Time at the bar: How every scene in EastEnders' Queen Vic pub became an epic movie event

Time at the bar: How every scene in EastEnders’ Queen Vic pub became an epic movie event | Pro Club Bd

Artist Stanley Schtinter spent his pandemic in the English countryside checking out EastEnders. He missed London and he missed the pub. The Queen Vic, the stately corner parlor and community center on Albert Square, looked more inviting with each episode. Before long, it beckoned him inside.

Beginning with the first episode of EastEnders, which aired on February 19, 1985, Schtinter began carefully stitching together every scene filmed at the Queen Vic, from short vignettes of Lofty drinking pints to full blown ones Barneys between Den and Angie Watts. After a year of editing, Schtinter stopped and looked at his creation. The result was a seamless duration of Pure Pub, a television work of art that entered the top 20 longest experimental films of all time at 96 hours. It could only have had one name: The Lock-In.

As the pandemic cleared, Schtinter went on a charm offensive with landlords in east London. Over several weeks and several hundred bags of dry roasted peanuts, he managed to negotiate an 11-bar tour of The Lock-In in June, with each showing spanning a full year of EastEnders. Averaging around 10 hours of film per event, the tour concludes this month at The Gun in Homerton before settling into the public spaces of the Barbican Centre.

East Enders (1992)

The project has drawn skewed comparisons: “Warholian” said Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, while curator Gareth Evans declared Schtinter’s events put Duchamp’s “urinal back in the toilet”. There are other precedents for these extended duration edits: Christian Marclay’s The Clock, Anthony Wall’s and Emma Matthew’s Arena Documentary Archive versions and versioning, even elements of Mark Rappaport’s collage essays on old Hollywood.

But it’s The Lock-In’s screening program that enlivens the work. It contains all the absurd conviviality of a schtinter project, an artist-organizer dedicated to allowing groups to congregate around concepts and ideas. In the context of Schtinter’s previous work, which includes the 2021 Important Books (or Manifestos Read by Children) at the Whitechapel Gallery and the infamous mass re-enactment of Princess Diana’s funeral at Salford’s White Hotel in 2018 (from the Daily Star) , The Lock-In is activated by showing it in the pub. It’s a project that doesn’t concern itself with the personal, but takes its cues from art that deals with the making of communal environments – a hangover cousin of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Soup/No Soup.

The lock-in is claustrophobic. You feel mad just looking at it. A constant traveler of carpets, upholstered furniture, polished wood and the clinking of pint glasses, the viewer never leaves the Queen Vic Pub. This is comforting at first, then a little disconcerting, then it becomes impossible to remember his past life. Attending a lock-in screening when done “right” is a powerful experience. It’s Falstaff-style augmented cinema: beers are passed around freely while people keep an eye on the screen to see if Ian Beale apologizes to Cath for stealing from the laundromat. Grant Mitchell scowls at newcomers from behind the bar, while the landlord at the Palm Tree in Mile End does the same in real life.

Many contestants are intrigued by the underappreciated skill of writing soap operas. The lock-in is not linear; It presents a beery mosaic of life in Albert Square, but the scenes are compelling and topped with witty, knowing dialogue. We are reminded that EastEnders itself is truly endless – four episodes are produced per week. A job even more unsung than that of the writing team is the program’s archivist, whose job is to fine-tune the writers’ scripts to fit Albert Square’s complicated lore. Perhaps these archivists’ files can also explain in which part of the East End hedge fund managers haven’t bought up all those prime Victorian terraced houses.

EastEnders (1991)

I managed to find Schtinter up a ladder in the corner of the Wentworth Arms. He fiddled with the back of an old television so the assembled drunkard audience could half-listen as Pat Butcher told Frank that her purse had been stolen at Walford Market. He descends the ladder and speaks to me gravely: “The lock-in is a response to the neoliberalism that surrounds Marclay’s Clock. That work is valued as a celebration of time – but as we know time is money and money is time – time is the oldest ideological construct. We are locked in time and The Lock-In frees us from that.”

It is both an exemption and a prison sentence. The lock-in deals with the shared experience of time and the collective will to destroy it in a moment of shared ecstasy. It’s against time, against time, totally attacked by deadlines, shifts and deadlines. There is only the pub: where Schtinter puts his subjects under public house arrest.

East Enders (1990)

He continues: “The lock-in is also the logical conclusion of the moment I started making the film and my longing for the pub. It came out of that moment of utopian thinking that we all went through in some form at the beginning of the pandemic — where we all thought the world was going to change, something new would come out of it, a new kind of time.” Schtinter hints a new kind of post-pandemic resignation — not to the “great resignation,” the supposed mass renunciation of work in 2021 — but to a deeper melancholy resignation that after two years of society’s standstill, we just booted the machine again, and with her, our utopian thinking vanished into thin air.

There’s something poignant about this, because time really starts to crumble. There is less and less contrast between the drab patina of Angie and Den’s world and our own. Britain faces its fastest decline in living standards since the 1950s, a Conservative government refuses to listen to striking workers and the world is locked in a massive Cold War with Russia. Next time Schinter could just screen some video surveillance so we can stare at ourselves

The Lock-In will have its final showing at The Gun, E9, on 1st of July. It then runs in the public rooms of the Barbican Center for the rest of the month.

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