Come to Daddy? Claiming Chris Cunningham for British Art Cinema

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Abstract

Twenty years after he came to prominence via a series of provocative, ground-breaking music videos, Chris Cunningham remains a troubling, elusive figure within British visual culture. His output – which includes short films, advertisements, art gallery commissions, installations, music production and a touring multi-screen live performance – is relatively slim, and his seemingly slow work rate (and tendency to leave projects uncompleted or unreleased) has been a frustration for fans and commentators, particularly those who hoped he would channel his interests and talents into a full-length ‘feature’ film project. There has been a diverse critical response to his musical sensitivity, his associations with UK electronica culture – and the Warp label in particular – his working relationship with Aphex Twin, his importance within the history of the pop video and his deployment of transgressive, suggestive imagery involving mutated, traumatised or robotic bodies. However, this article makes a claim for placing Cunningham within discourses of British art cinema. It proposes that the many contradictions that define and animate Cunningham's work – narrative versus abstraction, political engagement versus surrealism, sincerity versus provocation, commerce versus experimentation, art versus craft, a ‘British’ sensibility versus a transnational one – are also those that typify a particular terrain of British film culture that falls awkwardly between populism and experimentalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-261
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

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