William Raban is one of the foremost British artists and experimental filmmakers of the last forty years, known primarily for his landscape, performance and multi-screen based films.
Born in Fakenham, Norfolk, in 1948, he went to St Martin’s School of Art in 1967, where he made paintings and prints that involved sustained but direct contact with natural surfaces, such as tree bark and waves. Raban then made a number of films utilising different facets of the filmmaking process to reveal hidden elements of landscapes. View (1970) alternated shooting speeds to give the landscape a rhythm, Colours of This Time (1972) used long exposures to alter the colour of sunlight, and Broadwalk (1972) used time-lapse to capture and freeze movement in Regent’s Park. River Yar (1972), made with Chris Welsby, was a more ambitious project and involved two screens (like Raban’s earlier Skyfilm (1970, made with John Barry). River Yar presents, in time-lapse, two views of the river at set points around the Autumn and Spring Equinoxes and alludes to the passage of the moon around the earth (the change in tides) and the passage of the earth around the sun (the light at different times of year).
These explorations of the dynamics of space and time led to other ‘expanded’ cinematic works. These drew on the physical qualities of film – the presence and framing of the multiple projection beams in Diagonal (1973) and Wave Formations (1977), the length in distance of a filmstrip in Take Measure (1973) and the layering of negative and positive images in 2’45” (1973), to name just a few – to create new structures and aesthetics and to highlight elements of the filmmaking and presentation process. William Raban was a member of Filmaktion in 1973, a group that also explored multiple projection and performance.
The beginning of the 1980s marked a shift in Raban’s work. With Marilyn Halford, he made the feature length Black and Silver (1981), combining his interest in painting and space with her background in performance. The result was more directly romantic than any of his previous films. When he took on larger scale production and work with Channel 4, he formed production company Bow Visions, in 1986. Thames Film (1986) and From 60 Degrees North (1991, made with Begonia Tamarit) reframed Raban’s landscape interests, though in a more historical and socio-political context: respectively, the history of the Thames, and the experiences of Spanish sailors in British waters following their defeat in the Armada.
Raban’s poetic films of the nineties and onward have pursued similar goals through different means. Reminiscent of Humphrey Jennings’ wartime films, Island Race (1996), MM (2002), Continental Drift (2005) and others look at the island of Britain and its people, in the context of the global economy and the effects of urban change.
William Raban’s filmography also reflects the changing opportunities afforded to artist and independent filmmakers. After Duchamp Installation from 2003, for example, uses film and performance to present a three-dimensional rendition of Marcel Duchamp’s painting Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, returning to Raban’s expanded spatial explorations of the 1970s. Ayshe’s Tale (2008) was commissioned by the BBC and Film London to accompany a short story written for radio by London chronicler Peter Ackroyd, and through modern radio technologies and the internet, is framed in just that way – as pictures for/juxtaposed with radio.
From 1972 to 1976, he was the manager of the London Filmmakers Co-op workshop. He was also Senior Lecturer in Film at St. Martin’s from 1976 to 1989 and is currently Professor Emeritus in Film at University of the Arts, London. He has exhibited widely in both art and film contexts.
‘William Raban’ BFI Screenonline, 2013-2014. William Fowler. http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/586498/index.html
*1970 Young Contemporaries, Royal Academy, London.
*1971 Programme of Double Screen Elms, NFT, London.
*1972 Double Screen Projection, NFT, London.
*1972 Survey of the Avant Garde in Britain, Gallery House, London.
*1973 Multiprojection and Film Performance, Gallery House, London.
*1973 Filmaktion, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
*1973 8th Paris Biennale, Paris.
*1974 Film presentations, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
*1974 Project 74, Cologne.
*1974 Exprmntl 5, Knokke Film Festival, Belgium.
*1975 British Landscape Films, Tate Gallery, London.
*1976 Arte Inglesi Oggi, Milan.
*1976 Moonshine film installation, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol.
*1976 Structural Films, NFT, London.
*1976 Film installation, Scottish Arts Council Gallery, Edinburgh.
*1976 Film tour of USA & Canada including retrospective, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh & Millennium, New York.
*1977 Perspectives on British Avant Garde Film, Hayward Gallery, London.
*1977 Documenta 6, Kassel.
*1977 Pink Trousers, Acme Gallery, London.
*1978 Film as Film, Hayward Gallery, London.
*1979 Retrospective, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
*1981 Film retrospective, Multimedia Centre, Zagreb.
*1981 Screening, NFT, London.
*1983 Multiscreen projections, B2, London.
*1983 Landscape in Film, LMFC, London.
*1984 New Pluralism, Tate Gallery, London.
*1985 Retrospective, Anemic Cinema Festival, Madrid.
*1988 Festival of British Art, Los Angeles.
*1988 Art in the Cinema, NFT, London.
*1992 Whitechapel Open Exhibition, London.
*1993 Innovation 93, Manchester.
*1994 Symphonies of the City, ICA, London.
*1996 Whitechapel Open, London.
*1996 Under the Tower trilogy, Tate Gallery, London.
*1997 London, Milan.
*1997 Retrospective, Haus Des Dokumentarfilms, Stuttgart.
*1997 Retrospective, Arnolfini Cinema, Bristol.
*1998 Expanding Frames, Lux Cinema, London.
*1999 Rogue Reels – 30 Years of Subversive Cinema, Lux Cinema, London.
