Professor George Barber

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Professor George Barber

Professor George Barber has been part of numerous programmes at Tate Modern and had retrospectives at the ICA, New York Film & Video Festival and at La Rochelle Festival, France.

Professor George Barber


George Barber has had three recent solos shows, Chapter Arts, Cardiff,  ‘Fences Make Senses’ Waterside Contemporary, London and Young Projects, Los Angeles, curator Paul Young.  He was also in 'Absolute Now', a group exhibition at Atsukobarouh, Tokyo, Japan, curator, Kaz Takabatake, and had a UK Premiere of ‘Akula Dream’ shown at the London Film Festival in 2015.  In 2016 he has three installations in Energy Flash M HKA,  Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp Belgium, a travelling group show curated by Nav Haq.  Lastly, his latest work ‘Dude Down’ also premiered at the 2016 London Film Festival.

Going back, his early 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 the Tate 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.  Three other versions have been made, one in Tel Aviv, Bangalore, and New Orleans.  This four screen installation of all shouting matches was first shown at Chapter Arts, Cardiff to much acclaim. 

Research statement

Research interests:

  • Video and conceptual art
  • Politics, Israel and Middle East
  • Environment
  • Literature
  • People who are sincerely misguided.

Key themes for research degree expertise:

  • Conceptual art
  • Art history
  • Politics, neo-liberalism
  • Environment.

Professional Membership, Affiliation and Consultancy

  • Jury member for the 25th International Short Film Festival Hamburg
  • International Jury member Split Film & Video Festival Croatia Sept 2006
  • AHRC Peer Reviewer since 2005.

First Prize for 'Automotive Action Painting' (24th Hamburg International Short Film Festival, June 2008)

Research grants and awards:

  • 2008-2010: Film Council funding for script development.
  • 2013: Arts Council grant.
  • 'Tilt' and '2001 Colours Andy Never Thought of' were included in 'Postmodernism' at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2012.
  • His 'Automotive Action Painting' was shown at the 2011 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and he has also had an installation of the work at Tate Britain in 2006.


Solo shows:

Waterside Contemporary, featuring 'The Freestone Drone'. The piece was reviewed in Frieze, Dazed & Confused, Wired, Mute, Art Monthly, Art Agenda, and Sight & Sound. The work has travelled to Art Brussels, Istanbul Art Fair, Rotterdam Film Festival, Montreal's Mois de la Photo and at the Tate Britain in February 2014.