3 Variant Texts

Alan Robertson, Chris Byrne & Malcolm Dickson, Ann Vance

Summer 2022

DOWSER Issue 6 (Summer 2022) revisits the radical arts magazine Variant (1984–1994; 1996–2012), taking the measure of its substantial contribution to the development of film and video criticism in Scotland. Disseminating commentaries, news, polemics and reviews in print—and for a short time on videotape—Variant inaugurated a new era for the artist-critic in the country, affording new possibilities for self-representation where mainstream press had long ignored artists’ most progressive efforts. Amongst dozens or sharp, political and urgent engagements whose revisitation yields so much, this issue collates and republishes three key texts from the Variant archive, reframed as sources—now historical—which have taken stock of film and video in Scotland at important moments of transition.

In ‘101 Things To Do With Time’ (1987), Alan Robertson, one half of guerrilla video duo Pictorial Heroes, surveys a prolific year for the moving image, narrating a real-time reckoning with the explosive phenomenon of video installation. Assembled from an email exchange, videomakers-turned-organisers Malcolm Dickson and Chris Byrne’s ‘Moving History’ (1998), meanwhile, is amongst the earliest negotiations of film and video’s unreconciled history in Scotland, contributing much to an emerging historiography. Lastly, Ann Vance’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Film and Video in Scotland?’ (1999) draws upon her first-hand experience as co-organiser of the ambitious and ill-fated New Visions International Festival of Film and Video (1992–1996) to indict the inaction of funders in a polemic which carries a troubling resonance through to our conditions today.

DOWSER is a non-profit project. This chapbook is released as an open access online PDF and in a limited print edition of 200. These printed versions are available for a contribution of £2.50, inclusive of a minimum £2.00 donation to the Scottish Refugee Council (Registered Charity: SC008639).

Issue 6 has been made possible with the support of the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities’ Engagement Funding.

Malcolm Dickson, hammer and sickle working collage (detail), after Milan Knížák, originally published in Variant, vol. 1, no. 7 (1989). Courtesy of Malcolm Dickson, with thanks to Leigh French and the Variant Editorial Group.