George Barber

  • George  Barber
© George Barber
Film director, Video maker
Principal country concerned : Column : Media

George Barber's work on "The Greatest Hits Of Scratch Video" is internationally known and has been featured in many galleries and festivals across the world. The Independent and Sunday Times ran features on it, and the tapes, unusually for video art, sold in record shops. His two famous works of the period, 'Absence of Satan' and 'Yes Frank No Smoke' are screened regularly and many of the other works are considered seminal in the history of British Video Art.   James Richards and Hanna Perry, two younger video artists, have acknowledged the artist's influence.

In recent times, as his work and career have developed, he has had an installation at Tate Britain entitled 'Automotive Action Painting' (Film & Video Umbrella) and shows of his video sculptures, 'The Long Commute' at Jack the Pelican Presents Gallery Brooklyn, New York. He has also been part of numerous programmes at Tate Modern and had retrospectives at the ICA, New York Film & Video Festival and recently at La Rochelle Festival, France. He has been written about by Paul Morley and Gareth Evans, the Time Out & Vertigo magazine critic. Victor Lewis Smith once devoted a page of the Evening Standard to 'Upside Down Minutiae' on 14th Dec 2001 after its broadcast on Channel 4's Slot Art. LUX is currently releasing a DVD compilation of his work, soon to be available world wide in all gallery book shops. Film & Video Umbrella have released a monograph. Seventeen Gallery and Anthony Wilkinson have also shown his work and he is often cited by younger video artists as an influence. His DVD release from the LUX gained glowing reviews from Art Forum, Art Monthly and the Daily Telegraph among others.

Barber is eclectic, his ideas varied. After Scratch, Barber created many low-tech video pieces and was influential in defining an emergent 'slacker' aesthetic. Narrative and found footage seem to be at the centre of much of his work, either deconstructing it or trying as an artist to evolve an approach that is contradictory to the maker's original intention. His "Passing Ship" has been widely screened at festivals, as too his "Hovis Advert" and "Walking Off Court". Barber's skills as a writer have led him to produce many lyrical works too, including 'Ansaphone', 'Withdrawal' and 'River Sky'. 'River Sky' toured in, 'Figuring Landscapes' starting at theTate Modern.

His monologues like "Refusing Potatoes" or "I Was Once Involved In A Shit Show" are simple performances that carry the viewer into a genuinely odd confessional world. The monologue form particularly suits Barber as his instinct for the incongruous is appealing. Here, as in Scratch, he is trying to 'layer' another of his own stories and thoughts onto someone else's creation, and piggyback on the original's cultural familiarity. This project also continues in his latest found footage work, 'Following Your Heart" and "Losing Faith" 2008. Both use off-air adverts and TV films, mostly American. The central conceit is to take found footage and manipulate it into a new artistic experience. The adverts and dramas all essentially present clichéd dialogue but by the use of repetition, music, the work rises away from being humdrum television into something more disturbing and effecting. The ingredients of television are inverted and put to new purposes. He has always had a relationship to popular culture and his use of other people's footage is seen as way of puncturing ideology and getting away from the subjective, the idolised hand of the artist. However, this doesn't stop his work seeming personal and unique in other aspects.

He has also produced a number of 'language' free, conceptual works, like "Automotive Action Painting" and "The Shouting Match Series" or "Beyond Language" which reference early video art yet are original too. "Automotive Action Painting" won First Prize at the 24th Hamburg International Short Film Festival.

"Gibberish" attempts to interrupt and convey meaning using nonsense language.  "Gibberish" seems to be sense, yet most of the recognisable language spoken is ludicrous and spontaneously thought up.  The work starts in a garden with a discussion about lost suitcases at an airport, and over 5 minutes develops through various scenarios into being about a loved kitten and the end of the world.

The first 'Shouting Match', is a well-known work that has been shown as a single screen work at the Tate Modern, DCA and Miami Basel.  The piece is a conceptual work and is different every time it is staged.  So far the artist has made three versions - in London, Bangalore and Tel Aviv.  The next one is likely to be Dallas or New Orleans. It was conceived as a multi-screen gallery piece and once all four versions are complete it will be ready to be shown.


George Barber

Born 1958 near Georgetown, Guyana at Uitvlugt West Demerara
Lives and works in London


1977-1980 St. Martin's School of Art.   BA in Sculpture 'A' (conceptual department) with distinction in Cultural Studies.

1982-1984 The Slade, University College London.  MA in Experimental Department.



