Art and soul


The Cantrills made this screen to project their film ‘Blast’ onto.

We’re gearing up for next week’s launch of our new free exhibition ‘Light Years’, highlighting fifty years of work from local experimental filmmakers Arthur and Corinne Cantrill. Curator Fiona Trigg gives us a behind-the-scenes look at putting the exhibition together.

The Cantrills have been experimenting with films since 1960. They have a large body of work – over 150 titles, ranging from films of just a few minutes through to feature length works. Much of the Cantrills’ back catalogue is in fantastic condition, with the vibrant saturated colour of reversal, Kodachrome or high contrast black and white stock standing the test of time. Other films, however, have faded or are difficult to reprint due to the availability of certain print stocks or the complex techniques required for the Cantrills’ three colour separation work.

Working with Arthur and Corinne Cantrill to put together the exhibition Light Years has raised some fascinating questions about permanence and loss in independent film culture.

Much of the Cantrills work is on 16mm film – which is fast becoming a rarity. In the UK, most film laboratories have ceased to print 16mm film (as recently highlighted by film artist Tacita Dean in The Guardian) and the same reduction of services has occurred in Australia, with only one major commercial lab still printing 16mm.

As the Cantrills contemplate the long term preservation of their work, they have been investigating transferring their films to digital video. But this is not a simple decision. Apart from the considerable expense, there are technical and aesthetic hurdles – the differing frame rates and aspect ratios between film and video and, perhaps most importantly, the different conditions under which the two media are viewed.

The Cantrills have always placed great importance on the theatrical and physical aspects of film screenings. Several of their works involve multiple screens, live performance and installation elements. While we can’t recreate all of these performances, to help show the works as closely to the way they were intended to be seen, we have built a theatrette inside the gallery and will screen some of the Cantrills’ shorter films on 16mm film. We are also highlighting some early works and selected extracts from longer films transferred to video on monitors in the exhibition space.

Building a box to house the 16mm projector

Building a box to house the 16mm projector

Exhibition spaces are great to work with and allow us to go much further than a cinema screening, providing a full picture of this labour of love. Posters and flyers tell the story of their extensive local and international screening history, as well as their production of the long-running magazine Cantrills Filmnotes. For thirty years this magazine covered independent film and video artists working both in Australia and overseas. For many of the artists and events covered, Filmnotes now stands as the only record of their work.

Cantrills Filmnotes

"For many of the artists and events covered, Cantrills Filmnotes now stands as the only record of their work."

The Cantrills have shared a wonderful and personal archive of material with us, including objects and notes used in the production of their films. Some of this material is itself in a fragile condition. Posters designed to be pinned up for a few weeks now find themselves representing events that happened forty years ago and being given the white glove treatment by conservators and art handlers.

We hope this combination of documentation, film and video provides an insight into the changing landscape of independent film production and exhibition, as well as an invitation to audiences to further explore the remarkable career of Arthur and Corinne Cantrill.

Preparing and installing works for the exhibition

Preparing and installing works for the exhibition

Arthur and Corinne Cantrill: Light Years is a free exhibition and opens in Gallery 2 on Tuesday 8 March until Sunday 5 June 2001.

Discover more about the Cantrills and their various film experiments in this podcast interview:

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3 Responses to “Art and soul”

  1. wendy black 07. Apr, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    i loved seeing the poster i made for the cantrills in 1981. “Landforms filmforms was designed and printed at RMIT Union silkscreen workshop for their Uluru films.

  2. Arthur Cantrill 20. Apr, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    Lovely to hear from you Wendy! We’ve always liked the poster, and we’ll credit you properly next time there’s an opportunity.

  3. wendy black 07. May, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Thanks Arthur. The design & print credits are encoded on the poster. Our logo is a barcode (which had just started being used on food labels in 1981) with the letters underneath reading The bm is Bernard Molloy and the year 1981. This is poignant as Bernie died last year. I have another poster for film screenings in RMIT Radio theatre that you programmed on the early years of Australian cinema, and there may be more in the Wendy Black Poster collection housed in Latrobe library, State Library.
    It was marvellous to see the Marcus Bergner design as well.

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