Clocks and Clouds


“There is nothing permanent except change” Heraclitus 535-475 BC

In this short essay I have quite arbitrarily divided the elements of making a film into two quite separate categories. Changing light, wind, clouds, waves and animals are examples of cloud like phenomena. The camera running at a constant film rate, the tides, buses running on regular time tables and the rotation of the planet are examples of clock like phenomena.

However it is not my intention to suggest that these two categories are in any way intrinsic to nature and in reality, no such division exist. There is no either/or situation existing with regards to the two categories of clock cloud. Rather a sliding scale where a clock can be seen as a cloud or vice versa depending on the method of observation. For example, the concept of mechanical time, originally derived from observing the cyclic paths of the stars or the rotation of the sun about its axis has evolve to a degree of accuracy which far exceeds that of the celestial cycles themselves. On the other hand, clouds have weight, mass and temperature each of which can be measured.

Cloud like incalculables often play a very important part in way my films are made. For example, in “Anemometer” the shooting speed was governed by direct link with the speed of the wind. The more wind there was, the more frames were exposed and the slower the action became. If the wind stopped blowing no frames were exposed. Shooting in Central London I recorded the rush hour traffic in gusts! Conversely, in other films, the predictability of structure is obvious, for example in Forest Bay where the number of frames exposed in each take follow a simple numerical progression from 1 frame to 32 frames and then from 32 frames back to 1 frame again. Often both of these polarities are present to some degree in the same film. In “Wind Vane” for example the camera motion is controlled by the wind (a cloud category) but the frame rate was a constant 24fps ( a clock category).

In more recent work I am concerned with making my presence more explicit at the decision-making level during the articulation of a predetermined shooting procedure. A situation where my personal intervention in the relationship already established between the camera and its subject matter can be an integral part of the formal actualization of the film. In “Seven Days” the camera motion is determined by the rotation of the earth in relation to the sun. The length of a take is determined by local weather conditions. The motion of the sun as the earth rotates is easily predetermined. The length of each take however, cannot be pre-determined and depends on my presence and intervention.

My films begin as a ‘musical feeling’ about the spatial and temporal disposition of the component parts of a landscape. My aim is to mediate between the predictable and unpredictable elements of the situation. My intention is to make films which are not about, but a part of the situation in its entirety.