london

Stuart Marshall, The Love Show (parts 1–3), 1980, still from a color video transferred to DVD. From “Polytechnic.”

“Polytechnic”

Raven Row

Stuart Marshall, The Love Show (parts 1–3), 1980, still from a color video transferred to DVD. From “Polytechnic.”

In the 1980s, a handful of unabashedly politicized fine art BA courses emerged in the UK. Their titles tended to include the word critical—Saint Martins School of Art in London, for example, instituted a “fine art and critical studies” program. For those who took such courses at the time (myself included), curator Richard Grayson’s exhibition “Polytechnic” will have sparked flashes of recognition. Comprising video and mixed-media works from the later 1970s and early ’80s, Grayson’s show was not a historical survey but a personal selection showcasing some of the approaches to narrative being explored (partly in reaction to the constraints of “structural” film) by British video artists at the time. Many works on display hinted at soliloquy, but this reflects the doctrine that the personal is political; in varying ways the artists probe questions of class, gender, and sexuality.

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