Traffic: movement / place / flow / mobility
Land2 and Land/Water and the Visual Arts Conference
University of Plymouth and Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth 15 to 16 April 2016
Reach and Maelstrom: filming the tidal Tamar
Joint paper with Stuart Moore
Our paper explores the affinity between place and inner states of mind, and the material specificities of moving image - repetitive visual rhythms of light and shadow, the perceived illusion of movement, and so on, using two recent moving image artworks, Reach, and Maelstrom: The Return, as case studies. We critically reflect on the processes of engagement with place and elemental forces, and the materials and materiality of film-making. Our working method is a close reading of our subject and an interaction with it.

Reach, commissioned by the River Tamar Project for It’s All About the River film festival in 2014, is a form of ‘environmental’ direct animation that enables a symbiotic conversation to evolve between artist and place through film’s agency as a sensitive and sensible medium. The imagery is created by burying 16mm filmstrips in the alluvial mud of the banks of the Tamar, allowing the river to ‘make the film’ through the movements of its tidal waters and the action of biota; the accompanying soundtrack developed from recordings taken from both above and below the surface of the river, creating an experience for the audience of immersion in the flow of the river.

Maelstrom: The Return, made for the Centre for Moving Image Research, University of the West of England, and Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, during autumn 2014, is focused on the turbulent waters rocky that swirl around the promontory on the westernmost edge of Plymouth known as Devil’s Point.

In this work, mysterious upwellings and whirlpools combine with cinematic memories of long-forgotten arrivals and departures at the mouth of the River Tamar. Our aim was to capture the confluence of the histories and lived experience of this place for the audience in moving image and sound.

Both works are characterised by an uncertain or unpredictable spatio-temporality, which produces mutating forms through the active power of elemental forces and organic processes: upon the material specificities of photochemical analogue film in Reach, and via the ‘projection’ of archival home movie footage upon the substrate of un-still waters and the ‘sea of moving image’ of Maelstrom.