This February marks the 20th anniversary of the death from an Aids-related illness of the artist film-maker, diarist and political campaigner Derek Jarman. A year of events, under the banner Jarman 2014, will commemorate and celebrate his life and work, beginning with “Derek Jarman: Pandemonium”, presented by the Cultural Institute of King’s College London at the Inigo Rooms at Somerset House.
Jarman’s posthumous reputation is built on his painterly, subversive, feature-length films, his gay rights and Aids activism, and the garden he created at Prospect Cottage at Dungeness on the Kent coast, as well as the annual award given in his name to emerging artist film-makers. This exhibition, however, reaches back to look at how the early 1960s King’s student, who went on to study painting at the Slade School of Art, emerged as an artist via work created in the various warehouse spaces he occupied along the Thames before the redevelopment of London’s former docks from the late 1980s onwards.
The curator, Mark Turner, a professor of English at King’s, says: “It’s a particular snapshot of his life, not a retrospective and not a clean chronological narrative exhibition. [From] being a student here at King’s, which hugs the river, and his movement East from warehouse to warehouse as they were closed down… we end imaginatively with “The Last of England” [Jarman’s 1987 examination of the demise of a particular culture of Englishness], which is set in Docklands. So there’s a current running through it of London’s regeneration narrative and what happens to art spaces in the context of that.”
The exhibition draws on material from the King’s archive and elsewhere, including photocopied manifestos and mission statements from the Chisenhale Gallery, notebooks from the British Film Institute (BFI), set designs from the Victoria and Albert Museum, early paintings, and the Super 8 films, which, for Jarman, were largely analogous to painting. In one room, the chapters of “The Last of England” will be projected simultaneously with a reworked soundtrack by the original composer Simon Fisher Turner. Fisher Turner has also created a version of an audio guide, from which visitors will be able to choose their soundtrack to the silent Super 8s.
The BFI will also run a two-part season at the National Film Theatre, “Queer Pagan Punk”, organised by William Fowler, the BFI curator of artists’ moving image, in February and March (linked to the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in March), the largest retrospective of Jarman’s films ever held in the UK. Further exhibitions and activities are also due to be announced by the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the publishers Thames & Hudson, and others.
• Derek Jarman: Pandemonium, King’s Cultural Institute, Inigo Rooms, Somerset House, London, 23 January-9 March. For information on other events linked to the King's Cultural Institute exhibition, go to www.kcl.ac.uk/cultural/culturalinstitute/
whatson/talksevents/Jarman-events-programme.aspx. For all Jarman events this year, go to www.jarman2014.org
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Jarman’s warehouse party'