we had an idea to try to drum up interest, I guess in an exhibition of some of this work to show some international work. Lucas really loved the work of the London Film Makers Co-op. He been over to London and met various people like Guy Sherwin and Malcolm Le Grice. He was interested in works like Malcolm’s Horror Film and I had found Corpocinema, the Jeffrey Shaw work and that was an important one in connection to a piece of art I was making at the time for my MFA. So we sort of in different ways, had gotten really interested in expanded cinema, this work that explored the performance of cinema really, and was also had a score-based element to it or at least our experience of it.

Here’s the link to the full article.

Three conjectural models for records people from ‘Tending the archive’

Three conjectural models for archives

There are three key ideas in my (Louise Curham’s) PhD thesis Tending the Archive that are relevant for the recordkeeping community. That community is broadly conceived as everyone interested in facts and how they get produced.

Conjectural model 1 – authenticity

There are three parts to my conjecture about authenticity.

1) Authenticity extends to the quality of the action that gets documented in the record. A good record of a duplicitous action is not going to support the record user.

2) Authenticity calls for a double-visioned experience. An encounter with a record needs to take into account both the event that the user seeks to reach through to, and the record that enables it. The authorship of that record will shape that access. Emphasising authorship of the record plays a role in authenticity.

3) Authenticity also calls for ethical use of the record that emphasises what remains true to the record and what varies from it in its new circulation.
Continue reading “Three conjectural models for records people from ‘Tending the archive’”

Trying out the (Wo)Man With Mirror user’s manual with Laura Hindmarsh in March & April 2016

In the last post, I explained how the time delay of almost 12 months has bought some useful thinking time. Here’s a short narrative of what we did with Laura over the weekends of 19-20 March and 6-7 April, 2016:

In suburban Canberra, Lucas and Louise are working with young artist Laura Hindmarsh who is here to try out using the user’s manual produced in 2009 for the Teaching and Learning Cinema re-enactment (Wo)Man With Mirror. The work takes place in three stages.

The first stage is to amass the resources needed for Laura to make the work which involves buying and painting a mirror, buying film stock, organising Pete Humble, our cinematographer friend to assist with filming Laura’s (Wo)Man With Mirror. There is an earlier blog post about the first meeting with Laura and measuring her up for her mirror.
Continue reading “Trying out the (Wo)Man With Mirror user’s manual with Laura Hindmarsh in March & April 2016”

Work starts on ‘using’ the (Wo)Man With Mirror user’s manual

Subtitle: Louise’s PhD uses (Wo)Man With Mirror as a case study for performance-dependent heritage and things that need passing on from person-to-person; why we involved an anthropologist; why this blog post is/is not a record.

At the Urambi Village Community Centre, Saturday 19 March 2016. Left to right: Louise Curham (Teaching and Learning Cinema), Laura Hindmarsh (artist), Peter Humble (cinematographer), Diana Glazebrook (foreground, anthropologist), Lucas Ihlein (Teaching and Learning Cinema).

Louise’s PhD uses (Wo)Man With Mirror as a case study for performance-dependent heritage and things that need passing on from person-to-person

In this picture, Teaching and Learning Cinema and colleagues are gathered in Canberra to work with visiting artist Laura Hindmarsh to ‘use’ Teaching and Learning Cinema’s (Wo)Man With Mirror user’s manual. We will spend the next two days getting to the point where we’ve shot Laura’s film.  A few weekends later, we’ll work with Laura as she puts together a performance using the film.
Continue reading “Work starts on ‘using’ the (Wo)Man With Mirror user’s manual”

Re-enact, repeat, reiterate, re-perform – a practitioner’s chat

Join us for an afternoon’s discussion about re-enactment and related practices at Westspace, Melbourne Saturday 9 July 2-4 pm

If you make work or think about work that connects with re-enactment, repetition, reiteration and re-performance, or you’re just curious, please come along.

Last November in Brisbane a group of artists, curators and academics spent an afternoon talking re-enactment, repetition and the like as part of an art history conference (more about that in an earlier post on this blog). Several of us will be in Melbourne to listen in at PSi#22, the international performance studies conference and we plan a follow-up chat to discuss our work further, mull over new thoughts and generally reflect on these ideas as we work with them in our practices. We welcome new participants to our conversation.

Continue reading “Re-enact, repeat, reiterate, re-perform – a practitioner’s chat”

Laura Hindmarsh and Man/(Wo)Man With Mirror

Last week Laura and I got together for our inaugural chat about using the user’s manual for (Wo)Man With Mirror. Laura’s participation has been a long time coming, started in 2014 with an unsuccessful TLC grant application. That project proposed putting the user’s manual to work with a group of artists in different cities and regions. As preparation for this current work with Laura has unfolded, that idea with multiple artists and locations was ambitious! The work for one artist alone is ample!

So what’s the plan for this work with Laura? Below is the logistics email sent out this week, some changes of course.

So to get back to Laura and I getting together last Tues … our purpose was to measure her up for a mirror, to fill her in about my PhD which hovers unsubtlely behind her using the user’s manual (her re-enacting our re-enactment is excellent data for my tending the archive project) and for me to learn more about what she’s up to on her PhotoAccess residency.
Continue reading “Laura Hindmarsh and Man/(Wo)Man With Mirror”

AAANZ Conference Brisbane 2015 – Re-enactment discussions

We had a terrific time with our six presenters at the AAANZ conference in Brisbane this week.

We’ve posted a document over here which outlines the theme of the discussions, as well as how we divided up the conversation, and the abstracts from our presenters.

Thanks to presenters Sandy Gibbs, Steven Ball, Georgia Banks, Greer Honeywill, Elizabeth Pulie, and Simone Hine.


Lucas Ihlein and Louise Curham