Press release issued 18 December 2009
Bristol University has rounded off its centenary celebrations by launching a unique video artwork that combines high technology with tradition and will help carry the university’s name around the world.
Called Centenary Portraits, the film was made by Terry Flaxton, an award-winning video artist and cinematographer whose work has been screened on TV and at festivals in the UK and overseas. He is an Arts and Humanities Research Council Creative Research Fellow in the university’s drama department.
The ultra-high-definition, 12-minute film features around 200 of the 23,000 students and staff who make up the university community. They appear singly or in groups and include professors, cleaners, student musicians, gardeners, technicians, secretaries, sports teams and archivists.
The university’s Chancellor, Baroness Hale of Richmond, and the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Eric Thomas, both appear in their black and gold robes of office.
Professor Kathy Sykes and Dr Alice Roberts – two of the university’s most famous faces, thanks to their numerous TV appearances – are also featured.
In a deliberate echo of Victorian photography, all the participants were asked to hold a pose for 45 seconds while they were filmed. They were also asked to bring props to indicate who they are or what they do, as was common in 18th-century portraiture. The props include everything from a skeleton to a chainsaw and from the world’s largest seed to the toys carried by children from the University Nursery.
The filming was done on a single day – 20 May, the university’s Charter Day – in Royal Fort Gardens. The historic Royal Fort House served as the backdrop.
The music that accompanies the film is The Chairman Dances by the Pulitzer prize-winning American composer, John Adams.
The film, which recently had its premiere at the Arnolfini gallery on Bristol’s Harbourside, can be viewed at the university’s website. It will be shown at galleries and festivals in the UK and abroad during 2010.
The launch of the film on the web marks the end of the university’s 2009 centenary celebrations. These have included the creation of a garden next to the tower of the Wills Memorial Building, 19 public lectures, the installation of a major piece of public art in Royal Fort Gardens, the publication of two books and the award of honorary degrees to four Bristol citizens who have distinguished themselves in their communities.
Professor Thomas said: ‘The centenary celebrations have been a big success and Terry Flaxton’s film makes a great and fascinating finale. It will also be of interest to future generations as they look back at life in the early part of the 21st century.’
The centenary celebrations have been a big success and Terry Flaxton’s film makes a great and fascinating finale. It will also be of interest to future generations as they look back at life in the early part of the 21st century