Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone
Screening 26th February 2021
Screening 27th February 2021
Screening 28th February 2021
For an Open Campus
Screening 1st March 2021
(2021, three 16mm films, colour, silent, total length 16:00 mins)
Pattern is formed of three short films shot between 2015 and 2019. The material that makes up the films was shot alongside other larger projects we were filming at the time and consists of footage that focuses on a single subject, shot on a couple of rolls of 16mm film in a single afternoon. The subject of the three films - a gardener meticulously pruning a tree in the Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu, a hand-built geodesic dome in a South London garden, a complex traditional Japanese wooden joint being cut, are things that we wanted to look at through the camera. Things we wanted to spend time looking at.
A few of the rolls – unedited and printed directly from the negative as shot - that make up these three films have been exhibited in Japan. Pattern (three) was shown in 2016 as part of the Setouchi Triennale in ‘Complex Topography: movement and change’, in the Sanuki Mingei-kan, a craft museum in the Ritsurin Garden, where the film was shot. Some of the material that makes up Pattern (two) was shown, again as unedited footage, in the Denchu Hirakushi House and Atelier, Tokyo, for the group exhibition ‘Ai mi Tagai’. But it was only last spring, under lockdown conditions as we looked back over material we had shot but not used in an edited film, that we started to see the connections between these short sketch, or study films.
The title, Pattern, recognises and draws out something at work in each of the films and perhaps in most of our recent films; a preoccupation with how things have been made, and with things being made, the slowness of these processes, and the immersive experience of watching someone absorbed in an activity or a narrative. Further, we can see other recurring tendencies; close cropped details, the hand-held camera ‘examining’ a surface or an activity, a table-top, an object, and very often shooting directly into late afternoon light.
So ‘Pattern’ refers to the making of something to a pattern, the making of something to form a pattern, the projection of a pattern onto a thing to predict its development, but also for us, a pattern recognised in retrospect that is repeatedly returned to.
(16mm film, colour, silent, 07.10, 2021).
Pattern (one) was shot in August 2018 at Tokyo Geidai's Torride campus and follows the artist Asako Shiroki as she makes an Isuka-tsugi, or crossbill joint, (a halved rabbeted oblique scarf joint typically used in the building of temples and shrines).
The film was shot with the support of a residency at Tokyo Art and Space.
(16mm, colour, silent, 04:47, 2021)
Pattern (two) was shot over one afternoon in early summer 2019 and centres on a geodesic dome hand-built in the early 1970s in a residential garden in south London. The dome was built from instructions published in ‘Domebook 2’ published in San Francisco in 1971, an ‘instruction book for builders’ that developed Buckminster Fuller’s original ideas and designs for dome architecture into a model for an experimental form of building that ‘can be done by hand’. The film interweaves images of the unchanged dome with footage of the owner, Mary Mellors, as she looks at the original plans for the dome drawn up by her husband, Alan, and reads through their copy of ‘Domebook 2’.
(16mm, colour, silent, 03:57, 2021)
Pattern (three) was shot in one afternoon, in July 2015, in the Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, and is largely edited in camera, the minimal events unfold in the film exactly as they did that afternoon in the garden.
The film is formed of tightly framed shots of Hiroko Suwaki, a gardener at the Ritsurin Garden, as she painstakingly prunes one of the 1,400 pine trees, making a series of tiny decisions intended to constrain the height of the tree, and shape its growth over time.
The film was shot with the support of Tokyo Geidai’s GAP Programme.
‘For an Open Campus’
(16mm film, 28 mins. Colour, optical sound, UK/Japan 2016.)
Shot over the months of November and December 2014 on the campus of Aichi University of the Arts in Japan, For An Open Campus is an immersive diary-form film that explores the extraordinary architecture and everyday social life of this campus world designed by Junzo Yoshimura and opened in 1966.
Shot on 16mm film and employing both static and roving hand-held cameras the film revels in an accumulation of incidental quotidian detail, from students walking between lecture hall and studio, to students dismantling the hand-made and makeshift huts and canteens constructed for a festival. This activity is interwoven with extended sequences of a small group of students working together; focused, silent, and completely immersed in the making of a large-scale drawing and model landscape of the campus itself. Filmed close-up in flooding sunlight these sections of the film are a study in total absorption.
At the same time, the film draws attention to the formal organisation of the buildings and the centrality of orchestrated sight lines and paths of circulation. The emphasis here is on the way Yoshimura played with parallax, simultaneity and multiple and constantly changing views - constructed in particular through the frames provided by the canopied walkways and the piloti of the massive raised lecture building - in order to produce an experience of the campus as a set of ambiguous and changing relationships. Drawing on this vocabulary, the film is structured around a number of simple formal relationships: in general between inside and outside; in particular between vistas, frames intervals, voids, enclosures, apertures and solids.
While the architecture of the campus is extraordinary, the main lecture theatre looking like a massive multi-legged animal moving through the undulating landscape, Yoshimura claimed that the ultimate success of a design resided in the way people used a building: “I am gladdened when I have completed a building and can see people having a good life inside it. To walk past a single house at twilight, with bright light shining inside the house, being able to sense that the family enjoys their daily life; isn’t that the most rewarding moment for an architect?” The film captures the campus at an extraordinary moment in its history. Poised for change it awaits a major re-building programme - the estate in gentle neglect as plants, trees and wildlife slowly encroach, while academic and social life continues regardless.
‘For an Open Campus’ was produced with the generous support of: Aichi University of the Arts, Nagoya, Japan. The Graham Foundation, Chicago, USA. The Elephant Trust, London. Goldsmiths University of London. Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.
Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone have worked together since 1993, and since 2007 exclusively in 16mm film. Their most recent show was the 16mm film installation FOSSIL at the Royal Academy Weston Studio, London, September 2019. Their work is distributed by LUX.