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Film, Copyright Sam Nightingale, 2011
Frames from Film, Copyright Sam Nightingale, 2011
Picture Has Not Been Checked, Copyright Sam Nightingale, 2011
Leaving the Cinema installation, Copyright Sam Nightingale, 2011
The Australian Cinemas, Copyright: Sam Nightingale


Spectres of Film: Islington’s Lost Cinemas and other Spectral Spaces

3 May – 30 June
Private View: 3rd May 2012 (6-9pm)

Spectres of Film: Islington’s Lost Cinemas and other Spectral Spaces is part of an ongoing series of projects and archives that span geographical extremes (from London to Australia) and moving image history (from pre-cinematic devices to Internet auction sites) in order to visualise film’s abandonment.

Spectres of Film… will include the exhibition of three works that address the architectural site and spectral spaces of film. These include: the photographic series, Islington’s Lost Cinemas; the film-sculpture, Film; and the artist’s book, Picture Has Not Been Checked as well as new work recently shot in Australia.

Islington’s Lost Cinemas is an ambitious multi-stage interactive heritage project and conceptual artwork. The photographs that make up this project locate and celebrate the little known history of cinema in the London Borough of Islington. Islington has a rich cinematic history as the former home of more than 40 movie theatres since cinema’s invention in 1895 as well as being the birth place for some of the pioneers of British cinema. As we see the global abandonment of the medium of film, this project turns to the local by photographing the sites of the one-time lavish ‘picture palaces’ in Islington. While the cinemas themselves may have all but disappeared, Islington’s Lost Cinemas reveals a history that is often overlooked but still present in the urban everyday. However rather than mourn the loss of these cinemas, Nightingale’s project looks to articulate the latent (or spectral) presence of this history through photographing what remains: depicting urban spaces that are at once in the present and out of time. The artist wants to involve others in Islington’s Lost Cinemas and is developing a website where Islington residents can contribute memories, stories and images of the Islington cinemas, the first part of which will be launched during the exhibition. Nightingale states:

While I’m keen to record memories about the long-disappeared cinemas in Islington, I don’t want this to be a nostalgic project but one that recognises our changing urban environment and the way in which memory and history perhaps remains as a latent or ghost like presence in these spaces. It is hoped that a function of the website will be to provides access to an illuminated history of Islington’s architecture – one that can help connect local people with the history of their urban environment.

The first stage of the Islington’s Lost Cinemas online archive has now been launched and be found here.

The changing life of film is taken up in the limited edition artists’ book, Picture Has Not Been Checked, which results from collecting recycled film images found on the Internet auction site, eBay. Here a new lease of life is given to these films where they become valued commodities to be traded through digital networks – projected, re-projected and photographed on a series of bedroom walls with the aid of DIY domestic technologies, such as one presumes, the humble torch. These iconic frames, circulating on the Internet, are frozen, compressed and repeatedly re-sampled, each time decaying the image a little further. Picture Has Not Been Checked demonstrates how celluloid, grain and emulsion are replaced with the new structure of the image – the pixel.

The internal structure or material of film is also taken up in the film and sculptural installation, Film, which again derives from film-material found on the Internet: a few aberrant frames from an abandoned home-movie purchased on e-Bay become the basis of the work. Old and new technologies come together in Film where the flickering cone of light that normally dances across the projection screen is here transformed into a stream of celluloid flowing across the computer screen. The plasticity of the filmstrip degenerates and images blur into abstraction leaving only its auratic trail behind. Film points to pre-cinema technology housed as it is within a contemporary version of Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope.

Nightingale’s newest work has taken him to search out and discover the spectral spaces of cinema in rural Australia. Presented in this exhibition is a fragment of the 150 cinemas sites photographed during a recent practice-research trip that is set to produce an image and text archive project that both map and imagines the history of cinemas in regional Victoria, Australia.


Sam Nightingale is a UK artist who works with photography and the moving image; he exhibits internationally, and his work has been included in exhibitions and film festivals in America, Australia and Europe, such as Experiments in Cinema, New Mexico; Freies Museum, Berlin; Australian International Experimental Film Festival, Melbourne and Ambika P3 Gallery, London.

Nightingale’s practice is concerned with enlivening and imploding the hidden spaces within and between built structures – the uncertain spaces of story, memory and imagination. His passion for early cinema technologies and structures has led him to photograph cinemas in rural Australia as well as in the UK. However rather than simply documentary, Nightingale’s work leads him to address the structure and appearance of film itself – what he calls the architecture, infrastructure (grain, pixel) and substrate (bricks and mortar, memory and imagination).


A series of events will take place during the exhibition, including:

  • Launch of the Islington’s Lost Cinemas website (first-stage): 24 May 2012
  • Artist Talk: 28 June 2012 18.30 – 19.30 (Book a ticket here)
  • Artist-led cinema walk: 30 June 2012 (Find out more about the walk and book a ticket here)

These events are free but booking is strongly recommended. Please contact for further information.

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