Sky Light – preview

Year : 1988

Running Time : 26m colour 16mm

Sound : Yes

“The disquieting feeling is that nature is being interrupted or frozen for no apparent reason.” Fred Camper on Skylight in the Chicago Reader, 2001

An idyllic river flows through a forest, flashes of light and colour threaten to erase the image, bursts of short wave radio and static invade the tranquility of the natural sound. The camera searches amongst the craggy rocks and ruined buildings of a bleak and windswept snowscape, a Geiger counter chatters ominously in the background. The sky is overcast at first but gradually clears to reveal a sky of unnatural cobalt blue….

This film is made in three sections, each leading towards the final abstraction, and each resembling a search for meaning and order amidst a plethora of electronic, chemical and mechanistic information. In sky light the layers of imagery are gradually stripped away: Rivers, trees, snow covered rocks and clouds gradually give way to an ominous cobalt blue sky and the rotating blades of the camera shutter. In the final sequence the layers of the photographic emulsion are gradually striped away until only dust and the light of the film projector remains.

“The unseen is no longer playfully negotiated but instead threatens cataclysm in Welsby’s latest film, Sky Light. Welsby, who is English, calls the film “post Chernobyl” – it was shot 48 hours after the disaster was announced. Echoing Adorno’s dictum on the impossibility of poetry after the Holocaust, Welsby stated at his Millennium screening that “it is not possible to look at landscapes in the same way after Chernobyl…..Sky Light begins where his earlier films leave off, with beautifully composed images of nature. A sense of urgency and immediacy, however, conveyed by the introduction of sound and camera movement, soon indicates a profound shift in Welsby’s formalist project. As in Ernie Gehr’s Signal – Germany on the Air, the radio noise and voices speaking in several languages make apparent the hidden danger masked by the benign imagery. Sky Light ends, not with another English landscape, but with pure white and the crackle of a Geiger counter. The visible is longer a guarantee of absolute knowledge.”

The Village Voice, New York City, April 25th 1989 NYC.

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