by Daniele Rugo
Family goings-on and isolation. A diary from the Pyreneans. A visceral lo-fi marvel. An unsentimental portrait of minimal camera work. What you hear is not what you see. Described as the heir to British troublemakers such as Derek Jarman and Peter Greenaway, the director of Gullivant’s Andrew Kotting talks about his latest work.
1. Towards the beginning of This Our Still Life a voice says ‘It is an area of mystery, much of it is still unexplored’. Is this an introduction to the film or perhaps its promise?
The soundbite is designed to be ambigous but it is also relevant to the bit of the world in which the film is set. It is remote and enigmatic, full of morphic resonance and pregnant with possibility.
2. In search of stillness or in order to escape it? The camera keeps moving, this life is never quite still?
A play on words and designed to be ironic but nevertheless there is a stillness and sense of the animistic when we are as immersed and isolated in this Pyrenean world.
3. At points the film seems to turn to the diary form in the way of Mekas for instance, was this the initial intention? A record of the day?
Indeed but perhaps Stan Brakhage’s film Dog Star Man had more of an influence or even Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil.
4. How did you organize the voices? Did they come together with the image?
Trial and error – sometimes things fit and sometimes they don’t – happenstance and bloodymindedness was my compass and alchemy my goal.
5. To work in complete freedom, outside production constraints, but also outside narrative, do you find this freedom inspirational, perhaps even necessary?
Yes - Vital and potent and a real antidote to working within the confines of ‘industry’. The work becomes itself, the implied narratives the glue for the lo-fi shoddiness of the ambition.
6. An History of Civilization strikes me for the balance between Mao’s emphatic formulations and the ordinary monumentality of the picture. How did Mao come into this?
Mao’s there because of the ridiculousness of his cant and because incongruity has always inspired me.
7. When Iain Sinclair described to me your latest collaboration - Swandown – I had the impression of something in between Walden and Brian Aldiss’ ‘Greybeard’. Could you say something more?
Swandown is a travelogue and odyssey, a poetic film-diary about landscape and culture. It is also an endurance test and pedal-marathon. Benny Hill meets William Blake or Basil Bunting meets Joseph Beuys. Serendipity plays a major role in both Iain’s work and my own and we construct narratives by reverse engineering ‘meaning’ after we’ve collated the ‘events’. And the glue that holds the disparity together is invariably the journey.