Filed under: ALL
Today is the winter solstice. I am half way through this project! I have taken my camera out, slotted it in to my homemade platform and filmed myself every morning now for 182 days. Only six months to go . . .
When I started filming back in June it was getting light at 3am and it all felt quite different. I was filming at 9.30 am instead of 8.30, because of daylight saving. It is cold, wet and dark and I often have to boil a kettle to melt the ice from the platform. I need a torch to set up and have been hearing owls while filming. It is hard to imagine myself stepping back on to the platform in six months with the sun in my eyes.
Since I began I have been bitten by midges, rained, snowed and hailed upon. I have tied the tripod down against hurricane force winds, dug a trench to divert a stream and built a path of pebbles to stop it sinking into a bog. I have done a lot of thinking and learnt a few things some practical some profound.
The whole thing has been an exercise in acceptance, however when I looked up antonyms for the word, I got a long list of lot of words people have used to describe me; stubborn, impatient, willful, headstrong, rebellious . . . I could go on. Maybe the first thing I need to accept is that I am often looking for a fight. And if I were not most of these things I probably wouldn’t be doing this project in the first place.
I’ve learnt that the tides don’t just go in and out as you imagine they do. There is a whole science dedicated to understanding how the gravitational pull of the sun and moon on the earth and the earths own rotation effects bodies of water and it is quite complicated. Even more interestingly the solid parts of the earth are affected by tides too. Which kind of changes how you understand the word ‘solid’. Everything it seems is in a state of movement, or flux beyond rigid control.
I have learnt that large gradual changes are much harder to detect when things fluctuate quite wildly on a daily basis. This is true of the light, of seasons and of self.
This and the movements of the tides are distinctly different from how I first imagined the film would look.
I have also thought a lot about different kinds of film making, about observing others in attempt to shed light on ones self and of attempting to share personal experience in order to see if other people feel the same too. I have thought about the way our brain records experiences as memories and the desire to capture and record in different kinds of ways. Is it a fear of losing the moments or ones self?
I’m not going to lie and say the last six months hasn’t been hard, I have struggled with not being able leave, with not being able to have a proper lie in, with the routine it has imposed on my life and opportunities I have not been able to take, but it has brought many things including an appreciation of the different ways one can gain perspective without getting on a plane or a train.
On that note I was recently imagining myself as an old lady looking back on this year and the film. I am certain I will be glad I had this experience and I will almost certainly laugh at myself too (affectionately of course). When I am eighty this year won’t feel very long at all.
Filed under: ALL
Nicholas Felton has been recording each years worth experiences in a quite different way. At the end of each year he produces a data report of his life. They are kind of fascinating in an odd way as you glean odd bits of information to build a picture of his life. His last report for 2010 was of his fathers entire life. Click here or the images below to see more.
I thought I’d add that Nicholas Felton has just created a new Feltron Report for 2010/2011 which can be found here.
Me and my mum have developed a small tradition over the last few years of visiting shrines and sites possibly of pagan origin, often purported to have healing properties, the more obscure the better. We both enjoy the comedy and absurdity in these stories, (I am an atheist and mum a pagan), and the way that some quite odd traditions have been appropriated by Christianity. These little pilgrimages into the British countryside have brought us closer together and given us a lot of enjoyment and you never know, some of it might even work.
Below is a picture of me drinking at St Wites well for eye disease. Mum has also taken me to St Catherine’s Chapel in Abbotsbury patron saint of spinsters!
Mum has written the piece below about Saint Styllites in response to this project. What interests me about his story is that for a while no one around him was sure whether his actions were driven by vanity or humility, the local monks reportedly devised a tests to find out which it was. Sometimes, it seems, there is a fine line between the two.
