Lisson Gallery

Screening | John Latham

Screening | John Latham

Speak, 1962
11 minutes, colour, sound

Latham's extraordinary coloured-disc animation anticipates the psychedelics of the later 1960s. Made using stop-motion footage, the film is a retinal assault with a circular saw soundtrack. Before settling on his own audio recording for this work, Latham had rejected a specially recorded soundtrack by Pink Floyd, who had recently released their first album. During the mid-1960s, Speak was often projected as an element of psychedelic light shows at London venues such as All Saints Hall, UFO and the Roundhouse.

As Latham himself noted: "Speak coincided with the ‘psychedelic’ multi-effect performances and the Pink Floyd made an (unacceptable) track. I decided to make the sound by means of a circular saw where the motor provided the insistent beat, the saw the notes (a bent note when the saw was slowed) and a percussive effect as a book was sawn up."

“[Latham’s] second attack on the cinema. Not since Len Lye's films in the thirties has England produced such a brilliant example of animated abstraction. SPEAK burns its way directly into the brain. It is one of the few films about which it can truly be said, ‘it will live in your mind.’” - Raymond Durgnat.

Excerpts of text and synopsis are from 'Non-Moving Movies: The Static Films of John Latham' by Mark Webber published in John Latham Films, 1960–1971, Lisson Gallery and LUX, 2010.

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