Behold, Vertical Devices, 1974, by Tony Sinden – a video installation acquisition
In 2019, with the generous assistance of the Art Fund and the Henry Moore Foundation, we acquired the video installation, Behold, Vertical Devices, 1974, by the local experimental artist Tony Sinden. It was the first work acquired for Brighton & Hove Museums’ collection of artist moving-image pieces, initiated by the former Curator of Fine Art, Jenny Lund. They complement the museum’s historical film collection, which includes magic lanterns, optical toys and cameras.
Tony Sinden’s installation consists of nine Sony monitors, on their sides, lined along a plank. Its end is raised and positioned on a chair. The monitors show a continuous recording of a woman running in a circle, played back in slow motion – the image on each screen moves from edge to edge creating an impression of a physical movement in which the woman repeatedly runs upward from one end of the plank to the other.
Behold, Vertical Devices reflects how in the early 1970s Tony Sinden began to explore video in sculptural terms within a gallery context – in the film a relationship forms between the moving image, the nine monitors, the plank and chair.
Sinden wanted to explore the sculptural perception of video that would echo the origins of motion picture photography and early cinema, in particular Eadweard Muybridge’s sequential human and animal locomotion studies. The video forms a link between artists working with the moving image in the late 1960s and 1970s with Brighton & Hove’s film pioneers of the 19th century.
Behold, Vertical Devices is a unique work that was part of the early history of video art in the UK. The installation was first displayed at Third Eye, Glasgow, in 1974 and then subsequently shown at Brighton Art College in 1976 and other venues including the Whitney, New York, in 1997.
Tony Sinden (1943-2009) is a recognised UK pioneer in expanded cinema and video art.
Sinden was born in Brighton. His father worked for the train line and his mother was employed at Hanningtons Department Store. He started making film when he met the experimental filmmaker Jeff Keen in the 1960s in Brighton. They collaborated on numerous films and expanded cinema events in and around the city. For a period of time, Sinden had a studio underneath the seafront arches near the Fishing Museum.
Sinden also worked with the sculptor and video artist David Hall on works such as Five Films (1972-73) humorously questioning mainstream cinema; and on the seminal multi-screen TV installations 60 TV Sets, 1972 and 101 TV Sets, 1975. Sinden taught on the first Time-Based Media course in the UK at Maidstone College of Art and was a founding member of Housewatch, an artists’ group who staged site-specific film installations in public spaces. Sinden’s films and videos have been shown at art venues and film festivals in the UK and internationally since the late 1960s.
His work is represented by BFI and LUX.
We are extremely grateful to the Art Fund and the Henry Moore Foundation for their generous assistance.