CW: The thing about a panoramic view is that everything is very different: you’re not very involved in the scene. And from a military point of view, that can be a good point. But from the point of the work that I make, I tend to use close up much more. And be more involved inside the landscape, rather than looking objectively from outside. That would be my main reason for that. My other reason is that I’m not really terribly interested in creating a replica of what’s there. A lot of cinema is really about trying to make scenes look the way they look in life, which seems to be a bit of a waste of time because we’ve got life. I prefer to use the camera to show us something that we cannot see.
MG: This is also connected to the fact that you’re more interested in the mechanical aspects of the cinematic apparatus, its inherent properties and not so much in subjective explorations. Also, kind of trying to make the machinery invisible in a way, which is a tradition within experimental filmmaking, mainly the structural-materialist strand.
CW: Yeah, I think so. A film like Seven Days, the scale on that is very specific. There’s a matter of scales. The raindrops on the lens are about as close as you can possibly see, the sun is 98 million miles away, and the camera is about the height that a human being stands above the ground. So it’s got a number of reference points in terms of scale. But it’s very different from one film to the next.
I get to know the place first, and see what’s going on there and what’s happening. I just observe the place, get to know it. And maybe out of that will come some kind of idea from how I can link the camera, or myself in some way, into that particular situation. So consequently, every film that I make has a different structure. Nothing is necessarily taken for granted. So the film, the shutter speed, the way that the camera is mounted, or the amount of duration, editing (if there is any) depend on what is actually there. They’re not imposed by some sort of idea, for example that I have some sort of structure in my mind and then go and find the landscape and apply it. The structure comes out of the landscape.
MG: But there is still a conceptual aspect to your work, making you part of a tradition of conceptualism, right?
CW: I guess so. It’s sort of engrained into me in some way. You know your other question was about Structural/Materialist Film.
“The structuring aspects and the attempt to decipher the structure and anticipate/re-correct it, to clarify and analyze the production process of the specific image at any specific moment, are the root concern of Structural/Materialist Film.” Peter Gidal
I joined the London Film-Makers’ Co-op about 1970. But I was never sort of part of that group. They were a group in their own right, Cinema Action in particular. And I didn’t do like performance stuff, I did installations which set me into a different area somehow. You know, I’d go to the Co-op regularly and saw lots of films there. And I particularly like Peter Gidal’s ideas that he was thinking about film . I was a painter before I became a filmmaker. What I was thinking about was the kind of thing that a painter would do if he was painting a landscape, that there’s a dialogue going on between the painter and events that are happening, and the way that that would be translated into an image. So I was really thinking more of the camera and how that could replace paint and canvas, and the shutter and the frame and the grain and so on, and camera movement itself. How that could be translated from painting and the activity of making a painting into the activity of making a film. So it’s a very straightforward translation of one thing into another.
MG: Moving from painting to a cinematic discourse, there’s obviously a different sense of spatiality and temporality, though? But the switch wasn’t really that big of a leap for you?
CW: Not really no. You know, Monet was painting with serial canvases like the side of Rouen Cathedral, almost really making a film there. Cézanne and his use of cubism was all of a sudden moving the viewpoint in general. And it’s probably no coincidence that their paintings coincided with the invention of cinema. In retrospect it seems very obvious: I was really making a direct comparison between the activity of painting and film making and trying to use film to solve some of the problems that Monet was up against when he painted rouen Cathedral. All of a sudden (and this was partly because of technological advances like the availability of oil paint in portable lead tubes) you could paint outside in the landscape. And so, there they all were working directly from nature and all of a sudden there’s this interesting problem…you’re supposed to be painting what you can see but its moving and its changing! What to do? The technology of paint and canvas was not up to the task. There are even stories of Monet removing leaves from trees! He had presumably begun painting them in winter and spring was happening before the work was completed.
