Bodies of Water
Programme of artists’ moving image for The Power of the Sea exhibition at the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, UK from 5 April to 6 July 2014
Still image from A Voyage Over The Horizon by Peter Matthews (2013)
Curated by artist film-maker Kayla Parker in response to The Power of the Sea exhibition, this programme of short films explores the effective and affective power of the sea, whose rhythms infiltrate our dreams and memories, pacifying our minds, absorbing and smoothing trauma. When landlocked, we may feel the sea’s absence as a loss that leaves us stranded, bereft.

Our ability to re-model the earth through modern technologies and global commerce has caused a climatic crisis that may be irrevocable. As weather becomes more active, the interface between sea and land is changing rapidly - erosion is countered by building a fortress against nature itself. This programme of short films invites reflection on our relationship with the waters that surround the British Isles, and a possible post-human future.

The programme includes work by Rachael Allain, Tabatha Andrews, Susan Collins, Anna Louise Day, Laura Hopes, Esther Johnson, Nathaniel Lane, Peter Matthews, Stuart Moore, Kate Ogley, Kayla Parker, Patricia Townsend, and Sally Waterman. Each artist whose moving image work is included in this collection engages directly with the sea to represent their experience through a range of strategies - the camera as witness, observing and recording the natural phenomena and human activities occurring before its gaze; using film as an impressionable substance, a poetic medium that remembers the seaside as a place and time set apart from the everyday in which rites of passage are enacted.

Force 8 presents an all-day artists’ film event, The Galley, Bridport, Dorset; also featuring work by Suky Best, and Adam Chodzko (Saturday 14 January 2017, 11am to 5pm)

Force 8 The Methodist Chapel, West Bay, Bridport; Force 8 is a collective art project founded by Anna Best and Hester Schofield (Saturday 20 August 2016, 6pm to 8pm).
Visual Arts South West August Picks, selected by guest editor Tessa J Fitzjohn: “This thoughtful selection of eleven short films, organised as part of the Force 8 summer programme places the role of water as a medium to engage, with a series of journeys, physical, psychological and emotional. To tell stories of loss; of work; of play. To question the precarity of the land, as the seas rise. To talk of place, space, and humanity, but always through the gaze of the camera.”

CineStar at the Cornwall Film Festival Murdoch House, Redruth (14 November 2015)
Screening of Bodies of Water, presented by Kayla Parker; followed by a discussion led by Nick Higgs, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Marine Institute, University of Plymouth. A Land/Water and the Visual Arts and Moving Image Arts (MIA) research event, Scott Building room 102, University of Plymouth (11 February 2015)

Bodies of Water was first presented at the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol for The Power of the Sea exhibition, and was part of the 2014 Bristol Art Weekender event; Kayla Parker introduced the films, and a there was a lively Q+A discussion after the screening (premiere: Saturday 3 May 2014).

Running order of films
2013 / 11 min 49 min / colour / digital video
A film by Laura Hopes
An audiovisual record of a journey made during winter down the River Tavy from its source on Dartmoor to the sea. The artist swims, walks and kayaks the river’s 20 mile length, documenting the visual and emotional terrain of the journey. “The mutability of the water was intensified by my own immersion. Moving between brutal physicality or becoming part of the flow, the water was at times indeterminate: lapping, or a solid impact.” (LH)

2011 / 2 min 32 sec / colour / digital video
A film by Sally Waterman
Composer: Donna McKevitt (Warner Classics, 1998)
Shot during the catamaran journey across the Solent, from Portsmouth to Ryde, Isle of Wight, to attend the funeral of a family friend. On the journey, the rise and fall of the waves, together with the shifting focus between the distant sea and the droplets of water on the windowpane, becomes representative of the artist’s confrontation with loss. Taken from the artist’s Translucence project, which is based on Derek Jarman’s writings.

Scallop Cutters
2007 / 14 min 33 sec / colour / digital video
A film by Kate Ogley
“The film depicts a day in the life of migrant scallop cutters working at Falmouth Wharf where I had my studio. They work in a meditative silence but for the percussive sounds of the shells. I am interested in the ritual movements of their day and how they weave their way between, around and alongside one another. The watery environment and reflections evoked for me a feeling of other imaginary spaces. There is a strong sense of them being both present and absent during the long hours that they work.” (KO)

Sea Front
2009 / 5 min 40 sec / colour / Super 8mm
A film by Stuart Moore
The poetry of Plymouth Sound and city seaside culture captured in glorious Kodachrome Super 8: meet the young tombstoners who gather on the cliffs under Plymouth Hoe at high tide to launch themselves into the waves below. Winner of the 2010 London Short Film Festival Trick of the Light Award, and the Media Innovation Award 2010: Independent Film.