2010 Solo Show Dundee Contemporary Arts. Excellent reviews in Frieze Jan/Feb 2011 edition and in The Guardian Guide 23rd Oct. 

2009 Solo show in Basel at Marc De Puchredon Gallery and at Light Industry at X-initiative's NO SOUL FOR SALE 548 West 22nd Street, New York.

2008 Chapter Arts, Cardiff, installation 'Automotive Action Painting'. Early version 'The Long Commute' Jack the Pelican Presents Gallery New York.

2007 Retrospective at Festival International du Film de La Rochelle.  Kirkcudbright International Art Festival, solo show with installation.

2006  TATE BRITAIN.  Installation 'Automotive Painting'. Retrospective at Split Film & Video Festival in Croatia. 

2005 'New Work' One man show. LONDON GALLERY WEST
7 large photographs and 2 video installations.   Previewed Time Out.

2004 'Shouting Match' WORLD WIDE VIDEO FESTIVAL Installation

2004 Old LUMIERE CINEMA. Interviewed by Gareth Evans, Critic TIME OUT and VERTIGO with solo screening.

2004 OPEN EYE GALLERY Liverpool, One man show entitled SHOUTING MATCH. PREVIEW in GUARDIAN

2002 Gallery Contemporain Centre Regional D'Art  SETE, France. Installation of various works including 'Upside Down Minutiae' and 'Yes Frank No Smoke'. 

2002 Anthony Wilkinson Gallery.  The Video Show.

2000 Video Positive. Video installation at 2000 Citadel, St Helens. 'Discrepancy'.

1997 Installation entitled RIPE, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool.



2011  'TILT' by George Barber. Victoria & Albert Museum, Leighton Staircase, Room 108.  'TILT' Chisenhale Gallery, part of 'Infermental'  Introduced by James Richards and Dan Kidner. 'India Shouting Match' shown at Kassel, 28th Documentary and Video Festival, Germany. Chair and discussion panel member at Hay on Wye Festival. 'Howthelightgetsin' Philosophy and Music Festival.  New work at OPEN GALLERY, Shoreditch Old Town Hall.
Gibberish shown at VIENNA ART FAIR and at Whitechapel Gallery, Withdrawal at Video Zone, Automotive Action Painting shown at Stuttgarter Filmwinter and South London Gallery, Shouting Match shown at Chicago Filmmakers.  Interviewed on London's Resonance FM Oct 29th

2010 Mediations Biennial in Posnan, Poland  Group Show  Part of the International Project 'Erazed Walls' in Berlin. WATERSIDE PROJECTS London 'Empty Sets'.  Group Show featuring 'Gibberish'.

2009-2010 UK Distributors LUX placed work in 20 festivals including ICA, Frac Basse Normandie, BFI, Glasgow Film Theatre, Kill Your Timid Notion, Phoenix Cinema Leicester Square, Les Yeux De L'Oule-Nancy and Milton Keynes.

2010 The Moor, Sheffield.  'There is no solution because there is no problem' An Evening of Artists' Film & Sound Selection of works by George Barber, William Basinski & James Elaine, Theo Burt, Roc Jimenez de Cisneros, Simon Cryan, Joe Gilmore & Paul Emery, Oliver Laric, and Guy Sherwin.

2010 FormContent Gallery, Ridley Market. 'Misty Boundaries Fades and Dissolves'. George Barber, Stewart Home, Linder, Clunie Reid, James Richards, Eva Weinmayr.

2010 'Mob Remedies'  Gallery Primo Alonso  George Barber, Lothar Götz, Natasha Kidd, Piers Secunda.

2009 Split International Festival of Film & Video, Croatia.   'Welcome' and Paint Can Travelling Gallery, Scotland.  'Automotive Action Painting'.  Launch by LUX of new DVD of George Barber's complete works.  The DVD on sale from Amazon.  'Beyond Language 'George Barber. Excellent reviews ART MONTHLY by Martin Herbert, ART FORUM by Ed Halter, The Daily Telegraph (London) March 21 by Sukhdev Sandhu 

2009 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  Automotive Action Painting curated by Richard Wilson.  Picture This, Bristol, Street Level, Glasgow, Vivid, Birmingham, Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle. All screenings and lectures. Jury member for the 25th International ShortFilmFestival Hamburg. European Media Art Festival Osnabrueck 'Welcome'.'Figuring Landscapes' Tate Modern.  Work featured and part of book 'Landscapes in Moving Image' by Catherine Elwes.