You know this struck me as being interesting and it opened up a way that ,by using film, I could resume at the point where the impressionists began their engagement with time and move things forward . I was very much thinking of film as a frame by frame medium. Where each film frame was the equivalent to a paintbrush stroke, in a very direct, (structural) way. More importantly I was thinking that if one is painting from a landscape one is actually working in time in the landscape. The landscape is not a static thing and neither is the artist. There is a dialogue going on between painter and the painted. It takes time to observe the landscape, mix up some colour and put it on the canvas. What you first saw is no longer there. And then you look again, and mix some more coloured goo, and by the time you put it on the canvas, that moment is gone too! It is a very obvious but, for me, an important point that ,even though an impressionist painting looks like a still photograph, it is actually more like a time lapse film. Because, like a time lapse film, it’s a record of a whole series of individual movements in time . So I reasoned ,in reverse, that making a time lapse film is like making a painting! And so working frame by frame, in films like Park and Seven Days, made it possible for me to work in the landscape and, like an impressionist painter, engage in a collaborative dialogue with the changes taking place there. In this way the activity and mechanics of making the film were not hidden from view and became essential both as content and as visual and audio material.
So for me the way forward just fell into place. That makes it sound easy.
MG: You mentioned that you were inspired by the ideas of Peter Gidal. His polemical stance is certainly thought-provoking, and his rejection or redefinitions of things such as figuration, metaphor, narrative and his detection of the political workings of cinematic representation is highly charged. I’m interested in how you understand your work in relation to cinematic representation.
CW: That’s where Peter is so interesting and although our work is very different, I have been heavily influenced by both his films and his writings. In a project like my installation At Sea for example, you can see his influence -I think. What I was aiming at in this work was to make an enormous wall, maybe a hundred feet long, twenty feet high, of virtually nothing but pixels. But here I depart from Peter’s ideas because I wanted these pixels to have a one on one correspondence with the particles of water vapour in the foggy ocean atmosphere of the ocean. The image is thus divided and the viewer is left very much “at Sea” searching for landmarks in a “sea” of digital information. I did the same sort of thing with an installation I made called Waterfall, where the drops of water in the waterfall were almost, I felt, an equivalent to the pixels in the videotaped image. Despite the abstract and disembodied nature of the digital image I feel that some kind of connection was made between the material base of the work and the material of the landscape. Just like in Streamline for example, there are two lines: the line of the film stock itself and the line of the wire cable track which, the camera, tracks along. If you were to take the roll of film, literally in this case, and roll it out across the room you’d have another straight line which would also, like the steam, be transparent and have water running through it. Or at least a representation of water running through it. So there’s a connection there between the material of film and it’s representation. There’s also a similar connection in Seven Days. As you know the camera is aligned with the earth’s axis and the camera mount rotates at the same speed as the earth. The sun is therefore always in line with the camera and(rather like a sundial) projects a shadow of the camera on the ground. In the cinema however, the projector lamp takes the place of the sun, and projects the image of the camera shadow and the landscape onto the projection screen. This shadow play is an essential ingredient of film. Seven Days is very medium specific in this way.
MG: And in Seven Days it’s a metaphor for the rotation of the earth, too?
CW: Well actually, the camera rotates in sync with the rotation of the earth. That’s what the equatorial stand, the device that I used, is designed to do. Astronomers use the same device to observe the stars. The telescope mount is tilted at the same angle as the earth’s axis and rotates at the same speed as the earth.( 360 degrees every 24 hrs.) This keeps the star aligned with the telescope. I used this device as a camera stand and aligned the camera with the sun -which is the closest star. The intention here was to connect the technology of film making to nature and the equatorial stand made this possible .
Incidentally there are simple, embodied, ways that one can connect to the rotation of the earth. Very simple ways. For example, if you stand with your back to the wind, and the northern hemisphere –low pressure will always be to your left. So perhaps you can imagine yourself keeping the wind to your back and gradually rotating as the weather systems pass you by. In this simple way you are directly connected through your senses to the rotation of the planet and the enormous forces that drive the climate and weather systems of the planet. In this way, the little hairs on the back of your neck are inseparably connecting you to the wind ,and via the weather systems , to the rotation of the earth. It’s something that you sense, or you can if you know how to. This is how my background in sailing has influenced my art practice. Sailing is not about passing through the weather ,as you do in a car were you see it all passing safely outside the windscreen, it’s about being in the weather and engaging with it. In a sailboat you must work with the weather to get wherever you want to go. This is the model of technology that I use to make films. It suggests a relationship with nature that is based on collaboration and engagement rather than distance and control
MG: You have to be a collaborator.
