To mark the 20th anniversary of Derek Jarman’s death from HIV-related illnesses in February 1994, King’s Cultural Institute presents Derek Jarman: Pandemonium (23 January – 9 March 2014) an immersive exhibition that celebrates the life and work of this truly innovative and multi-faceted artist. A student of humanities at King’s from 1960 to 1963, Jarman went on to become one of the most important creative practitioners of his generation and a crucial voice in gay politics in Britain.
Derek Jarman (1942–1994) is best known to the wider public primarily as the director of stylistically influential feature films and music videos from the 1980s and early 1990s. Less well-known, but vital to his oeuvre, are the over 60 Super8 films that Jarman filmed from 1970 until his death in 1994. Taken from the subjective-personal perspective of his hand-held camera, the scenic arrangements mediate Jarman’s artistic approach in which life and art constantly connect with one another as a matter of course. The often autobiographical film documents, which he himself called a “cinema of small gestures”, are defined by spontaneity and lightness on the one hand and symbolism and mythology on the other.
Painter, filmmaker, set designer, diarist, poet, gardener, activist – Jarman’s work across many areas and media was distinguished for its continual innovation and sense of daring. This exhibition focuses on Jarman’s life along the Thames and the ways his work engages with London – from his student days at King’s, to his time in artistically vital warehouses at Bankside and Butler’s Wharf where he lived for most of the 1970s. Pandemonium links Jarman’s studies as an undergraduate – especially the emphasis on the literature and history of the Medieval and Renaissance periods – to his later artistic and intellectual interests.
Among Jarman’s most arresting work in the 70s were his Super 8 films, and the exhibition will be screening three of the most rarely seen of these films continuously. In addition, his astonishingly elaborate notebooks, which he kept for each of his feature films and writing projects, will be on display. Derek Jarman: Pandemonium is presented by King’s Cultural Institute and curated by Mark Turner, Professor of English at King’s College London.