2008 'Following Your Heart' Arouca Film Festival Portugal.  Premiere of work. 'Colour Field Film and Video' TATE MODERN 'TILT'. Simon Payne curator. 24th Hamburg International Short Film Festival. First Prize 'Automotive Action Painting'



2009 'Withdrawal' & 'Shouting Match' Theatre de Caen, France,

2008 'Withdrawal' Videoex-Zurich, 'Automotive Action Painting' BFI-London, ,'Shouting Match' & 'Automotive Action Painting' KurzFilmAgentur Hamburg,'What's That Sound?'  Transmission Gallery Glasgow, 'River Sky' Cambridge Film Festival, BFI Southbank   'Antartica Starts Here'.  'Automotive Action Painting', SEVENTEEN GALLERY, London.   Work shown in 'Scratch Video'. 'Automotive Action Painting', Britspotting, British & Irish Film Festival. Berlin. Dundee Contemporary Arts.  Work shown as part of 'Scratch'. ( Live Screening at Sadler's Wells. Curator Sacha Cradock, 'Automotive Action Painting', Stuttgart Film Winter and European Media Art Festival Osnabrück, and Galway Arts Festival.

2007 SITE GALLERY  Sheffield, 'Shouting Match', FACT, Liverpool, '1001 Colours Andy Never Thought of', Festival 2Annas Riga, Latvia, 'Walking Off Court', Visonic Belfast. 'I Was Once in a Shit Show', BKK Festival, Bangkok, Thailand, 'Automotive Action Painting.' VTape Toronto, 'Withdrawal', Kassel Documentary Film Festival 'Automotive Action Painting'.

2007 Transat Video CAEN, France.  Nine works shown. Film & Video Umbrella: 'Automotive Action Painting' shown in 40 UK venues including Pump House Gallery and the Wapping Project, Arnolfini, Cornerhouse, Manchester Art Gallery, Ikon Gallery. 

2006 'Analogue: Pioneering Video from the UK, Canada and Poland (1968-88)' Tate Modern & Tate Britain 'Branson'. 'Anticipating The Past' Tate Modern, Chair of discussion panel with three works screened.

2006 'Walking Off Court' broadcast on Free Speech TV, USA, public service station.

2005 'Shouting Match' Festival International du Film Amiens, France and many others including, Indielisboa, Nuit Blanche, Paris, Rotterdam Film Festival, Sixpack Film, Vienna, Némo Film Festival, Paris, Netherlands Media Art Institute, Amsterdam, Transat Video, Caen, France Festival International du Film d'Amiens, MuHKA, Antwerp, Belgium. Kino Arsenal, Berlin.

2005 'Beyond Language' Screened in Portugal at 13th Curtas Vila do Conde Festival. Film & Video Umbrella Arts Council of England monograph 'George Barber' publishe.  Essays by Paul Morly and Gareth Evans.  Part of Minigraph Series 
ISBN 1-90427-018-2.  The Bloomberg Show LONDON entitled 'The Mind Is a Horse 2', City of London 'Withdrawal'. University of Westminster published monograph with essays by Mathew Noel-Todd and George Barber.   Entitled 'New Work'   ISBN 0-9550951-0-7. Accompanies one man show with same title.

VIDEO DATA BANK Chicago becomes American Distributor. Guest Editor of In-Sight Magazine, International Film Festival Rotterdam, 'What's That Sound?'

2004 WINTERTHUR Switzerland, 'Shouting Match'. 'Beyond Language' & 'Withdrawal' shown at National Portrait Gallery. 'Shouting Match'. Melbourne International Film Festival   'Walking Off Court. 'Scratch Vol.2' Prenelle Gallery, West India Quays, The Bloomberg Show London 'The Mind Is a Horse', 'TILT' screened, EMAF   Osnabruck Germany   'Walking Off Court'. 'Unlimited Edition', BCA GALLERY, Bedford, Millais Gallery Southampton   Various Works.

2003 VIPER Festival Switzerland 'Walking Off Court' shown as installation and Media Art Festival Friesland, Holland, 'Walking Off Court' SPLIT Film & Video Festival, Croatia.  GRAND PRIX awarded by international jury, 'Walking Off Court' shown at New York Video Festival

2002 World Wide Video Festival Holland showing Walking Off Court and I Was Once Involved In A Shit Show. LUX Open Show, ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART. GATE   'River Sky' screened in Dartmoor outdoor film event. Tate Britain Programme presented by Dryden Goodwin. 'Passing Ship' in 'Aquaria' exhibition in Landesgalerie, Oberosterreich, Austria.