CW: Exactly. I think I might have mentioned this before(!)
MG: In some of your works you sense a quite strong physical and bodily presence, though in others you do not at all. I’m thinking here of a work like your Windvane, where your body somehow can be sensed even though you don’t see it. The traces of your bodily presence is still very interesting in a lot of the works, as we talked about just a few minutes ago, that it is very important for you to get to know the landscape. Also, it is always a landscape that you have had a long history with, which means that you’ve been doing a lot of walking or calculating or just sensing or feeling the landscape before you place a camera in it. I’m interested in this dialectical relation between your body and the cinematic machinery. It is an aspect I sense strongly in some of your works.
CW: The obvious example is in Seven Days where our shadows becomes visible, every time we made adjustments to the camera or as we were trying to keep it dry. Sometimes you see the image of a hand in front of the lens. This happened whilst pushing the plexiglass lens cover back into place. The image of the artists hand is very direct register of human presence and is often seen in Neolithic cave paintings. In Seven Days the element of performance is ever present as we struggled with the equipment hour after hour and day after day. The body was very directly engaged – and it shows!
A lot of the work has a performance-like element to it. You know that if somebody is going to make a film like in River Yar, which I made with William Raban, and film continuously for a total of twelve weeks, you would have to man the camera round the clock, 24 hours a day. It’s like being a crew member on a long sailboat voyage one has to work shifts. This sort of engagement with the technology gives a sense of presence through that film.
In films like Drift, however, there is a very different sort of approach to landscape. This film was really about my state of mind more than anything else. I had just emigrated to Canada, I didn’t really know what I was doing there. I had sort of disconnected myself to the rest of my life. From my family, and everybody I knew. So that particular film has, for me, a different sort of presence. And again, in Sky Light, the centre section of the film is handheld, and it was made under pretty difficult circumstances, on the summit of a mountain in deep snow blizzards and ice storms. There’s a strong sense of somebody being there and engaged in some sort of metaphysical search. The film ends in a very abstract way, with just the shutter and sky visible and, as the clouds clear, there is only the blue sky and the camera shutter sort of chopping at each other, in some abstract battle between nature and technology. All human presence has been removed. There are no longer any voices, or radio, or music on the sound track. The last human voice you hear on the soundtrack is a woman reading some sort of code, a numerical code, then after that there is just the sound of the background radiation from the planet. The edenic landscape at the start of the film and the presence of the film maker , trying to hold a camera steady in freezing conditions, in the midd section are more keenly felt by their omission in this final final section where the filmic image disintegrates in a blaze of fire and light leaving only the sound of a geiger counter and the dust in the projector beam. Sky Light is about the consequences of nuclear melt down and the threat of human extinction. In this film we begin in the human realm with our little niche intact but we end up in a very cold and inhuman space where biological life of any sort is no longer a possibility.
MG: Also, your work shares many aspects with an artist like Robert Smithson, for example the interest in thermodynamics and entropic processes.
CW: His ideas about thermodynamics have always interested me. And there is a connection between this and Seven Days. As time goes on, during the film, the structure is just about holding together and towards the end of the film we were pretty exhausted, the weather was awful. And it was about as long as we could keep the thing together as a structure. Eventually it was bound to grind to a halt. I’m often asked why there wasn’t more (or less )than seven days, . Well it’s because that was as long as we could keep the structure together. I saw this as a metaphor . When I was thinking of making that film I was walking on the heathland where I made it, and I came across the remains of a sheep that had fallen off a cliff, which occasionally happens, the structure that once was a viable homeostatic system had collapsed and you couldn’t really tell where the sheep stopped and the land began, it was being eaten form below. And so the structure of the sheep was gradually transforming into a different kind of structure And I thought of that when I was thinking of Seven Days, and in a way the structure of the film resembles a simple organism. I set up a structure that I could only maintain for a certain amount of time, I was very aware that it would run down over time. The structure of Seven Days had a life span lasting seven days and was at the point of collapse as the sun sank below the horizon after that final day of unbelievably stormy weather. It seems to be the way things are, and it’s another way to think about mortality.
