THE STRUGGLE a trilogy

A brief history of The Struggle

In 2011, Beaconsfield entered an agreement with the artist to commission the video series and support Garfield in the development and delivery of the work. The ambition of the project intended the series to be the product of inter-regional relationships.

A Beaconsfield residency and exhibition in May 2012 opened with two works: the collaborative film, Here There Then Now (2009) made by Rachel Garfield with the late avant-garde filmmaker Stephen Dwoskin, and The Straggle (2012), the first in the new series of screen works, currently showing on Screen 1. In Here There Then Now, Rachel Garfield and Stephen Dwoskin engage in a conversation about the role of the artist in their generation, each filming the other’s home. This earlier work introduced the territories to be explored in The Struggle: inter-generational ethics and an essayist approach to video montage and personal stories. The collaborative film emphasised Garfield’s ongoing relationship with the traditions and concerns of avant-garde documentary film. In Here There Then Now we hear Garfield saying “I’m really moved by people’s lives, I’m really moved by people’s struggles…” and in The Straggle we meet individuals who grew up in highly politicised family environments, gaining insight as to how a socialist upbringing impacted on the people they have become. Personal narratives are intercut with propagandist imagery, ranging from book illustrations to cinematic visions of the left-wing narrative and performance by a ‘socialist magician’

A more precise shape for the project then developed through a series of conversations between Beaconsfield and the artist, developing strategies for engagement with people whose identities have been formed in homes where the ethical environment has been dominated by religion and the military. Conceptually, the three films started to deploy a series of triangulations; through UK regional geography (the South East, North East and North West) and genre (portrait, landscape and architecture).

The second film was developed in Northumberland through a partnership with Newcastle University, where a cross-departmental Research Fellowship with the departments of Fine Art and Geography was brokered. Benefitting from the department of Human Geography’s specialism in the sociology and culture of the armed forces, The Struggle II: Opening Up was shot on location at Catterick Garrison and in the surrounding landscape. Opening Up was later exhibited in the Hatton Gallery as part of the exhibition Unsensed (2015).

Filming for the final part of the trilogy took place in Liverpool where the camera dwells on the architecture of Liverpool Cathedral, erected and financed by the immigrant Irish Catholic community 1962-67, and on conversations between the artist and members of the Irish Club where tensions between the individual and community rise to the surface.

Garfield’s exploration of how epochal shifts in thinking might play out now and into the future, is a development for which Alain Badiou’s philosophical take on the 20th century, Le Siècle[1], provides the touchstone. The trilogy delves into generational, familial, ideological, political and social shifts between the mid to late 20th century and the early 21st century, presenting them as a negotiated and lived experience, expanding on Garfield’s previous preoccupations with relations between social and political spheres.  Whilst links between ethnicity and ideology are implied, the artist embarks on a longer voyage into some of the big questions that have preoccupied generations straddling two centuries.

Join us for a double celebration: the completion of the trilogy, and to celebrate the launch of Rachel Garfield’s new book Experimental Filmmaking and Punk: Feminist Audio Visual Culture in the 1970s and 80s published by Bloomsbury. Cultural theorist Gavin Butt will headline a discussion with the author and artist Rachel Garfield, who will be signing copies of the new book.

Monday 15 November. Doors open 6pm for 6.30pm Free. Book now on Eventbrite

[1] Badiou, Alain. Le Siècle. Seuil, 2005

THE STRUGGLE I: The Straggle (2012) was developed and exhibited through a Beaconsfield residency

THE STRUGGLE II: Opening Up (2016) was supported through a Research Fellowship in the Department of Geography and Art at the University of Newcastle and Beaconsfield.

THE STRUGGLE III: A Glimpse (2019 was supported through the Irish Festival Liverpool.

The Struggle is a Beaconsfield Commission