2002 / 10 min 36 sec / black and white / 16mm
A film by Esther Johnson
Focusing on an East Yorkshire community living on the fastest eroding coastline in Europe, Hinterland asks how it feels to live in such a precarious situation with homes fatally threatened by the elements.

Love Brid
2009 / 3 min 32 sec / colour / digital photographic animation
A film by Susan Collins
An animated postcard, sculpted from series of photographic stills, a loving tribute to the timeless charms of the seaside, and a colourful rollercoaster ride through the coastal town of Bridlington (Brid) in North Yorkshire and its many unique attractions, recorded on location over a few days in August 2009. Commissioned by Animate Projects for the Sea Change initiative.

A Voyage Over The Horizon
2013 / 3 min 6 sec / colour / HD video (silent)
Peter Matthews
“An unstable and erratic period of delirium was experienced while working in the Atlantic Ocean in late summer. A method of centring the mind and body was discovered which entailed the need to try and be as still as possible when placing a video camera to a pair of binoculars and trying to keep the distant boats and ships within the frame of a moving image.” (PM)

Sea Change
2013 / 3 min 37 sec / colour / microscopic digital stop-motion
A film by Anna Louise Day
Poetic film exploring place though a close encounter with the shifting sands and microscopic remnants of sea creatures that are cast up along the strandline of a British beach.

The Quick and the Dead
2008 / 2 min 47 sec / digital video
A film by Patricia Townsend
Water dances with a natural energy, as a hidden force seems to pull it under the surface of the sand. The camera holds us as the soundtrack accentuates our sense of instability and imminent danger, transfixed by this elemental phenomenon.

The Ferryman
1995 / 16 min 47 sec / black and white / Super 8mm
A film by Nathaniel Lane
A lyrical tale set in 1940's Cornwall about a young boy's rite of passage. Filmed on location in North Cornwall, the film evokes the everyday life of people of south west Britain, whose centuries old traditions and rural culture were captured from the 1970s to the end of the 90s by photographer James Ravilious, the second son of the artist Eric Ravilious.
Made with financial support from The Elmgrant Trust, Devon Filmmakers Fund, and The Ronald Duncan Literary Foundation.

Teign Spirit
2009 / 2 min 50 sec / black and white and colour / 8mm and HD video
A film by Kayla Parker and Stuart Moore
An animated ‘séance’ in which the modern day seaside resort of Teignmouth, once known as ‘The Children’s Paradise’, is haunted by joyous summers past, conjured up though archive footage. Teign Spirit interweaves home movies of summer activities shot just before the outbreak of the Second World War with modern day views. A twenty first century stroll, evoking the optical entertainments of the Victorian pier: the flickering still-moving images of the mutascope, a figure seen for a moment, held in the mind, then gone. Commissioned by Animate Projects for the Sea Change initiative.

2013 / 1 min 34 sec / colour / digital film
A film by Rachael Allain
“During the summer of 2013 the sustained heat wave had reached its peak. The sun was setting over the water, its sound and pond like quality mesmerizing. Immersing myself in the sea, glowing from the rays of the sun. I was beguiled, in a sense of reverie, enticed by the threshold of where the land sea and sky converge. Subliminal was the result of documenting this spectacle.” (RA)

Total running time: 82 min approx.

Note: The programme includes Distress Signal by Tabatha Andrews, an audiovisual intervention in three parts, commissioned for the Bodies of Water programme, which will appear unannounced in the gaps between films. In the work, the artist explores the maritime distress signal ‘SOS’, which has been interpreted as ‘save our ship’, ‘send out succour’ and ‘save our souls’. Andrews takes the latter interpretation as inspiration for this work, which explores the state of difficulty, doubt and peril. As well as meaning precariousness, pain and sorrow, the word 'distress' comes from the Latin distringere, 'to stretch apart'. Through the interventions, the perceptual gap between seeing and hearing is exposed, as well as our inability to communicate in the face of desperate circumstances. The camera is stretched beyond its limits as high definition images are obliterated by light, illuminating the space beyond the screen.

Many thanks to all the artists; Janette Kerr, and the staff at the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol; and Sundog Media.