MG: I think one other interesting dialogue between your work and Smithson’s work is the layering or stratifications of time, sedimentions of time, something you might could call a sense of geological time. Which is also in a way connected to structural film and your interests in complex systems. The fact that it’s a rigid sense of time structured through the use of technology, but then you also have kind of a geological time which is connected to the vast time of landscape and the strata of the landscape, which in a way is an entropic time scale. I think there is a double movement in your work here, which is very interesting. Working with, for example, with time-lapse filming to compress time, and simultaneously a sense of the grand time scales of the landscape or the ocean.
CW: And the visibility within that, through the weather. And wind speed and all those variables.
MG: I guess you don’t use time-lapse in your installation work, but in the 70s and 80s you used it quite a lot, and you were one of the most prominent time-lapse filmmakers in this milieu at the time. I’m curious about this use and what made you come back to that, especially in your early work.
CW: Well the thing about time-lapse, I stopped using it because part of the problem with it is that it became more and more popular. And people were just looking at it and saying ‘Oh yeah, time-lapse, seen that’. . But from my point of view, a movie camera can run at any speed. Some can anyway, so I just change the frame speed depending on what I’m photographing. For films like Winter and Summer, or River Yar, or Seven Days, the camera was taking frames at a speed that was appropriate for events taking place in the landscape. In River Yar, this was the lengthening and shortening of the day during the six week period either side of the equinox. In a film like River Yar, massively slowing the frame speed made it possible to work with very slow changes of seasonal cycles and tides These events take place on a time scale which is on the scale of the earths cycles rather than on the cycles of day to day human life. To actually be able to perceive the changing length of day and night from season to season requires a machine. The purpose of the camera is not to mimic the world as we (questionably) perceive it but to help us see those differences which are normally hidden from human perception. The approach to shutter speed is different in every one of my early films. In Seven Days I had to film at a speed where I could get the whole day into one roll of film! In Winter and Summer the speed at which the shutter is fired depended on the length of day, so I exposed the same number of frames irrespective of whether it was summer (a 12 hour day) or winter (an 8 hour day.) The difference between the two seasons is thereby registered as accelerated motion rather than by the number of exposures made at a regular interval over nearly twice the time. In Park Film the frame speed is continuously varied and is governed by the flow of people through the Park. In Anemometer the wind drives the camera and we see the London traffic passing by in gusts!
MG: For practical and economical reasons as well?
CW: It’s that too. But, if my subject required that I shoot at higher speed than 24fps, then I would do that too. (and in Anemometer this is what happened when the wind blew hard) I just don’t see any real necessity for sticking to the obligatory “real time” 24 fps shooting speed. The shooting speed needs to matched the rate of change of something in front of the camera and if that “something” is the landscape then we can expect a lot of variations!
MG: Why is that? What’s the problem with the notion of real time?
CW: Well, some things (like the seasons) work on very long time scales, other things (like waves on a beach)work on very short time scales .. A fraction of a second. I think it’s a question of scale. This reminds me of some writings of Gurdjieff, one of his ideas that I read about and that influenced me a lot was the idea that the shortest event we can perceive without instruments is electric spark, and he made the suggestion that our lives are the equivalent of an electric spark as seen on the timescale of the planet. That got me thinking about how we are limited by our perceptions and what a camera can do to alter that? So an electric spark is about the fastest thing we can perceive and we can’t really perceive the passing of planetary time. You can se the rotation of the planet if you really concentrate, and looking at a shadow, you can see it moving. But real time is very much our time, human time, and I’m interested in different ideas of time. How does the planet see time? How does a tree see time? What sort of time are the tides working on? Real Time is ok for recording what we find useful or what we think we need. But there are other ways of looking at things.
