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Flook House

10 mins

The 16mm film documentation of the performance was mostly shot ‘edited in the camera’ and later processed and printed at the London Filmmakers Co-operative. It was the first of many film experiments I conducted at the Co-op, where in the Workshop, processing and printing of shot material was under my control, enabling for instance, controlled superimposition, (seen here in two sections). The opening sequence drew on material shot at Flook, (trees wound with white tape) and formed the basis of the visual material in my film Shepherds Bush (1971) shown that year at the Edinburgh Festival and subsequently editioned and entering collections internationally.

The performance event at Flook House, Taunton, Somerset, was by students and staff of the Foundation Course, Somerset College of Art 1971.

The Foundation Course within the English art school system of the early 1970s was a response to the changes brought about following the Coldstream Reports of 1960 and 1970 (1); the second report was accelerated by the ‘revolts’ that took place at several art schools during 1968. Students and staff lobbied school managements and governors for a more open approach to art education that could embrace a wider range of theoretical, aesthetic and practical approaches to making art and training artists.
Somerset College of Art in Taunton, ran a one-year Foundation Course where students who had completed secondary education could ‘encounter’ the domain of the professional visual artist. In an intensive 7-months, working as individuals and within groups, a corpus of portfolio work could then be presented to selection panels at schools of art offering three-year Diploma (and later Degree) courses. 
Most students found the intensity of the course stimulating and responded energetically and imaginatively. Two full-time senior staff, Blanche Croydon and David Macfarlane co-ordinated a group of practising artists to introduce the students to their mediums; Rose Finn-Kelsey, Ian Breakwell, John Hilliard and Mike Leggett together with an additional stream of visiting artists were employed throughout 1971. The approach taken by the team was broadly speaking, to confound the ideas and attitudes students encountered at secondary school about visual and fine arts; and to encourage risk-taking and experimentation in the development of those skills they brought with them and skills they learned in the short time available.
During the second of three terms, a large extended thematically based group project would be developed alongside the accumulation of portfolio material. During 1971, the ‘wedding of the Arnolfini’s’ was developed with students, contributing to the event in a variety of ways and means, and presented in the gardens of Taunton’s own ‘stately home’, Flook House.
The Course at Somerset College of Art for those students who had decided to continue, had considerable success in enabling students to go on to a further three years of art school tertiary education.

1. British art education experienced a significant period of rationalisation and reform during the 1960s. For David Thistlewood (1981) art education prior to the 1960s had been a system devoted to ‘conformity, to a misconceived sense of belonging to a classical tradition,(and) to a belief that art was essentially a technical skill.’ Subsequently, it was transformed into to a new kind of art education that centred on a ‘devotion to individual creative development’. During this period of change, the National Advisory Council on Art Education, chaired by William Coldstream, produced two significant reports; one in 1960 and the second in 1970.  The first Coldstream Report was the template for contemporary art education. It brought about some significant changes in higher education in Art and Design including a clearer definition of core medium Art and Design disciplines and an unprecedented level of control for institutions over their curricula. The Coldstream reform was simultaneously valuable, and catastrophic, for art education in that it both validated and assimilated avant-garde practices in art colleges. The report also recommended that the new Diploma in Art and Design be ‘approximate in quality and standard and achievement to a university course of the same length’. 
From - Rebekka Kill (2010), Imperialist Legacy or Academic Strategy? Resistance to writing in undergraduate Art Education
Thistlewood, D (1981) Histories of Art and Design Education: Cole to Coldstream (Longman, Harlow)