This film is part of Free

Being and Doing

Ken McMullen and Stuart Brisley consider the links between performance art and folk ritual.

Documentary 1984 55 mins


Performance art broke new ground in the 1970s; here its roots are considered in the context of traditional calendar customs as opposed to fine art. Unusual, dynamic footage of North Lincolnshire's Haxey Hood and Padstow's Mayday Obby Oss traditions are presented alongside tense performances by Natalia LL, Ewa Partum and Jerzy Beres. The Haxey Hood footage, shot on a crisp, cold January morning, looks otherworldly. Tense music and some unusual sound collage serve to heighten feeling and underline the film's explorations.

Stuart Brisley is a performance artist - and a painter, collagist, filmmaker and more - with works in several major international art collections, including Tate. Ken McMullen makes feature films which explore in experimental form the social and political legacies of Marxism, among other subjects. His film Ghostdance (1983) features the noted political philosopher Jacques Derrida, with whom McMullen had a dialogue. Brisley and McMullen also worked together on the films Arbeit Macht Frei (1973) and Resistance (1976).