Discovering Dalmatia VI:
Watching, Waiting - Empty Spaces and the Representation of Isolation

3 to 5 December 2020, The Institute of Art History - The Cvito Fisković Centre in Split, Croatia
An international, interdisciplinary conference that questions personal and collective memory - of the past and the present, but also of a future that we are all anticipating. DD VI conference publication

Separation Anxiety: Filming the Nicosia Buffer Zone
Joint paper with Stuart Moore
This presentation considers the UN Buffer Zone in Cyprus as a ‘ruined artefact’, reflecting the growing scholarly interest in ‘modern ruins’ – declined urban environments and derelict spaces – that the human geographers DeSilvey and Edensor refer to as Ruinenlust (2012). Drawing additionally on Brian Dillon’s 2011 survey of the modern ruin as an ambivalent locus of modernism, memory, and cultural afterlife, this paper uses our collaborative essay film, Father-land, as a case study for identifying the dynamic interrelationship between memories of a place of conflict and location film-making.

Father-land began with an artist residency in Nicosia close to the buffer zone. The film interweaves our personal narratives, as the children of military personnel who served in Cyprus during the Cold War, with our experiences in the present day as we explored the empty streets and ‘suspended animation’ of the (apparently) unchanging buffer zone, against a background of Britain isolating itself from Europe. The film also tells the story of Nicosia, as the only divided capital in Europe, and questions the concept of home, reflecting on images of conflict and bringing together the personal and the political in our post-Brexit times.

The principal photographic strategy was to use static framing, with the camera fixed on a tripod. The stasis of the ‘locked off’ view enhances the sensory gap between ‘here’ and ‘there’; it enables the audience the space for quiet contemplation of the ‘empty’ buffer zone whose ‘falling-down-ness’ embodies post-colonial detritus and conveys an uneasy prescience of a potential post-apocalyptic future.

Father-land won the 2020 BAFTSS (British Association of Film and Screen Studies) Best Practice Research Award in the Essay/Experimental film category.

Image: Greek Cypriot guard post, Nicosia Buffer Zone, Cyprus (2018)