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"Behind the X"


© 2016 Palace Projects Darren Banks Copyright © belongs to Palace Projects and the artists. To reproduce text and images please contact Darren Banks

Palace Projects

Fifteen videos

Fifteen writers

Fifteen posters


The Palace Projects website is an artwork by Darren Banks, presenting short texts and posters commissioned as part of his ongoing artistic research into the Palace video company. Palace Pictures was the leading British producer and distributor of film on VHS throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. This art project investigates the horror genre on the Palace label through artwork, writing, filmmaking and curating.


When Palace distributed horror film on VHS, the inside cover of the box featured the byline “Don’t miss out on these titles from the Palace Horror Collection” along with fifteen thumbnail images of horror films on their label. Whilst the selected films were simply a snap-shop of the Palace company catalogue, the Palace Project defines them as a discreet collection in their own right.


In 2013 Banks invited a group of artists and writers to contribute a piece of writing in response to one of the fifteen Horror films in the Palace Collection. The writers are all passionate about film and have a critical engagement with horror. The brief was very open, allowing the form of the text to explore issues which interested the writers. The films were a starting point to reflect on the films from different critical perspectives.


The writing reanimates and recontextualizes the collection by reinterpreting analogue film through digital text. In this way, the annotation of VHS through writing converts the analogue into digital, by expanding the original content and redistributing it digitally. Although the stories that had been inscribed onto tape will become extinct, they have and will be replaced by newer digital versions, annotated and rediscovered. This is happening textually and digitally as films are remastered and redistributed. It's not just an issue of technological redundancy, where only the booklets accompanying a VHS tape are now readable, but an effect of how digital film-making has influenced filmic storytelling. Digital formats of film include indexing of scenes allowing for multiple endings and interpretations. At first glance the films can seem pretty underwhelming, if it wasn’t for a few cult horror classics, the collection could seem like a modest survey of 1980s horror film. However the interesting element isn’t where these films sit within horror film history or their vividly graphic covers, but what happens when you isolate them and look at them as a group. The collection becomes a microcosm for all the facets of life and death, from teenage rites of passage, identity, memory, family and mortality.


The writers are acutely aware of the saturation of theories of horror and the gothic, and the extreme visceral nature of the material which attempts to transgress every moral and social boundary. However, when viewing the films today in the 2010s, the films are all historically dated, giving us a critical distance from both the stylistic quality of the film, analogue special effects, and the limits of moral taboos. The films also reveal the mechanics of cinema, the act of viewing and the way in which cinematic space is constructed.


In parallel to commissioning the writers, Banks also invited fifteen artists to make new posters for the films, inspired by the stories of Ghanian film posters. In the 1980s, Ghanaian artists created film posters to promote screenings of films distributed on VHS. It is possible that the artists had never seen the film when they made the promotional poster.


The posters have since become important social artifacts that represent the power of the moving image from a Ghanaian perspective. Today these posters have significance within popular culture and a fine art context. They are distributed across the Internet as quirky bootleg versions of Hollywood mainstream film posters. At the same time, they are being collected, published and exhibited as unique artworks.


There are lots of websites depicting Ghanian movie posters, often with the same backstory, emphasizing the artist as bootlegger creating new reimagining’s of Hollywood films, using a naive style that seems to be at odds with the American mainstream. Some of the most striking imagery in the posters depicts horror films, combining traditional belief systems, creative imagination and a graphic interpretation of a title.