During the early to mid-1980s in Britain, an “outsider” art movement emerged that sought to challenge the television’s establishment assumptions that by now, was broadcast into most British homes each day.

That movement was scratch video, which was characterised by the use of found footage, often using images appropriated from mainstream media, including corporate advertising; fast cutting and edits; and multi-layered rhythms. As well as challenging the TV establishment, it also looked to challenge the white wall gallery establishment through a combination of its style, often politically radical content and mode of distribution.

One of the key proponents of the movement was George Barber, who has just released his first-ever feature film, titled The Mindset Suite. He’s been working on the movie for the past seven years, collaborating with Damon O’Connell, the man behind the striking digital animations; and sound designer and editor Lionel Johnson.

The piece aims to present “a powerful view” of the world today, and is billed as “an Adam Curtis Bitter Lake for the Virus Age”.

While things like “the virus age” don’t have overly positive connotations, the film’s undercurrent isn’t around hopelessness, but a reaffirmation of the power of art and a more humorous, spirited, poetic outlook to triumph over, or at least make sense of, the things that might at the moment feel like an apocalyptic moment.

As with much of the moving image pieces to emerge from the Scratch Video movement, the film looks to challenge what we know and expect from mass communications or broadcast media and critique their impact on people. The Mindset Suite exemplifies Barber’s distinctive stylistic nuances and dark but dryly funny storytelling mode; mixing voice-over, found footage, actors, improvisers, fiction, poetry, documentary and rave visuals to tell its story.

The film is divided into chapters that stand-alone and link with one another; looking variously at IEDS, drones, amputation, prosthetic limbs, military strategy, technology, politics and habitat destruction.

“The West is almost in a constant war now and has been for 25 years. War is still one of the biggest financial muscles in our economy,” says Barber. “Ironically, the West is very proud of having no wars since WW2—on its own territory—yet has been extremely active at keeping them going on others. The hidden ubiquity of military influence is constantly understated.”

At its mid-point sits an ‘interview’ with war criminal and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (well, a series of improvisers who ‘channel’ him.)

George Barber was a leading voice in the Scratch Video movement of the 1980s. Characterised by the use of found footage, fast cutting and multi-layered rhythms, Scratch Video challenged establishment assumptions of broadcast television, dealing critically and directly with the impact of mass communications.

Barber will also be doing an In Conversation with artists’ moving image platform Lux Player on 15 February.

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