Philosophical ideas interest me. I struggle with all this but I am fascinated by ontology. For example : In the Santiago Theory the idea that evolution may be a cognitive process interests me and has influenced my thinking about landscape. I Imagine Bishop Berkeley’s tree falling in the forest without needing a God to witness the event. Is there a “Thing as such” out there or are we bringing the world into existence as we engage with it? How has the dualistic ideas of the Enlightenment influenced the way we exist in the world and our attitude towards nature and the body?
These are some of the ideas which have sent me running to the library. And this research has found it’s way into my art practice. Certainly, I have reacted strongly against philosophical Dualism and in the kind of work that I’ve done, it has been important to give a certain amount of control or agency to nature. I have taken the position that a landscape film is a collaboration, between landscape and artist and this has meant that I must give up a certain amount of control. This began as a rather abstract philosophical idea but as circumstances have changed the initial idea has taken on an urgent environmental twist which I can illustrate with the following anecdote:
A few years ago a Canadian film maker who attended a screening I did in Brisbane became very upset when he saw my film Windmill, he said the film was mostly boring and asked me: ‘why didn’t you just keep the “good bits” and cut the “bad bits” out? ‘That’s what we do as filmmakers, he insisted -we cut the “good bits” out.’ ‘But no I responded , Windmill happened the way it happened. I do not wish to edit the work of the wind and it was the wind who directed that film not me. I added that I had made an agreement with the wind that I would respect her judgement and her work. ‘So’ I continued, ‘as far as I am concerned the film is all “good bits.” and if you don’t think so you should still be respectful of the wind and politely wait for the “bad bits” to go and the “good bits” to follow. ‘But you are partly right,’ I conceded, ‘we humans are good at chopping up nature in order to turn her into raw material, into ‘good bits’ and ‘waste bit’s in order to make pop-up toasters, SUVs and nuclear power stations. Look at the state of the planet, don’t you think it’s time for a change in attitude’
MG: Indeterminacy is obviously important in your work, but not as a kind of directional device in the way it was for someone like John Cage, for example. You’re interested in aleatory processes, or at least waiting for natural processes, or listening for them, awaiting them. But they don’t really work as a structural device. How is your relation to this?
CW: I was very influenced by John Cage and the work people were doing at that time with aleatoric systems. But when I use the wind to shape the film, or cloud cover, as in Seven Days, to edit the film, or use the tide as a structuring device, I’m not using chance. I don’t think anything like that is down to chance. The planet rotates in accordance with forces of gravity and the climate, which includes the wind, is generated by the heating and cooling influence of the sun as the earth rotates about it’s axis. Chance is just a word for a structure we don’t understand . We have a whole science dedicated to modelling the structure of chaotic systems like the electrical power grid, traffic jams, the global monetary markets – and the weather. In terms of computer programming, I think a random number is generated by dividing two very large numbers into one another. The random number is derived at the point where the division become recurring. So what does that mean? I don’t know, but certainly when the wind blows from this direction or that it has little to do with chance, anymore than it is chance that decides if today’s weather will be stormy or calm.
MG: So what did you pick up from the Cagean approach?
CW: Well he gave me the context to even begin thinking about such things, and it was an excellent starting point. I made my first wind powered film (a sketch version of “Windvane”) by strapping a friends 8mm to the steering gear on the back of a sail boat, and I don’t know if I was really thinking of John Cage then. But this name obviously came up when I showed this film to other people, and that got me thinking about what I’d done. And I soon realized that the difference our approaches was critically important. I’m giving agency to the wind or tide or something in the landscape, to work with me, or for me to work with the wind or the tide when making a film. I think that’s a rather different thing.
MG: On some occasions you’ve talked about your work in terms of what you call “emergent property”, variously described as “a result of the interaction between the cinematic process and the environment.” What context does that come from?
