Phil Collins: A Learning Site

  • Phil Collins, the meaning of style (2011). Still. 4 min. 50 sec. Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.


Mar 2 – Apr 21, 2016
Level 3, Sert Gallery

The multilayered practice of British artist Phil Collins is the focus of a constellation of curatorial and academic activities over three months dedicated to exhibiting, experiencing, studying, and analyzing the work of one of contemporary art’s most engaging voices. 

Collins has consistently pushed the boundaries of art and documentary filmmaking from filming teenagers in Bogotá, Jakarta, and Istanbul singing an entire album of songs by The Smiths; to working with young anti-fascist skinheads in Malaysia; to employing a cast of actors, porn workers, and musicians to host an alternative shopping channel broadcast live on German television; to making a cinematic love letter to the city of Glasgow. He thoughtfully conceives frameworks or situations that weave our shared realities and everyday life together with fiction and uncertainty. Viewers are reminded of the persuasive force of popular culture on seemingly disparate peoples and places, while questioning global dispersion of Western images, fashion, music, media, and advertising.

Phil Collins: A Learning Site will feature a series of public seminars, screenings, and a video installation, and conclude with a weeklong residency and public talk by the artist. Organized in conjunction with a course in Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard taught by James Voorhies, the John R. and Barbara Robinson Director of the Carpenter Center, Phil Collins: A Learning Site merges the public sphere of the exhibition model with the intimacy, intellectual rigor, social engagement, and critical reflection of an academic seminar. The aim is to focus on and think through as a community the impact of this singular artist within the context of recent art history and contemporary culture.

Organized by James Voorhies, the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director. 

Support for Phil Collins: A Learning Site is partially provided by the Film Study Center at Harvard University, Harvard Film Archive, and the Provostial Fund for the Arts and Humanities.

Learning Site Components

Video Installation: Level 3, Sert Gallery
Mar 2–Apr 17: the meaning of style (2011). 4 min. 50 sec. 

2 Open Seminars: Level 3, Sert Gallery 
Mar 24, 7–8:30 pm
Apr 21, 6–7:30 pm

2 Screenings: Level 0, Lecture Hall
Mar 24, 5:30 pm: the world won’t listen (2004–07). 56 min. 
Mar 31, 6 pm: This Unfortunate Thing Between Us (2011). 120 min.

Screening + Artist Talk: Level 0, Lecture Hall
Apr 7, 6 pm: Tomorrow Is Always Too Long (2014). 82 min.

Sert Practitioner Residency
Apr 3–9, 2016

Phil Collins & Siniša Mitrović Select at Harvard Film Archive: Level 0, Lecture Hall
Apr 8, 7 pm
Power (Vlatko Gilić, 1974) 34 min.
Tito Among the Serbs For the Second Time (Želimir Žilnik, 1993) 45 min.

Apr 8, 9 pm
The Psychic Parrot (Derek Lamb, 1977) 20 min.
Television: The Enchanted Mirror (Julene Bair, George Csicsery, 1981) 28 min.
The War Game (Peter Watkins, 1966) 49 min.
Evidence (Godfrey Reggio, 1995) 8 min.

Phil Collins

Phil Collins is a British-born filmmaker, visual artist, cultural organizer, and educator based in Berlin and Wuppertal. His diverse practice is characterized by close engagements with place and communities, which over the years have included, amongst others, disco-dancing Palestinians, fans of The Smiths across three continents, Kosovan-Albanian refugees, the youth of Baghdad, anti-fascist skinheads in Malaysia, the homeless population of Cologne, and teachers of Marxism-Leninism from the former German Democratic Republic. Rather than static portraits, the works resulting from these collaborations articulate the nuances of relations embedded in the aesthetic regimes and economies that define everyday existence, from news and politics to entertainment and shopping. Throughout, Collins upholds a commitment to myriad forms of experience across the social spectrum, and an interest in the contradictory impulses of intimacy and desire within the public sphere. 

Collins’s works are represented in collections such as those of Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Tate Gallery, London; and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In Spring 2016 his first feature film Tomorrow Is Always Too Long (2014) will be theatrically released in Germany.

Since 2011 Collins is Professor of Video Art and Performance at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne.