I n n e r S c a p e
As I write this, just over a year since I suddenly started making experimental moving image art films, it strikes me that the most important beginnings and ends also came upon me suddenly. I started writing poetry suddenly. I embarked on an unplanned contemplative journey suddenly. My son was blown up by Al-Qaeda suddenly – to mention but a few relevant events over the past decade or so. I have a sense that these events are somehow connected beyond the quality of sudenness – they certainly come together in my very first film; the moving image installation; ‘On Being Yes-ed Upon’.
I don’t know much about the quality of suddenness except that it seems to me to be a consequence to what wants to be brought about by the event – a kind of an inverted causality. Perhaps it indicates a readiness, or an urgent demand for a readiness, to engage in the process of excavating and bringing together, at least at the level of understanding, the disparate elements of a possibility; of a mystery.
This image is taken from my main film – the first of a 6 channel installation – ‘On Being Yes-ed Upon’. The whole of the High Street and Howegate in Hawick, my Scottish Borders home town, were shot on my mobile phone during three nights. ‘My place’ is ‘here’, where I am, it is immediately available, and is used in the film to represent any other place.
After midnight, moving slowly from one framed section of shops to the next, there is a palpable sense of facing them with reverence, a deep greeting toward the Essence of commerce hiding behind each shop-front.
Whether local or global, it is not that realm of commerce which relegates a community into (mindless) consumers, but the realm of commerce wherein both those who buy and those who sell are subjects of the most sublime flow of Sustenance and Support.
The whole film undergoes a treatment of effects and layers to make it look intensely colour-saturated, impressionistic and abstarct.
For me, art is like buried treasure, therefore the process of ‘unearthing’ an art piece from its latency always demands of me an advance in the dark. In the end, the condition for advancement is not so much about the mere perseverance toward the completion of a project – although such a completion is a happy result – as much as it is an advance in the manner of being utterly dependent, in the dark, upon invisible light that is the very spark that ignites that treasure into life, and, hopefully, continues to flow, still as invisible light, in the art piece.
There is an intrinsic, imaginal affinity, between moving image art and contemplative poetry. It is as if the ‘filmmaker’, the ‘poet’, and the ‘mystic’ are inseparable facets of function that require the same darkness of the deep interior, and the same kind of naked orientation toward that which illuminates the next editing step. Whatever is discovered in this way in filmmaking is, therefore, necessarily self-discovery.
“On Being Yes-ed Upon’, is one of these rare moments where the work is felt as a complete whole having an emotional richness that speaks to the core. I found all the elements of creativity coming together in a seamless whole that, in itself, epitomised the journey as subject and object. Colour, texture, fragmentation, linearity, pace that measured the highs and lows of coming to know and embrace what we truly are, an aspect of the universe observing itself and finding love transcending and embracing who and what we are. Verbal eloquence of the passages were rendered as music in keeping with the musicality across the whole film.” ~ Tom Heatley, Artist
This image was taken during the setting up for the immersive installation, ‘On Being Yes-ed Upon’, in the Crown Building’s Ballroom in Hawick, checking first the exact position for the 6 projectors on the floor inside the installation’s 6 meter diameter polygon of 29 screens. Alas, though our original markings on the floor, both of the circle and the position of the projectors, were perfectly calculated and marked, the ceiling was not strong enough to hold the hexagonal projector constraction. So, instead, we used 4 floor back projections and 2 front projections hung from the ceiling. This resulted in some of the hundred or so screened portraits being slightly skewed – an interesting and unexpected develpment.
In the deep interior causality inverts itself. Things are never what they seem. For example, grief ignites longing, thus it is not loss but longing that is the real cause of grief. Longing transposes into an intimate sense of expansive presence, thus the elevated state of presence is the real cause of longing. Then, the state of being immersed in presence reveals the direct knowing in which Love itself is the real object/subject in all that loves and is loved, thus Love is the real cause of knowing in any self-awareness, and so on.