Thinking of Sam staying on Knoydart for a year, I was somehow reminded of Simon Stylites. His story has the quality of myth, but is in facttrue. It seems extraordinary that someone should be considered a saint because he lived on a very small platform on top of a pillar in a desert. It sounds absurd, a weird and incomprehensible form of
behaviour. I am not quite sure why Sam’s year long film project reminds me of Simon Stylites, except that she is staying one place for a while. A year seems a long time to spend in one place. It’s more than I could do. But a year in one place is by no means a record – some people live in the same place for the whole of their lives. At
least Sam is in a very beautiful place with a friendly community. Shecan even take the boat across to Mallaig now and again. It occurred to me that maybe Simon Stylites held the record for staying in one place. There doesn’t seem to be an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for staying in one place, but Simon Stylites still, after 1500 years, holds the record for pole sitting.
Simon Stylites began to attract a lot of visitors when he chained himslf to a large iron ball. He gained a reputation for settling disputes, giving good practical advice and being able to perform miracles. Eventually he began to feel a need to get away from all these people, so he built a small platform on top of an old pillar and lived up there. His first pillar was about four metres high, and had a platform about one metre square. It had a balustrade round it – this is shown in paintings of the time – but no shelter. There was even a ladder for visitors to climb up. Presumably it was removed when he felt that he’d seen enough people. Small boys climbed up carrying goat’s milk and flat bread for him. History does not tell us how his excrement was removed. He soon found that the first pillar was not high enough, and moved to a succession of higher pillars, each with only a small platform. His final pillar was about fifteen metres high.
Luis Buñuel’s film ‘Simon of the Desert’ is loosely based on the life of Simon Stylites. Buñuel’s film is set in the middle-ages, and Buñuel’s Simon seems to have faithfully imitated his predecessor’s religious fetishes in what today would be considered ‘extreme sado-masochistic performance art.’
Filed under: Responses to the project
I have been chatting quite a bit over the last few months to James Holcombe from no.w.here an arts organisation that specialises in experimental projects using 16mm and 8mm film. We are hoping to set up an event/project here in Knoydart for the local community and visiting artists and he mentioned these Solargraphy photographs in relation to this film. Solargraphs are taken using a pinhole camera fixed in position with a six month or even year long exposure so they chart the changing position of the sun. They are quite amazing as documents of where science and art meet and it is not that hard to make your own!
Click here to see more Solagraphs from all over the world. You can also google image ‘solargraphy’.
To find out how to create your own solargraph click here. (A suggested start point is the winter solstice on December 21st.)
Filed under: ALL, Responses to the project | Tags: Knoydart, meg bateman, physical landscape, silent communion, sorley maclean
A few weeks ago I sent a letter to the local community asking for to responses to this project. This caused some confusion as I think people thought I wanted responses to the final film as opposed to the ideas and process behind it, so I sent a few questions as starting points. These included how they would feel about not leaving Knoydart for a year, whether living in a place of such extremes affects their relationship with nature, their thoughts about aging and whether they have ever tried to record their experiences of life in any way.
Most people wanted to remain anonymous and some only wanted to share their responses with me personally. This is part of the nature of life in a small community where there is very little privacy. So I am incredibly grateful for the thoughts and comments I received. It is really useful for me to talk about the ideas behind my work and find out how other people relate to them particularly those living immediately around me!
Here are a few things people said . . .
In your film I feel that perhaps you are searching for Sorley Maclean’s “Highland paradox of sensing both absence and continuity in the physical landscape.”
There is also Meg Bateman’s comment on the silent communion of two old crofters looking out “in to the land whose ways and memories unite them . .in certain knowledge that talk would hamper that expansive communion.”
Staying on Knoydart for a year, only being able to leave for up to a 24 hour period I don’t think would bother me. I only normally go away because I need shopping . . . . I’m quite happy here. I’ve been here for 20 years.
Perhaps your project is about your manipulation of your time rather than a comment on anybody else’s time or time in general, perhaps the title of your project should be “stay the same (?)” so as not to pre-empt the outcome, I suspect “most people” (whoever they are) let their time happen to them rather than taking control of their time (is that what JL was talking about when he he said “life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans?”).
Perhaps most people live in a place of extremes . .
When in a special situation I often stop for a second and try to freeze the moment in my head. For example my son’s first day at school – I can still see it and feel the feelings now.
I am aware of the limits of time and at the moment I wish I had more but sometimes, when I see the very elderly, I hope I won’t have too much.
