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Programme Notes

Cinema is a medium about dogs. The first images by the Lumière Brothers’
colloquially referred to as “Workers Leaving the Factory” (1895) could equally
be entitled “Dogs Leaving The Factory” for amongst its throngs of exiling
image labourers are a tangled multitude of dogs - each of them indifferently
performing towards ways of thinking about and through our more than human

In the brief 1 minute and 45 seconds that make up the 3 known takes of
“Workers…” we bear witness to between 2 or 5 different dogs. The first is
initially concealed, sleeping motionless outside the factory gates its bleached
white fur hides it somewhere between the grain of the Lumiere’s overexposed
35mm film and the architecture of their own building. Merging in the afternoon
sun with the biology of the film produced inside the factory & the geology of
the factory itself, it only becomes visible through its startled motions. Though
at first sleepily ignoring the fleeing workers as their magnitude increases
cinema’s first dog becomes disturbed and promptly runs out of frame, exiting
stage right never to be seen again. 3 seconds later cinema’s second dog
emerges from within the crowd. Unlike the first dog whose position is outside
the workers this dog is one with them, it’s exit alongside them suggesting a
presence within the daily labour of factory life. Nuzzling through tired bodies,
this dog joyfully weaves through the masses bifurcating their translation from
individual worker into workforce (as Farocki notes) as playfully as it penetrates
the Lumiere’s static frame. Though initially moving in a linear progression
instep with the workers flight, outward past the cameras vision, unlike the
humans who vanish upon exit this dog returns time and time again often in the
same take always in different formations. Running behind and through the
cinematic space it flaunts its exuberant independence creating a new
cinematic “dog-space”, one filled with feral potential and mongrel
intentionality. Equally interested in the events inside the frame as in the
undocumented action outside of it this canine roams in the “dog-space”,
sniffing a juicy parergon to the Lumiere’s staged imagery. Returning multiple
times into the frame each at new and unexpected angles, including one with
an excited child giving chase, in it’s final entrance this dog turns it’s back
defiantly to the camera. With the vertical extension of its hind legs it renders
its body into the shape of a tripod, morphing its inquisitive head into that of a
camera. With it’s mastiff frame partially obscuring the Lumiere’s carefully
constructed recreation this dog takes over the role of looking, as it surveys the
drama that it emerged out from only 28 seconds before. But rather than
reproduce the affixed eye of the Lumiere’s, impassive on everything other
than a chemical level to the scene, through this dog/camera hybrid a new
model for seeing can be traced - a curiosity lead, motion sick, haptically
charged subjectivity whose position between spectator and producer, self and
other is a forever blurred.

Unlike the staged theatrical action of humans found in films like the Lumiere’s
“Le faux cul-de-jatte” (1897) or Edison’s kinescope experiment “Athlete With
Wand” (1894) with it’s bored dog sitting at the side of the frame dismissively
commenting on the ludicrous human action at the centre, in these nascent
articulations dogs are agents of their own direction, feral punctums at the
margins of the scene. By all accounts it was a golden age for dog in cinema
however since the decline of dog movie stars in the 1920’s when dogs like
Strongheart and Rin-Tin-Tin had their names emblazoned above any human
actor and were once credited as co-directors in their own movies (Sergei
Eisenstein’s meeting with Rin-Tin-Tin has to be one of the more interesting
meetings of cinematic minds) dogs have been pushed into ever decreasing
roles. They have become punch lines, sidekicks and props for human pathos -
furry body doubles smothered by CGI masks and anthropomorphic
projections. Thankfully artist-moving image has taken on the mantle of making
dog films. But rather than simply repeat the mediated and sometimes real
violence of previous canine representations experimental cinema has turned
to more ecologically minded discourses regarding these animals and our
coexistence with them. These films, perhaps owning to their own domestic
origins, are made with and about dogs. They make a companion history on
companion species. Formed from historical and contemporary films this
program entitled “Dogs Leaving the Factory” looks at the stories we tell about
dogs, the images we produce about, alongside and in collaboration with them.
Asking what it is to talk to, for and about animals - to domesticate and live
alongside them in intimate feral negotiation.

Pedigree a.jpg

Presented at European Media Arts Festival,

Osnabrück, DE, 2019

Repeated at a.m, London, UK, 2019 as

"True Dog Stories"

Additional research presented in response to Edna Press' "dog in swimming pool" - Edited by Ruth Skinner at:


"Inside of a dog it’s too hard to read", Good Press Gallery, Glasgow, UK, 2019


Photo by Ruth Skinner

Barking (Joan Jonas, 1973, 2:22)
Bone (Jenny Brady, 2015, 10:43)
Telling Jokes At Dogs About Steve Martin (Thomas Matthisen, 2019, 6:59)
Walking the Dog (Steve Reinke, 1991, 2:32)
Elegy (Joe Gibbons, 1991, 11:51)
Of Violence (Heather Phillipson, 2018, 4:03)
Man Ray, Man Ray (William Wegman, 1978, 5:20)
Pedigree (Graeme Arnfield, 2018, 21:30)

Runtime: 64 mins

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