C4 announces bold new collaborations with artists for 2017 & beyond

The legacy of 9/11, the modern factory and climate change are among topics to be tackled by new arts programmes on Channel 4 which look at the contemporary world through artists’ eyes.

Speaking at the launch of the new Grayson Perry series Grayson Perry: All Man and the newly-supercharged Random Acts strand of creative short films, the channel’s Commissioning Editor for Arts, John Hay laid out an approach which seeks to make artists the authors of arts programmes rather than their subject.

In recent years a slate of award-winning Channel 4 programmes has seen artists, musicians and writers offer their take on mental health, the legalisation of gay marriage, identity politics, the general election, Essex women and modern masculinity.

John Hay said: “Most of the time, arts television points the camera inwards on the art world and makes the work and the artist the passive object of study. But these are some of our society’s most creative, original and subversive thinkers, so instead we want to make them – the artists – the authors of the programmes. Like all television it’s a collaboration but we want to invite and enable them to look outwards, to tackle some of the most urgent stories and subjects in our society. We want to help them to show us the world through their eyes – so the rest of us can see it differently as a result.”

The following new projects are scheduled to air on the channel from next year:

Akram Khan/ Modern Factory project [as yet untitled]

This hour-long special will follow dancer and choreographer Akram Khan on an immersive documentary journey into some of the mega-factories and distribution centres that define our modern workplace, and see him respond to what he finds through dance. The documentary will be produced by multi-BAFTA-winning Swan Films and the Executive Producers are Neil Crombie and Joe Evans.

John Gerrard: Western Flag

The artist John Gerrard, widely regarded as a pioneer of digital media, is creating a brand new work for Channel 4. Looking deceptively like film or video, his works are in fact simulations - virtual worlds made using real-time computer graphics, a technology developed by the military and now used extensively in the gaming industry. They are often painstakingly accurate, moving-image portraits of locations that speak to the way the modern world is changing: a solar energy plant, a Google ‘data farm’, a ‘Grow Finish’ unit that fattens pigs for slaughter without the need for human supervision. His work has been shown around the world, acquired by Tate and presented to great acclaim by the Public Art Fund at Lincoln Centre - in the plaza of the Lincoln Centre, New York (that piece, Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada), 2014, being bought by Leonardo di Caprio and donated to Los Angeles County Museum of Art). This new project will be a virtual flag made out of perpetually-renewing black smoke that Gerrard will place in a perfect CGI replica of Spindletop, Texas - the birthplace of the modern oil industry. The work will run in cyberspace for a year – exactly parallelling the sunrises, sunsets, lengthening shadows and changing seasons of the real Spindletop – and for one day next spring will break into the Channel 4 schedule in the junctions between programmes - an icon of climate change and modern society’s dependence on oil.

John Gerrard is represented in the UK by Thomas Dane Gallery.

Marcus Robinson/ World Trade Center project [as yet untitled]

Since shortly after 9/11, video artist Marcus Robinson has been living at Ground Zero, cataloguing the transformation of the world’s most emotionally-charged building site with hundreds of fixed cameras. At the same time, he’s followed a generation of workmen and women, some of whom have devoted the whole of their adult lives to healing their nation’s rawest wound. In 2013, Channel 4’s Rebuilding the World Trade Center checked in on the project at the halfway point and won the BAFTA and RTS for Factual photography with its sublime timelapse images and powerful testimony. Now, the channel is backing Robinson to see this epic longitudinal art endeavour through to completion in 2021, creating a new film that sees the two decades since the destruction of the Twin Towers through the transformation of that site and the people who’ve wrought it. The film will be produced by Lion Television and the Executive Producer is Nick Catliff.

In the last three years, Channel 4 arts programmes and their presenters have won multiple BAFTAs, RTS and Grierson awards as well as the Rose d’Or and the Prix Italia. The Vote (TwoFour and the Donmar Warehouse) and Grayson Perry’s Dream House (Swan Films) are nominated for two more BAFTAs on Sunday.

Notes to Editors

Grayson Perry: All Man (3 x 60’) begins Thursday 5 May at 10pm on Channel 4

In his third series for the channel, Grayson explores modern masculinity from his unique perspective as an artist, former army cadet, competitive mountain biker, father, husband, transvestite and man. In each episode, Grayson spends time in a different ultra-male world to see what their extreme masculinity has to tell us about the changing lives and expectations of all men in Britain today. As ever, he’ll be trying to capture what he sees by making art, and then showing that art to the people who inspired it – among them gang members, police officers, cage fighters, former miners and hedge fund traders. But this is a more immersive and more personal series than the last two, and sees Grayson reflect on his own prejudices, his own machismo and his upbringing.

Random Acts is a £6m partnership over 3 years between Channel 4 and Arts Council England to commission 200 creative short films a year and broadcast them across TV, the web and social media. The shorts cover avant garde visual art, music video, eye-popping animation, contemporary dance, spoken word and all points inbetween with a strong remit to experiment, innovate and treat the screen as a canvas. The strand features new shorts by Shia LeBoeuf, Martin Creed, Mica Levi, Beck, Simon Amstell, Reggie Yates, and Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, but also introduces a whole new generation of artistic talent.

It has three elements:

Random Acts TV (6 x 30’) – a new series beginning on Monday 9th May at 11.05pm on Channel 4

Heralding the return of late-night lunacy to the Channel 4 schedule, this brand new TV series presented by writer, filmmaker and cult comedian Eric Wareheim showcases the best creative short films from the strand. Eric guides viewers through them in a slightly unhinged mode pitched somewhere between The Late Show and Garry Shandling and interviews some of the films' creators. Production company: Pulse Films.

The online home of Random Acts, releasing all the strands shorts and showcasing its back catalogue, which includes work by Ai Wei Wei, Rankin, David Shrigley, BalletBoyz and Gillian Wearing.

Random Acts Network Centres

Set up and run by Arts Council England, these 5 centres – each in a different region of the country – exist to find and develop new filmmaking talent, help them make Random Acts and use the strand to give young creatives a chance to break into broadcast. Each centre is a collaboration between arts organisations, educational institutions and production companies.

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