I cut short a rather overwhelming visit to Frieze last Thursday to collect some digitised Super 8 rushes from Sendean Cameras – one reel from the garden, one reel of test shots for another project in development Hagspiel & Comp.
I’d peeped at the filmstrip before handing it in for the Telecine – the coiling thread of mysterious, miniature images – and was waiting in anticipation for the video version. The guys at Sendean had warned me my camera was in need of a service, having never been calibrated to take alkaline rather than mercury batteries. And unfortunately much of the garden footage did come out rather murky and dull.
The more successful shots are those looking over the trees and bushes to the buildings surrounding the garden walls – the stronger lines of the architecture lend some structure and definition to the frame. I’ve been thinking to use these clips to make a new ‘bubble’ installation, one that might be a sequel to my 2009 piece Fedora, which also explored ideas of shifting cities.
The footage of course has that very specific 8mm quality, which I’m not entirely sure how to deal with. I love the grainy-ness and the imprecision of the wavering image. But I’m not aiming to create a wistful or nostalgic piece, or one that has anything to do with home movies or obsolete technologies. So why use the film stock? It’s certainly not the easiest or most economical choice. One reason might be to try and capture this sense of ‘otherness’ that is characteristic of the garden. The unreality, the artificiality, the imaginary nature of the space. The film footage has a far-away, nebulous quality so unlike the close-up-super-HD-clarity of the digital image world.
A construction vehicle driving past seems incongruous in this far-away space, gives a jolt – disrupts the apparent softness of the scene as a reminder of the actuality of the city.
After what felt like a long time away, I visited Culpeper the other day to take a new batch of 35mm slides. It certainly feels autumnal now: bright and blustery, the colours are changing to darker greens, reds, oranges. Berries were falling around me as I walked under the canopies (it was a particularly windy afternoon) and the paths were littered with leaves.
I tried to explore a new area of the garden this time – the southwest corner near the compost heap – but I was quite uncertain as to what to shoot. I’ve been photographing in a rather haphazard, random way so far – simply responding to what I’m seeing/finding, capturing ‘little moments’ in a stop-start kind of way, without thinking ahead to how sequences will come together on a timeline. I realised I needed to look back over the images and shots I’ve already collated, to consider the sequences and patterns that are starting to form. I went back to Final Cut Pro and exported a rough edit of just over a minute’s worth of scanned photographs. I set it playing in a continuous loop on my desktop and wrote some notes:
*Walking around, changes announced by the soundtrack
*Black spaces can be useful – pauses
*Difference between slow and fast sequences is like the difference between walking and running?
*Would be nice to see/hear different weather conditions – rain
*Pathways and walking – navigating the space, exploring
*The dark (underexposed) section looks like twilight and gives a very different feeling
This sense of walking is something I’d like to investigate further. And the differences between stopping to look and being on the move.
“Gardens have always attracted me because they are great artificial projects. Decorations, gazebos, rose beds, hedges and greenhouses never change. Greenhouses especially are a sort of sacred place…” – Artist Flavio Favelli
These last couple of weeks have been all about glass. Bubbles and glass. I’ve had a show at UCL, London (www.pattern-completion.net) so haven’t had so much time to spend on my Garden project. But I’m happy to be back in my workroom today, with plenty of reading, writing, scanning, thinking and projecting to do.
I went to the BFI on Wednesday to watch František Vláčil’s short film Glass Skies. I discovered Vláčil’s work only recently, but was struck by his poetic approach to filmmaking. This piece tells the story of a boy’s fascination with the sky. We see him playing in his grandfather’s greenhouse, a model bird he sends soaring over the glass roofs breaking one of the panes. The boy runs away from the garden, to discover an airplane parked in a nearby field. He climbs into the cockpit and imagines taking off. Throughout the film, characters and objects are viewed through panes of glass, as reflections in mirrors or distortions in shiny aircraft-parts. Obscured-glass panels of the greenhouse transform figures into abstract blocks of colour; raindrops falling onto clear glass panes blot out the scene beyond; pools of water in the garden create rippling images and reflections.
On one level a poetic reverie on flight and light, the film has ominous overtones – the story implies a plane crash involving the boy’s father. The microcosm of the greenhouse, presented as an unreal place of mirage and magic, echoes the dangers of the outside/real world beyond.
Again, I’m reminded of the idea of the garden as a microcosm; and of the relationship between gardens, childhood and play.