UK Cinemas to Screen Art Films to Unsuspecting Moviegoers

Watch an art film with your Hollywood blockbuster.

Check out these leading art documentaries. Photo: Alexandre Chassignon via Flickr.
Check out these leading art documentaries. Photo: Alexandre Chassignon via Flickr.

On Monday, the UK launched an initiative that aims to introduce movie goers to art films by screening four- to six-minute works of video art in cinemas before the start of scheduled movies.

Supported by the Arts Council England and co-organized by the Independent Cinema initiative and the arts non-profit Lux, the program commissioned artists Corin Sworn, Gabriel Abrantes, Dora García, Naeem Mohaiemen, and Margaret Salmon to produce new video works for the project.

According to a statement cited by the Art Newspaper, the art films will be screened unannounced “enabling cinema-goers to discover experimental content with an unexpected injection of art.”

Corin Sworn The Coat (2016) Photo: Video still via Independent Cinema Office

Corin Sworn The Coat (2016)
Photo: Video still via Independent Cinema Office

Unsurprisingly, news of the project was ridiculed by some sections of the media. The Observer declared that the UK plans to “force boring art films on unsuspecting movie-goers,” and parodied the statement’s wording by asking, “Who doesn’t love unexpected injections!?”

The sentiment was to be expected. However, considering that the average cinema visitor is subjected to ca. 30 minutes of advertising, why not dedicate a few minutes to video art? The crux of the matter, according to the Observer, is that the initiative is paid for by the unsuspecting audience. That’s because the Arts Council England, which is funding the project, is supported by taxpayers.

Name Mohaiemen Abu Ammar is Coming (2016) Photo: Video still via Independent Cinema Office

Name Mohaiemen Abu Ammar is Coming (2016)
Photo: Video still via Independent Cinema Office

Meanwhile, art isn’t faring very well on the small screen either. British art critic and documentary filmmaker Waldemar Januszczak urged the BBC to change their approach to making art series for television. He said that art films promote the “image that art is kind of homework, that needs to do you good.”

He explained, “I hate that art isn’t really popular on television, it really annoys me,” Januszczak told the Telegraph. “You get some bloke talking about frogs in the Amazon and there will be a million and a half watching every time. People would rather see frogs shitting in the Amazon than a great Raphael. Why is that?”


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