CW: It comes out of the work of Gregory Bateson who was a massive influence on second order cybernetics and chaos theory, I think. I am no expert but my understanding of it is that an emergent property is generated by a system that is inherently unstable and yet maintains some sort of constant parameter . The instability of the system generates an endless stream permutations which are known as emergent properties That’s the best I can do at this moment but returning to my work – when Brady Marks and installed the new media installation Tree Studies, for the Gwangju Biennale in 2006, we used weather data from around the planet to edit the pre recorded imagery of a tree and mix the multi channel audio . The data was relayed in real time and the work continuously changing in response to say a gust of wind in Sydney or a change of wind direction in London. In a sense you could say – and I’m not sure I’m very accurate in this, but this is the way I think about it – that the editing of picture and the mixing of sound was an emergent property. As the system struggled to maintain equilibrium it generated ever new and unexpected combinations of image and sound in response to incoming weather data from monitoring stations situated around the planet. I don’t know if this description would work for the scientific community, but it makes sense to me. In any case I can say with conviction that the installation operated like a miniature weather system – it was dynamic – it responded to the global climate as the planet rotated – and it was never the same twice!
MG: This thing with setting up a structure that can only be maintained for a certain amount of time, is a prominent feature in Momentum, a video work shot in the ruins of the Hotel Bahia de Tenicatita, La Manzanilla, Jalisco, Mexico, which was once a popular beach resort.
CW: You are quite right of course. I was thinking of that when I made Momentum. Momentum is about a building’s permanence but also about the inevitability of it’s disintegration, The film is about about the undeniable fact that the ruins of this hotel, along with it’s graffiti are returning to the land from whence it’s cement walls and arches came. Actually your point about thermodynamics, though I completely missed it, applies very well to Momentum. I used a hand held camera to transform all that monolithic concrete and and set it all in motion. I used the technology to turn solid concrete into a river of dancing pixels and coloured light. And seen on a geological timescale, this is an accurate representation. So yes, within a geological timeframe, that hotel will be gone very quickly as indeed so will everything else that we humans built. The life of concrete is really surprisingly short about 60 years or something like that. And so Momentum is partly about the future of all our cities and roads. The hotel was built with bad money, built on land that was given in return for political favours, built with badly paid labour, on sacred ground. Corners were cut, and people died when there was an explosion in the boiler room. Now it is a canvas for personal doodles about love and death. Fabulous gang tags decorate the crumbling walls of a once grand restaurant and the whole shooting match is slowly sinking into the mangrove swamp behind the beach. This is not just a Mexican narrative it could as well be the history of any building, or any city, anywhere on the planet.
MG: What was it that attracted you to that particular site in the first place? You told me that you’d been going to this Mexican resort quite frequently for for quite a few years. Was it the ruinous character of the place that attracted you, or the movement and animalistic qualities that amused you? Like you said, something is in a way going back to where it came from. Did you see a movie? Did you see a work, a film emerge from this?
CW: Not initially. (Incidentally I stay at a nearby fishing village. The ruined hotel is all that is left of the so called resort. The ruins are a two mile hike from the village .) What I was interested in was the graffiti, which is really quite striking, especially the gang tags, the big gang tags. It was very mysterious and even talking to local people they didn’t know or weren’t going to say, where they were from. Incidentally they’ve mostly gone now hurricane Patricia through took most of them out. It was both the monumentality of all the ruined concrete and failed ambition contrasted with the personal little scribbles saying that said “so and so loves so and so”, or that somebody died at such and such a time or meet me at sunset on the last day of 2000 –you know little fragments of peoples lives, that stuck me first . And despite all of that the whole thing is still heading back into the earth. And there it sits on a perfect sweep of golden sand , surrounded with palm trees and inhabited by scorpions snakes and geckos.
MG: There’s a intricate dialectic in the film between the sound which is very striking and in a kind of disproportionate relation to the visuals. The palm trees, you sense the beach but you never see it, and then you have the geopolitics of the graffiti and the kind of ruinous politics of the place.
