Szuper Gallery’s new video performance and installation engages with recent histories of rural filmmaking, linking everyday farming movements with the aesthetics of dance. Starting point for this new work is a series of archival films from the collection of the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), which provide warnings of contagion and nuclear catastrophe, describing procedure and instruction in the case of emergency. These films present a unique vision of rural labour and collective staged action, where extras, rural background actors, are performing ‘normality’ prior to potential disruption of an imminent crisis. Szuper Gallery’s video deconstructs the movements of extras in these rural propaganda films. It features a large cast of dancers and non-dancers in a spectacular rural setting performing a new choreography to a dramatic sound score. The installation also showcases a series of original propaganda films.
This project also features a new collaboration with Canadian actor and director Michele Sereda.
MERL is designated as an archive of national importance and records the history of English ruralism over the last 200 years, comprising artefacts, books, archives, photographs, film and sound recordings. It has pioneered innovative ethnographic methodologies for social history. The informational films in this collection originate from different 20th century sources (e.g. the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, ICI, or Film Ford Unit) using documentary as propaganda, cultural history and cultural geography. They were made for dissemination of ‘best practice’ for local distribution to farmers’ organisations, providing a unique record of rural labour, technology and social organisation.