2001 'River Sky' Toronto International Video Art Biennial, VIPER Festival, Video A Mi Gusto  Instituto De La Juventud.  Madrid. European Media Art Festival Osnabruck  'Upside Down Minutiae'. National Film Theatre UNLIMITED EDITION. SLIPSTREAM Internet Interventions ICA.

2000 British School in Rome.

1999 'Withdrawal' video installation at HOME SWEET HOME, Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona.

1998 Five pieces shown at ICA 'FUZZY LOGIC'.

1997 'Withdrawal' shown at ICA as part of Channel 4's Animate Scheme. Videopositive  'Simultaneous City' Review in Guardian. 'Ansaphone' in WHITECHAPEL OPEN. 'A Scenic Detour through Commodity Culture', Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht (NL) Part of video programmes in two public locations.

1996 Retrospective ICA, The Mall, part of the Pandemonium Festival. Programme notes by Suzanne Moore of The Independent 1996.  'Passing Ship' shown at Vigo Festival, Australian Film & Video Festival, World Wide Video Festival, Locarno Video Festival, Pompidou Centre Paris and in a Touring Package by Tom Van Vilet. 



  'Looking at Pop Videos and Thinking About Other Things' , George Barber, AND – Journal of Art and Education , No 1 Winter, UK, 1984

'Scratching Deeper', Michael O'Pray, Art Monthly, 1986.

'Close-Up: Nick Logan', George Barber, Marxism Today, September,1988

'Island that daren't face the music', Miles Kingston, The Independent on Sunday, 24th March, UK, 1991

'This Week – First Person', Quentin Curtis, The Independent on Sunday, 24th March, UK, 1991

'Back Bites - Hell for Leather',  George Barber, The Independent Magazine 13th August, UK, 1994

'Back Bites – Last Action Paintings', George Barber, The Independent Magazine 10th September, UK, 1994

'Back Bites - Seeing is Believing', George Barber, The Independent Magazine, 22nd October, UK, 1994

'Go West, Eastender', George Barber, The Independent Magazine, 19th November, UK, 1994

'Passing Ship', George Barber, World Wide Video Festival, Holland, 1994

'George Barber Retrospective', Suzanne Moore, Pandaemonium (catalogue), London Electronic Arts, UK, 1996

'Cyberspace Video High Volume One', Jim McClellan, The Observer, UK, 1998.

'Cyberspace Video High Volume One', Steve Beard , ID Magazine, UK, 1998.

'Cooking for Terrorists', Julian Petley , New Statesman, June, UK, 1988.

'Il Fenomeno Scratch', Maria Rosa Sossai, Videovibe, Castelvecchi Arte, Italy, 1988, ISBN 88-8210-230-0

'Yes Frank No Smoke', Michael O'Pray, The Elusive Sign, Arts Council of Great Britain / British Council, 1988

'Scratch and After – Edit Suite Technology and the Determination of Style in Video Art', George Barber, Culture Technology & Creativity, J. Libbey, 1988.

'The Venetian Ghost', Steven Bode, Independent Media, Issue 77, 1988.

'George Barber' A Directory of British Film & Video Artists, The Arts Council of England, University of Luton Press, 1996, 1-86020 0036.

Mentioned in Martin Amis's book 'Experience' Cape, UK, 2000

Julian Stallabrass, High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s, 1859847218.  Quoted.

'George Barber', The Other Side of Zero, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT), UK, 2000

'Hanging Out With Artistry', Victor Lewis-Smith, Evening Standard , 14th December , UK , 2001

Preview Section The Guardian newspaper, 'Shouting Match' Jan 14th 2004

Preview Section TIME OUT, George Barber New Work,London Gallery West, Oct 10th 2004

'The Signs of LA', George Barber, essay in FILMWAVES MAGAZINE, Editor-publisher, Marco Zee-Jotti ISSN 1460-4051  Oct 2004

Monograph with FILM & VIDEO UMBRELLA, essay by Gareth Evans, critic for TIME OUT.   Launched at National Film Theatre.

'The animate book – rethinking animation', featured artist, edited by Ben Cook and Gary Thomas. ISBN 09548569-2-9  DEC 2006



First Prize. 24th Hamburg International Short Film Festival. 'Automotive Action Painting'   2008

Grand Prix 'Walking Off Court' Split Film & Video Festival   2004

Gold Award at ARS ELECTRONICA, AUSTRIA for innovative computer work, '2CB CURTAIN TRIP'.  1998

Chicago Film Festival Gold Award  1990

Award for life-time contribution to video art by Exploding Cinema Group, 1996.

D& AD AWARD   1986


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