99 Clerkenwell Road

Rental Format(s): 16mm film

Filmed in an empty shop, the remaining features of the space are used to create a kaleidoscopic light film. Ceiling lamps become coloured spheres and circles that sweep across the frame. Pillars provide wipes and fades, window shutters are hole punched stencils, passing buses shoot beams of light. A toy solar system appears. Scale and depth constantly shift and colours are blindly combined as exposures gradually multiply. Overexposed glimpses of a wall or a flashing bollard outside bring the viewer down to earth.

"Sophie Michael's beguiling, deeply satisfying 99 'Clerkenwell Road' consists entirely of coloured circles floating against a thick black. Dilating with soft diffused multicolour light, they could be a hanging mobile as seen by a new born baby, or as the planets looked at through a telescope."
- Matt Turner, Cosmogonical Cinema - Animation as a way to new worlds, Edge of Frame programme, 2018

"Michael has a clear grasp of film's ability to capture and present moments of light as objects that appear almost supernaturally radiant and three-dimensional. It is the sheer retinal pleasure of watching light in motion..."
- Morgan Quaintance, review of group show 'Neither', September 2014 issue Art Agenda, 2015

"This early silent 16mm film revisits the work of German abstract animation filmmaker Oskar Fischinger (1900- 67). Shot at night in an empty shop, the semi-abstract film captures the simplicity of light and colour in motion. Moving the camera almost blindly in the space, and using the analogue technique of multiple exposure, Michael intermittently reveals the architectural space and outside urban elements, in a constant back and forth between abstraction and reality."
- Elsa Coustou, Assistant Curator Tate Britain, 2016

"Emptiness is wistfully transformed in Sophie Michael's 99 Clerkenwell Road as the remnants of an empty shop provide the makings of an abstract light film-cum-toy solar system."
- Andréa Picard, Programmer, Toronto International Film Festival, 2012

Nominated 99 Clerkenwell Road as avant garde film to see in 2012 by Nathaniel Dorsky

"Sophie Michael's 99 Clerkenwell Road is a revisiting of Fischinger's abstract colour animations of the 1940s, with vividly coloured disc-like forms dancing across and into the screen. Although this sort of thing is a well-worn mode in avant-garde film-and two of its great artists, Robert Breer and Jordan Belson (both with roots in the 1950s), have just died-Michael pulls it off deftly."
- Bart Testa, review for Cinema Scope Online, Review TIFF day 5: Wavelengths, 2011

"Sophie Michael's 99 Clerkenwell Road, a revival of the Fischinger-McClaren tradition that breaths new life into their exquisite formalism by discovering it in the material world."
- Phil Coldiron, review for Slant Magazine: Toronto International Film Festival 2011: Wavelengths 1: Analogue Arcadia and Keyhole, 2011

"A purely formal film that does manage to evoke a significant sense of play (you'll think you're seeing planetary movement and other symbolic, not-just-spherical things, and you'll be right), Michael's experiment harks back to the 1920s and 30s work of the geometrical abstractionists and "visual musicians" - Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye, Hans Richter, Mary Ellen Bute - but with a harder, 21st century edge. This isn't to suggest any computer- generated malfeasance; by all appearances Michael is generating her images with old-fashioned tools, and in fact the title refers to a defunct toy shop where she located the basic materials for the film, it seems [incorrect information] More than other purely geometrical films, Clerkenwell exhibits a palpable manipulation of space; the solid-colored round "discs" that swirl into the foreground pop out into sphericality quite often, enacting a groovy, almost Sesame Street-ish tension between polka-dot action and planetary orbit. Dark field, saturated hues, all in your face like it's neo-geo party time."
- Michael Sicinski, review for Notebook: Wavelengths 2011. Notes from a Dark Room, 2011

"Sophie Michael's silent, hypnotic 99 Clerkenwell Road is an abstract in the Oskar Fischinger / Norman McLaren vein, albeit with an unusually ambiguous sense of width (and off-screen space) and scale (are these cells? planets? I'm reminded too of Charles and Ray Eames's Powers of Ten). Apparently it's also more figurative than you'd think, in that these shapes are abstracted from the materials of an old shop at the titular address."
- Nomination for 'Best Online Video of 2010' by Nick Bradshaw (Web Editor for Sight and Sound)

"A masterpiece at the other end of the spectrum was British artist Sophie Michael's semi-abstract 99 Clerkenwell Road. This gorgeous film is all sweet spot: limpid discs of color with a Matisse-like intensity."
- Lesley Chow, review for Issue 78 November 2012, Experimental Faces, in The Melbourne International Film Festival 2012

Rental Fees

16mm film $40.00  

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