Digital Ecologies and the Anthropocene
Signal Effects symposium
Bath Spa University 28 April 2017
On Location: developing an eco-sensitive cinema
Joint paper with Stuart Moore
This paper explores the potential for an ethical practice in the Anthropocene using our recent moving image artwork, On Location (2017), as a case study. This practice-research film is a hybrid form of landscape cinema sited in an unnamed sunken lane in a remote area of rural mid-Devon. As artist film-makers, we aim to follow an aesthetic practice that addresses social and political issues, working with the world and the materials and materiality of film-making, whilst being aware that we are “living in a damaged world” (Tsing, 2014). In their New Materialism manifesto, published in 2012, Andrew Simms and Ruth Potts of the counterculture think-tank New Economics Foundation argue for a re-thinking of our relationship to the world and our use of its materials and resources. Our presentation considers the development of an ‘eco-sensitive’ cinema, reflecting on the digital film-making methods and material specificities of moving image and the affect of landscape cinema.

On Location observes a year’s seasonal cycle, capturing meteorological phenomena and the natural world using a range of experimental filming techniques, accompanied by field recordings made at the site that capture the sonic architecture of the space. We made regular field trips to the location with cameras and sound equipment – these visits afforded us the opportunity to experience the place during a varied range of weather conditions, to respond intuitively using our camera and sound equipment, and then to review and reflect on the recordings we had made. The affective interplay between the recordings and our memories through repeated presence and absence at a location that seems both unchanging and in constant flux were an important influence on the finished film, which premiered in the cinema at Plymouth Arts Centre UK in January 2017.

In foregrounding the materials and materiality of film-making, linked to an awareness of limited resources, our methodology aspires to offer a deeper and more lasting relationship to the world and the non-human beings and things in it, aligned to new materialism’s imperative of “understanding materials through working with them ... understanding and working with the material, not dominating it” (Simms and Potts, 2012, 13).

Still image from the 16mm film On Location (2017)