Recorded binaurally at The National Gallery.
“The avant-garde, which has lost itself over time, also pursues the primitive and the archaic. It is in this sense that one can say that the entry point to the present necessarily takes the form of an archeology; an archeology that does not, however, regress to a historical past, but returns to that part within the present that we are incapable of living.”
Georgio Agamben – What is the Contemporary? from What is Apparatus? Stanford, 2009.
This film was shot in Skemersdale at what purports to be the largest roundabout in Europe.
Throughout my work these days there is a preoccupation with circularity, a sense of orbiting in the everyday, of being part of cycles within cycles. I don’t mind this, to be part of a cycle is inherently positive, experimentation leads to progress or failure which leads more experimentation which leads to further progress or failure. Individual failure, social failure, global failure, or success and progress, is like the process of walking, a series of small falls, but inevitable forward momentum. The alternative is terrifying.
So I made this film about the largest roundabout in Europe (or the world as some might have it). It was filmed during the winter of 2011/12. I visited many times, took photo’s made sound recordings and recorded a lot of footage. I also researched the history of ‘Skem’ which can be traced all the way back to the Domesday book. Skemersdale was designated a new town in 1961, and had millions of pounds poured into making it a place to house overspill from Liverpool. A new infrastructure was built, famously without any traffic lights and lots of oversize roundabouts. Not as many people moved to Skemersdale as was originally planned and its fortunes have waxed and waned over the decades. This made it doubly interesting as a subject to film, the modernist aspirations for the town, which, thanks to politics, were never quite born out. All that really remains of this utopian vision of the new town is a series of enormous roundabouts and dual carriageways. If you have nowhere to go and don’t mind getting lost, I recommend a drive around.
Also on the roundabout there is a small copse in which teenagers hang out, there was evidence of a fire, beer cans etc. This notion of a round about as an island, a self contained piece of land in which possibilities can be explored, excited me. I spent a lot of time staring out of the window of my parents car as a child, being driven back from my nans along the M53 or whatever, listening to my walkman. That was prime daydreaming time too. Something of the experience of driving around Skem for hours at a time brought a sense of this back. I listened to science fiction audio books (now, not then) and sci-fi soundtracks as a way of connecting with Skem’s lost future. Clips and samples of these make up the soundtrack of the video.
There’s a pursuit of Deleuze’s ‘Time Image’ in the single take lasting half an hour (quite a while to spend on a roundabout!) During this time, this circular journey, I oscillated between realm of memories and the imagination, the past and the future penetrating the present. It was an enjoyable experience.