Beyond Language

Country: UK
Duration: 11 mins
Sound: sound
Available Format/s: DVD / Digibeta tape / SD Digital file


George Barber/ Beyond Language is a video touring programme on the occasion of LUX’s publication of the DVD George Barber: Beyond Language Selected Videos 1983 – 2008.

A pioneer of British video art, once described in Art Monthly as ‘the Henry Ford of independent video’, George Barber was a founding member of ZG Magazine and a leading figure in the Scratch Video phenomenon of the 1980s . Moving away from Scratch in the early ’90s , Barber created many lo-tech video pieces and was influential in defining the then emergent ‘slacker’ aesthetic . Narrative is at the centre of much of his work, whether deconstructing it as in Scratch, or creating humorous and absurd situations to find existential meaning in the margins of modern life. Beyond Language presents a broad selection of Barber’s influential video work from past 30 years from proto-Scratch works of the early ’80s to his recent return to assemblage and appropriation.

George Barber/Beyond Language is curated by Matthew Noel-Tod for LUX


28 March 2009 – Vivid, Birmingham
2 April 2009 – Street Level Photoworks , Glasgow
29 April 2009 – Star and Shadow Cinema, Newcastle
16 May 2009 – Evolution Festival, Leeds
17 June 2009 – Picture This, Bristol

Information for venues

The programme is available on BetaSP PAL or DVD for single screenings or looped exhibition.

Price £50 (+VAT) for UK venues, £75 (+VAT) for Overseas venues including shipping and posters/programme notes for audiences. Preview DVDs for preview and press are available on request. George Barber and/or the curator Matthew Noel-Tod may be available to introduce the programme if costs can be covered, please contact LUX to discuss.

George Barber Beyond Language Selected Videos 1983 – 2008, published by LUX , price £20 . DVD includes 23 video works plus audio commentary. Wholesale prices are available, contact LUX for more information.

More information about George Barber can be found at

Beyond Language is supported by the University for the Creative Arts Research Fund. LUX is supported by Arts Council England.

Press for the Beyond Language DVD

‘George Barber (b.1958) is one of the titans of British video art. He has directed well over 50 films which make distinctive, captivating use of pop imagery, found footage and a tone that is at once wittily playful and laced with melancholy… This generous and meticulously transferred selection of his dazzling output will hopefully make that happen.’
Sukhdev Sandhu , Daily Telegraph, 21/3/09

‘Barber’s later work retains his outsider wit, exploring video as a medium for the slacker raconteur: taking the piss out of adverts by adding new verbal sound tracks in Schweppes Ad (1993) and Hovis Ad (1994) or spinning enigmatic art-world allegories in Waiting for Dave (1993) and I Was Once Involved in a Shit Show (2003). He returns to the palette of colors from his Scratch period for Automotive Action Painting (2007), a prankish one-shot in which paint is poured in blobs onto a motorway, turning passing vehicles into unwitting artists as the pigments streak patterns across the road: evidence that Barber is still finding new ways to disrespect the rectangle.’
Ed Halter, Artforum , 20/3/09

Programme contents

Tilt 1983 5’ 37”
Scratch Video was the no-budget political video-collage movement of the early 1980s and Barber was always the most polished of these artists, and Tilt shows his ability to make seductive, easy-viewing pieces, while maintaining a subversive undercurrent.

Absence of Satan 1985 4’ 46”
Paul Newman appears eating salad and soon the famous sequence of Paul Newman closing a car door cut with a helicopter takes place. Absence of Satan is probably one of George Barber’s best Scratch works and is a deft reworking of cinematic narrative and cliché .

Arts Council GB Scratch 1988 1’ 34”
‘Rodney Wilson commissioned this as a celebration of all the work that his section of the Arts Council did. It is the best thing Rodney ever did.’ GB

The Venetian Ghost 1988 13’ 25”
What’s it like being a Renaissance man when your host is a jerk-of-all-trades? What’s it like being obsessed with memory when your host lives in the perpetual present?
George Barber’s The Venetian Ghost has as its hero a former ruler of Venice who, as a result of a semantic boo-boo, finds himself catapulted from the High Culture of Venice, Italia, to the High camp of Venice, LA. Barber plays up these oppositions in his usual offbeat style; having the figure of the ghost keyed in cartoon-like with Charlie and family – good-time Californians to a fault.

1001 Colours Andy Never Thought Of 1989 2’ 26”
1001 Colours Andy Never Thought Of takes the scratch genre to a postmodern extreme by processing and colouring Andy Warhol’s Marilyn prints. Warhol’s famous print undergoes intense changes of tone, as a whole spectrum of colours slowly slide across the screen to the lush, over- the-top muzak on the soundtrack.

Schweppes Ad 1993 2’ 19”
The longing created by advertising is satirised in this remix of Schweppes advertising.

Hovis Ad 1994 52”
Barber’s witty deconstructions of advertising and product (like Schweppes Ad and The Story of Wash and Go), merge here with the voice of his monologue films. In Hovis Ad we’re offered the inside story of the long running Hovis Ad as Barber’s voice over highlights the psychological emptiness of the narratives delivered daily by consumer culture.

Passing Ship 1994 6’ 34”
As in earlier tapes, Barber appropriates popular film culture and engages with it on his own terms. He reclines in his bath narrating, in a loosely constructed monologue , an account of how he survived a plane crash over water and the events which led up to it. A montage of 1970s American disaster films accompany and interact with his tongue-in-cheek account. Passing Ship is concerned with ambiguity in the representation of events.

The Story Of Wash & Go 1995 2’ 54”
A lo-fi dramatisation of Vidal’s Sassoon’s momentous, groundbreaking invention of the shampoo Wash and Go.

The Weather 1995 1’ 29”
Barber’s adventures with graphics are here exploited to the full as a TV weatherman commands a very exciting weather report. Actor Brian Hickey performs a parody of a TV weatherman in a film which reminds us just how mannered most weather presentations are.

I Was Once Involved In A Shit Show 2003 6’ 56”
I Was Once Involved in a Shit Show is a monologue recollection of an art event that tallies with what many artists experience when they are involved in putting on unfunded group shows.

Refusing Potatoes 2003 5’ 45”
Barber constructs a curious biography around his father’s relationship to his nephew Alan Rickman who he dislikes one Christmas for refusing to eat potatoes – and the Barber family are later shocked at the Premiere to find that Rickman has ripped them off and used their father’s speech in the movie Michael Collins.

Following Your Heart Can Lead to Wonderful Things 2008 6’ 03”
Following Your Heart.. uses off-air adverts, minor films and manipulates them into a new artistic experience. The adverts all relate to the ‘heart’ in some way, either through health or in the usual capitalistic fashion asking people to consume by appealing to their emotions. A variety of adverts are used, ranging from mobile campaigns, credit cards, bread, new DVDs, to Fantastic Voyage, the classic film about a miniature craft inserted into some poor soul’s blood stream.

More works by George Barber

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