*1999 Fourth Wall, Royal National Theatre Public Arts Programme, London.
*2000 Live in Your Head (Concept and Experiment in Britain, 1965-75), Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.
*2000 Moonshine, NFT, London.
*2000 Sundial, Lux Cinema, London.
*2000 River Yar, Lux Cinema, London.
*2001 Creative Quarters (300 Years of the Visual Artist in London), Museum of London, London.
*2001: Ubanitat & Aesthetik: London on Film (1896-2001), Filmhaus, Vienna.
*2001: Retrospective (1992-2000), 291 Gallery, London.
*2002: Gasworks Gallery, London.
*2002: Shoot Shoot Shoot, Tate Gallery, London.
*2002: Photographer’s Gallery, London.
*2003: A Century of Artists’ Film in Britain, Tate Gallery, London.
*2003 Visionary Landscapes, Cecil Sharp House, London.
*2004 X-Screen, Museum of Modern Art, Vienna.
*2004 Experiments in Moving Image, Lumber Cinema, London.
*2004 Macau Arts, Macau.
*2004 Films Als Spektakel, Phoenixhalle, Dortmund.
*2005 Describing Form, Tate Modern, London.
*2005 Retrospective, Museum of Contemporary Art, Strasbourg.
*2005 Museum in Docklands, London.
*2005 Betacity, Phoenixhalle, Dortmund.
*2005 Apeejay Gallery, New Delhi.
*2006 Making History, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool.
*2006 Screenland, Whitstable Museum and Art Gallery, London.
*2006 Time, Flesh & Nerve, Lounge Gallery, London.
*2006 Little Jewel Cinema, Waygood Gallery, Newcastle.
*2006 Fergus Walking, Arts Council North East, Newcastle.
*2006, Collected Works, Lethaby Gallery, Central Saint Martin’s, London.
*2006 Expanded Cinema: Space, Time, Structure, Wurttembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart.
*2007 Between Land and Sea, Box 38 Gallery, Ostende.
*2007 Centre of the Universe: Liverpool & the Avant Garde, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool.
*2007 Kill Your Own Timid Notion, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee.
*2007 North + South, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton.
*2007 Nuit Blanche, Paris.
*2008 The City Speaks, BFI Southbank, London.
Films selected for screening at the following film and media festivals:
*1973 Festival of Underground Film, NFT & ICA, London.
*1975 1st Festival Underground Cinema, Nancy & Bordeaux.
*1975 Oberhausen Film Festival.
*1975 1st Festival of English Independent Cinema, Bristol.
*1976 Festival of Expanded Cinema, ICA, London.
*1976 Berlin Film Festival.
*1976 30th Edinburgh International Film Festival.
*1976 1st Festival of English Independent Cinema, Bristol.
*1979 Berlin Film Festival.
*1979 La Rochelle Film Festival.
*1986 London Film Festival.
*1987 Edinburgh Film Festival.
*1992 Newcastle Independent Film Festival.
*1993 STUC Festival of Experimental Film, Antwerp.
*1993 Festival Do Minuto, Sao Paolo.
*1994 London Film Festival.
*1995 Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival.
*1996 Pandaemonium Festival, ICA, London.
*1996 Oberhausen Film Festival.
*1996 Melbourne Film Festival.
*1997 Rotterdam International Film Festival.
*1997 Stuttgart Film Winter.
*1997 Bangladesh International Video Festival.
*1997 Marseille Documentary Film Festival.
*1997 Montreal Film Festival.
*1997 Golden Orange Film Festival, Turkey.
*1997 Film and Architecture Film Festival, Graz, Austria.
*1997 International Documentary Film Festival, Usbon.
*1998 Pandaemonium Festival, London.
*1999 Oberhausen Film Festival.
*2000 Leipzig International Film Festival.
*2000 London International Film Festival.
*2001 Rotterdam International Film Festival.
*2001 Pandaemonium Film Festival.
*2002 Strange Screen Festival, Thessaloniki.
*2003 Zimbabwe International Film Festival.
*2004 Strange Screen Festival, Thessaloniki.
*2004 Rotterdam International Film Festival.
*2005 Seoul Film Festival.
*2005 Rotterdam International Film Festival.
*2005 Island Art Film & Video Festival, UGC Cinema, London.
*2005 European Media Art Festival, Osnabruck.
*2005 Seoul Experimental Film Festival.
*2005 Exfilm Festival, Sofia.
*2005 Experimental Film Festival, Bangkok.
*2006 Seoul Experimental Film Festival.
*2007 Rotterdam International Film Festival.
*2007 4 Film Festival, Bolzano.
* “Thames Film” (Dir.) Transmitted Channel Four, 1987 and 1990.
* “From 60 Degrees North” (Dir.) Transmitted Channel Four, 1992.
* “Sundial” (Dir.) Transmitted The Late Show, BBC2, 1992 and Midnight Underground, Channel Four, 1993.
* “Island Race” (Dir.) Transmitted Midnight Underground, Channel Four, 1996.
* “Beating the Bridges” (Dir.) Transmitted Smokescreen, Carlton TV, 1997.
* “Firestation” (Dir.) Transmitted Arts World TV, July 2001.
Colours of this Time
Angles of Incidence
Black and Silver
From 60 Degrees North
Rights of Passage
Beating the Bridges
After Duchamp Installation
Whirl Up Sea
About Now MMX
The Houseless Shadow
Time and Wave