CW: I made sure that the ocean and the beach wasn’t visible in the film because I didn’t want to film people surfing and walking the dog. But then I put the beach back in by way of the soundtrack, and deliberately recorded the sound on a day when there were huge waves breaking . Somedays the waves just drop vertically, with a huge BANG which shakes the ground and it partly this continuous bombardment that is now writing the final pages of the hotel’s fateful journey. But it was not the forces of nature that set the hotel on it’s current path , sometime in the late 1980s it was decimated by a huge propane explosion, which killed or maimed a number of hotel staff. Human violence is never far over the horizon and I wanted this to be somehow registered in my project. So the audio recordings of waves could easily be confused with a missile exploding. It’s the kind of sound you hear on the tv news recorded on someones cell phone at the scene of some horrible disaster. I wanted that sort of ambiguity about whether it was human violence or the violence of the wind and waves that had destroyed the building. It is also significant that the footage was shot on a consumer level camera and has the raw grainy look of amateur news footage recorded with all the immediacy of an iPhone.
MG: That kind of merging or movement, but also hermeneutic ambiguity, makes it a work with plenty of tension. I don’t mean very violent tension, rather relating to the different materials and the sonoric processes. And that’s something that’s recurring in your work, a more or less subtle but still very interesting dynamic of ambiguity.
What about Park Film and how it was conceived? What were the structural devices used and how does this relate to the notion of emergent property? You use time lapse there as well?
CW: At that time when making Park Film I was a student and one of the ways that I could earn money was working for the local city authorities as a traffic censor. A fascinating job to be sure! They supply us with a clipboard and a little number counter and we sat at the roadside and counted how many people went that way, and how many people went the other way, and how many people carry rolled umbrellas and how many cars and how many buses there were , and we sat there all day, rain or shine -n and got paid for or troubles. And I did that quite a bit because the pay was quite good and because I became interested in making a film in which I counted people by the click. of my movie camera. In Park Film it is the number of people at different times of day and in different weather condition that govern the speed at which time passes on the screen. The idea is that on a good day, on a sunny day, a lot more people would use the park and I would take correspondingly more more film frames, than i would on a rainy day. Which also means that the film is going to be correspondingly slower and correspondingly longer on a sunny day than it is on a rainy day – which is in fact what happened. So the first day I filmed was fairly sunny and therefore lasts for about two minutes on the screen . The next day was rainy and is over in less than a minute , the third day was sunny and last longer on the screen than the other two days combined. But this is also affected by the rhythms of the city that surrounds that park, by when it’s rush hour, and when it’s lunch time, and when the office workers get out and have some time for a break. In this way the length of the film could just as easily have been effected by a sudden rain shower as by the cancellation of the 8.35 am bus from Kensington to Liverpool Street!
MG: It’s in Kensington Gardens?
CW: Yes, I believe the pathway I filmed is called the Broad Walk, it’s used by commuters to walk to and from work, which is why the rush hour is significant. Obviously if it’s a sunny day they choose to walk through the park but if it’s raining they are more likely to catch a bus to work. So there’s a lot going on there, some of which has to do with the park itself and the weather and natural phenomena and other things that have to do with the city and the interaction between rush hour and lunchtime and the weather and so on and so forth. And the thing I say about this film is that it’s not a film about a park, it’s a film that is part of the park .
And I suppose that this brings us back to the idea of emergence , where the film becomes the emergent property – or you could see it that way-of the interaction between all those different forces listed above. And of course these are just a fraction of the number of forces that are at work there, you know. Those are just the ones that I could see or the ones that I could register using a very simple clockwork camera. If I was to have all sorts of sensing devices and heaps of money and all sorts of computer equipment, a drone and a team of thousands, I could probably do something more sophisticated, but perhaps someone else should do that.? I shall try to be content with what I managed to do with my simple clock work camera and three rolls of reversal film.
Thank you Martin for your thought provoking questions.
Originally published in the Swedish magazine OEI # 73–74 2016