I mention here inverted causality where Love is seen as the primal all embracing cause, because it is relevant and central to the way I’m engaged in Art. My innate relationship with Love precedes the impulse for the creative act, hence it informs it. Thus the inner-scape becomes no less observable than is the land that becomes landscape through the gaze of the painter or the lover of nature.
… tell them I said
if a poet is really a poet
he is a lover.
Lovers are defrosted waters,
I saw my roots
entangled with yours
in the mists.
‘Poiesis Lovers’ is the first of three poems in the eponimous moving image film, narrated in English and French. The poet’s inner landscape is mirrored by metaphorical moving images of ports, travel, canals, boats and dance, shot in Padova, Venice and Burano, May 2015.
“‘Poiesis Lovers’ has very fluid, consistent mood which I enjoyed – well made for what it is. These kinds of experiments are vital I think, and this one is a giving, compassionate, floating piece. Loved it especially from that great singing around 00:09:30.” ~ Andrew Singer, Director, Trafika Europe.
“I was spellbound by your film and moved to tears. I was captured by the words, the images and of course its meaning. I experienced it as a meditation.” ~ Patricia Price, Core Process Psychotherapist
“I so enjoyed your film, I found it very moving, it really touched my heart. The whole combination of interviews and archive, of black and white and colour, and your own beautiful poetry created a wonderful chemistry. I really enjoyed hearing people talk about love and Divinity in such an honest way, and the meditative quality of the film.” ~ Edie McLeish, Therapist
“I am very impressed with your film ‘The Hope’ and the way in which you approached it with sensitivity and sincerity. I found your film inspirational and moving because it is so unusual to get people to open up in such a personal, sincere and totally honest and engaging way on film and as a result placed me in a self-reflexive and contemplative mode when viewing it. The film was also inspiring to me because of the way in which you experimented with form, quite unique for a film of this kind, and crossing genres. split screen, uses of sound and colour experimentally and the sense of your personal inquiry/investigation was inscribed into the film and comes across to the viewer in a positive way. Overall a superb fresh approach and a beautiful film. The Hope should be an inspiration to many, quite a remarkable achievement.” ~ John Woodman, Moving Image Artist
“I found your new film utterly beautiful and it moved me to tears!” ~ Kay Ridley, Translator
Over 3 decades of training in Contemplative Meditation, a question came to mind. Were I to become a filmmaker one day, how would I solve the central paradoxical problem where, on the one hand, any film material depicting time/space continuum shots, is physical and therefore finite, while the observed ‘material’ of the interior, ie. meanings, wisdoms, concepts and ideas, are metaphysical, with eternal, transcendent, universal, infinite, invisible and intangible qualities? How is it possible to transpose faithfully into film that which, essentially, cannot be qualified by any form, shape, nor by any causal linearity of time?
In early September 2014 I received a newsletter sent to local artists with a call to submit to the Alchemy Film Festival by the end of November. The theme of the festival was ‘Spiritus Mundi’, or ‘The Spirit of the World’. I was fired up instantly. Here was not only a bold endorsement for the kind of film I imagined I’d be making were I to be a filmmaker, but the theme became an imperative; I simply had to make this unknown film and learn how to do it very fast.
A (serendipitous) day after receiving this call, I bumped into the curator of the festival who encouraged me to attend a course in filmmaking, at the end of which a screening of my film in the festival was guaranteed. Indeed, it seemed everything I needed was rushing toward my aid – the right people appeared and gave me a basic induction in editing, helped plan the technical design of my ambitious 6 channel installation, lent me large sums for the purchase of 6 projectors, and help setting up.
I am a member of the dynamically evolving Moving Image Makers Collective [MIMC], based in the Scottish Borders. So far, between April and December 2015, 5 out of 7 of my films and installations were screened in festivals in Scotland. I’m currently working on a long term moving image project called ‘The Filmmaker’s Insights’.