War memorial
27:30

War memorial

War Memorial is one part of an ongoing project based around 60 films which remain from World War Two of soldiers sending filmed messages home from the 14th Army in Burma and India. The Calling Blighty series was nearly four hundred 12 minute films that were made in 1944-5 of servicemen (and a very few women) in the Far East recording a message to be shown in local cinemas to wives and families back home. – a sort of one way Skype of their day. Produced by the Directorate of Army Welfare, these are remarkable and moving documents. Along with Marion Hewitt of the North west Film Archive, I have traced the relatives of the men and recreated a screening at an event at HOME Manchester in December 2015 and the films were shown for the first time in 70 years to a sellout audience of 250 relatives – and two of the actual men still alive. Channel 4 broadcast an hour long documentary about the project, Messages Home, in June 2016, and I am now continuing the project tracing relatives of 200 men in the Sheffield Calling Blighty films, and making a documentary to be shown in Town Hall cinemas funded by Film Hub North. I have also edited a version of the films to be shown on Remembrance Day 2016 at the military cemetery in Rangoon, where some of the fallen soldiers who appeared in the films are memorialised. War Memorial is a different take on these strange and emotional films, where the messages themselves recede to the background and the directorial decisions of the largely unknown army filmmakers accumulate to show a different view to the reassuring and brave faces of the men. A focus on different parts of the image shows instead uncertainty and apprehension.
Yarn 2010 (excerpt)
10:14

Yarn 2010 (excerpt)

Yarn is an endless DVD video which presents scenes and soundtracks at random in order to create a generative narrative. Australian International Experimental Video Festival Melbourne. Cleveland International Narrative Conference 2011 Manchester City Art Gallery 2013, Seamless MAO Ljubljana 2013. Funded by LabCulture; Arts Council of England; Thanks to N. W. Film Archive, Manchester School of Art In 1952 the French ‘nouvelle romancier” Michel Butor wrote a novel L’Emploi du Temps, about a young Frenchman who comes to a Northern English city called Bleston for a year, and about the difficulties and triumphs he has adapting to the cold, the rain, and the British way of life. In its strange repetitive style, part experimental narrative, part detective story, the novel seems to anticipate interactive fiction. In fact the story is based on Butor’s own experiences in Manchester, where he worked as a language assistant at the university. The Manchester of the fifties is readily recognisable, its architecture and cathedral, the awful food, the buses that the protagonist uses to criss cross the city, even the map of Bleston that Butor includes at the beginning of the novel which resembles that of the present city centre. I have made a film inspired by the novel, written by myself, as a “recombinant narrative” or generative cinema DVD video installation, using archive footage of Manchester of the 1950s, and a voiceover spoken by a computer programme, which uses the capacity of the DVD medium to present different scenes and spoken text so that the narrative never repeats itself. The experience is like the 1001 nights, in that the story has no beginning and no end, but rather an immersion in a narrative world where fact and fiction are blended. The piece is both a meditation on the nature of narrative itself, as mediated through technology, but also a series of speculations on the real and the fictional Manchester, as seen through the pessimistic eye of an outsider, a foreigner 50 years ago.