Of course time flows at the same rate but it seems to go faster as you get older and when you have too much to do to fit into it . . .
I am happy enough with the way I am aging – own teeth, breasts and hair colour!
I watched an experiment the other day and two guys the same age were put into separate rooms not knowing what the experiment was. One guy had to peel tatties for 30 minutes. The other guy had a ‘babe’ massage him, pour him drinks, play pool with him etc. At the end of the 30 minutes they were each asked how long they had been in the room. Tattie man said 40 minutes and Babe man said 20 minutes! That says it all.
Filed under: Posts by Sam
Thursday was pretty wild. Half an hour after I wrote my last post the 100mph winds really hit and I have never experienced anything like it (it was a bit like being in the Wizard of Oz). It blew for about five hours and all you could do was sit and watch. Within half an hour the power lines had been blown down and it didn’t take long to realise it wasn’t really safe to leave the house.
It probably wasn’t that sensible going out to save my inflatable kayak at the height of the storm, but it was only on the way back from getting it into the shed that I was properly caught in a gust and literally swept off my feet so ran back inside. (I knew I should have been put it away at the end of summer!)
Here are some pictures of the trees that went down next to my house and also some pictures I took once the storm had died down a bit. More footage to come from Jim Manthorpe.
Lots of the buildings here have lost bits of their roofs and trees landed within inches of others, but amazingly only one person was hurt having been concussed being blown of his bicycle earlier that morning when fortunately the lifeboat was still able to make it in.
It is also something of a testimony to our power supply, an off grid hydro electric system, small sustainable communities and those who maintain the power and help clear the line that we were back up and running by 7pm yesterday. There was applause when Jim who maintains the hydro came into the pub. Mallaig and the surrounding area are still without power and won’t be back on until Monday. As a result the phones have now stopped working because the back up batteries at the local exchange only last 24hrs. So I’m guessing it will be Tuesday or Wednesday before the phones are on again for anyone trying to get hold of me. But I do have internet and skype!
Mallaig got hit worse than us and the high school children had to be escorted from the building one by one wearing hard hats because of flying debris. Most of the houses there had some damage and caravans were picked up and landed on top of cars in the Mallaig carpark.
Yesterday everyone emerged in the village slightly shell shocked to come together and talk about who had lost what and which storm was worse this one or the one six years ago when the road got washed away (this one was windier, the sea state was worse on the last one).
Suffice to say I didn’t miss a days filming!
Ha ha! My spirits may have lifted but the weather definitely hasn’t. This is the worst winter I have experienced since moving here! Today the winds are stronger than ever, check out the 100mph gusts in the met office forecast. So, I literally tethered the tripod down this morning and it worked. Haven’t got as far as tying myself down yet. I also noticed this morning that a river seemed to be developing around the platform largely due I think to the path I have made by walking there every day. So this morning I spent an hour re-directing the river and making a nice pebble path to my platform.
So on Saturday, after the tripod nearly blew over (see last post), I walked around the coast to look at the atlantic ocean. I took some music with me by a few composers I’m considering for the film and sat on a hill top watching the hail storms blow in and clear again. The island of Eigg looked particularly magical surrounded by sea mist and on my way home I ran and leapt along the road to my music, hollered into the wind and felt quite wonderful. I had the sense of freedom I had described in my last post. When the edges of one self become blurred.
I sometimes get this in my work when things really click and make sense (not that often!). But I often get it from being in big landscapes, listening to music, dancing all night (sometimes with the help of whisky sometimes without) and in those moments when you totally connect with what another person is saying.
It fascinates me that this place can sometimes feel so oppressive and yet at the same time I get such an intense sense of liberation from it too. But it might also be that I am just describing the general ups and downs of the creative process.
In any case, I woke up Monday morning to hear snow sliding from the roof and came outside to find everything had changed. It is still covered in bright snow here, in less than two weeks my family arrive, with more visitors coming at New Year and I am almost half way through this project.
It feels like maybe a small turning point might have been reached.
Filed under: Posts by Sam
I wasn’t originally going to post moving images from my daily filming so as not to spoil the final film, but had to share this!