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Things to Come

Graham Ellard & Stephen Johnstone

UK, 2011
6 minutes, B&W, Silent, 1:1.33
Original format: 16mm film
Available formats: 16mm

Things to Come is a 16mm film produced as part of a gallery exhibition at Site Gallery in Sheffield. Working over a period of four weeks Ellard and Johnstone built a large, highly abstract, metal and glass model in the gallery space. The film consists of abstract synchronised movement across and around this model to create a dynamic play of light, shadow, reflection, parallax, depth, surface and prismatic special-effects. The film is formed predominantly from extreme close-ups and abstract details. These are intercut with extracts from ‘set-piece’ takes, which occured in the gallery in a way very similar to short performances and suggest an intense choreographed but ad-hoc activity.

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The model was based on a series of unpublished production photographs of László Moholy-Nagy’s ‘future city’ set designs, commissioned for the 1936 science fiction film Things to Come. The photographs show an extraordinary make-shift studio set–up, comprised of mirrors, scientific glass, polished steel and string. These objects appear to be suspended within simple but fantastic contraptions, armatures, pulleys, fly wires and a-frames, all of which are manipulated by a team of stage hands. The film sequence Moholy-Nagy produced from his model was never used in the finished film and is now lost. However, this footage has an almost mythological status because it was claimed to be “so rich a visual result that the editor did not dare use it”.