The Inoperative Community is an exhibition of experimental narrative film and video that broadly address crises of sociality and community. It draws on works made since 1968 for cinema, television and the gallery, with subjects that range from the construction of memory to game theory, and artificial intelligence. The exhibition's title is borrowed from Jean-Luc Nancy's 1986 essay of the same name, and while this connection did not determine the selection of works, they all bear witness in their own way to Nancy's characterisation of the 'dissolution, the dislocation, or the conflagration of community'. Many concern the limits of political activism and failures of the revolutionary politics of the late 1960s.
Research for the exhibition began by finding means to reconstruct Journal of the Plague Year (1984), the defiant installation about the Aids crisis by Stuart Marshall (1949–93, UK). Other significant presentations include a new edit – within an installation designed for the exhibition – of the thirty-year project Peggy and Fred in Hell (1984–2015) by Leslie Thornton (b. 1951, USA), featuring footage shot on a residency at Raven Row.
The exhibition – itself constituting a kind of inoperative community – attempts to reframe discussions about the overlapping and entangled histories of art, cinema and television. Visitors will be invited to select from over fifty hours of material. Comfortable seating has been designed to enable prolonged viewing as well as shorter visits, while, in the manner of a film festival, all starting times will be indicated. Alongside the galleries, a purpose-built screening room will show five daily programmes, each a point of departure for thinking about experimental film.