John Latham on tank.tv

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Image: John Latham, Speak, 1968-69, 16mm (Screengrab, Original 16mm)

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Image: John Latham, Erth, 1971 (Screengrab, Original 16mm)

John Latham's films Erth (1971), Britannica (1971), Talk, Mr. Bard (1968), Unedited Material from the Star (1960), and Speak (1968-69) are now on view at tank.tv. See below for a short excerpt from the curatorial statement.

The influence of John Latham (1921-2006), an artist whose work includes painting, performance and film to mention just a few, has extended far beyond the boundaries of the art world. Interested in theoretical physics, Latham developed an opposing cosmology which rejected the primacy of space and matter and favour of time and event. The body of work and concepts which developed out of this way of thinking still challenge the way we conceive of art as event and of the place of the artist within society. Notions of event can be seen as transversal to Latham's whole oeuvre. Indeed, a pioneer in the use of spray paint in the 1950's, Latham started spraying black dots on canvasses. For him, such a gesture and the resulting pictorial effect was similar to the structure and the functioning of the cosmos. "Least events" (the spray burst occurring in time) produce beings (the black dots) out of nothingness (the blank canvas).

His impact on conceptual art can be best appreciated in his opinions concerning language. For Latham, since language stems from objects, it is unable to grasp a reality based on events. According to Latham this results in the lack of a common conception of the world, which is itself responsible for the division of people. In his practice Latham attempted to transpose the unseizability of events through objects into art, thus coining the term "event structure".