Artists’ Film and Video

My work has been strongly influenced by the pro-filmic structuralist work of other artist film makers from the 1970s to the present day. My early films utilise formal aspects of the medium (such as multiple exposure, animation, time exposure and stylised camera movements) to choreograph journeys into visionary landscapes that draw more from the worlds of poetry, metaphor and dreams than any narrative based cinematic genre.

In the 1990s I began working closely with other artists, such as the composer Sianed Jones. Singing the Horizon (1997) is built from a continuous pan across a flat expanse of reed beds, grazing marshes and windmills in the Norfolk Broads. As it progresses, natural phenomena and encountered forms are transformed into an animated mandala of evolving motifs which Sianed then uses as a visual score for her musical response.

Sianed Jones and performance poet Cris Cheek worked with me to develop a live performance and multi screen work entitled Tongues Undone (1999), commissioned by the World Wide Video Festival in Amsterdam. The central theme of the work is the voice, and an exploration of how pure vocal statements can be choreographed into performed and animated movement and gesture. Throughout the piece, graphic symbols and graffiti are translated into vocal sounds, concrete poetry and body movements. Spoken words mutate into animated text on the screen creating a cyclic dialogue between the different linguistic forms.

This exploration of hybrid forms and the meeting points between spoken, written and visual poetic languages is further developed in Maud (2000). Maud quotes a few short fragments from the Alfred Tennyson poem of the same name, which charts a lovelorn protagonist’s descent from joyful anticipation into abject misery at the loss of his heart’s desire. This transition becomes a journey through intense emotion, manifest in formalised visual and aural readings of woodland settings in Norfolk and New Zealand. In the live presentation of the piece in Amsterdam, Sianed Jones embodied Maud and stood within a somber animated landscape as she sang her response to her lovelorn suitor.

A concern for the spirit of place is revisited again in Delirium, made during an artist’s residency in Brisbane in Spring 2006. It’s a heat-crazed, densely woven vision of the city. Tropical vegetation and the natural world collide with its towering cityscape and life is observed via the humid pulse of a slow infrared shutter and flickering, grainy camera style. The film is a collaboration with Tasmanian sound artist Matt Warren, who composed the vocal and electronic underscore.

Since moving to New Zealand, I have focused on exploring relationships between landscape photography, poetry and the moving image. A trilogy of my short films, shot along the west coast of Auckland, were shown for a six month season on the outdoor screen run by Auckland Live in Aotea Square, Auckland.

Published by Martin Sercombe

Photographer Film maker

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