Flow Country short film

In May 2016 I collaborated with artist Jasper Coppes to make a short 16mm film shot in the wilds of the Flow Country, Caithness and Sutherland, northern Scotland. The resulting film was shown in the Scottish Competition at the Glasgow Short Film Festival 2017 and won special mention in the Scottish Film Award.

Flow Country: UK, Netherlands, 2017. 16mm

A film by Jasper Coppes, with archeologist Dan Lee, cinematography Casper Brink, field recording, audio post production and sound design Malu Peeters.

Coppes writes …. Like a visual fieldwork notebook, the fragmented scenes of a 16mm film pose a question: what does it mean to survey the layers of past and present in a desolate landscape? Remnants of ecological and social transformations are brought into view as historical records of a contested site. The Flow Country is the largest expanse of blanket peat in the Northern hemisphere and is of international significance because it provides a habitat for many unique and rare communities and species of specialized flora and fauna. Attempts at industrialization in the form of tax deduction forests, military test flights, hydropower, nuclear and wind energy have left their mark. More recent changes to the landscape were initiated by peat land restoration, wildlife protection and research into the carbon reducing capacities of moss. By navigating sound equipment and camera through the land in the company of an archaeologist, the film superimposes earlier attempts to designate or desecrate this vast expanse – blurring the distinction between that which is, has been or is yet to come. Flow Country investigates the medium of 16mm film as an archeological record in itself. It proposes the idea that the ‘archaeology of the present’ can be a site of production. It directs the role of the archaeologist from that of the observer of a disconnected past towards that of an active agent in the creation of future historical layers.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/200210582

Review from Eye for Film: http://www.eyeforfilm.co.uk/review/flow-country-2017-film-review-by-andrew-robertson

Made possible with the generous support of Camera Rentals and the Mondriaan Foundation. Dan Lee was supported by the UHI Archaeology Institute.

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Depressive Cop 16mm film shot on Papay released

Depressive Cop (2016) by French film maker Bertrand Mandico has been released.

A drepressed cop (played by Sergie Ivanov) attempts to investigate the case of a young girl, who’s distraught mother blames islanders for her disappearance. The girl reappears and the mothers strained relationship with her daughter emerges. Played by the same actress, Elina Löwensöhn, the mother and daughter blurr into one. The depressed cop is too caught up to notice.

Shot on Papa Westray (Papay) in Orkney during the Papay Gyro Nights Art festival 2015, the film continues the manifeste cinématographique – International / INCOHERENCE manifestdeveloped by Mandico and Icelandic film maker Katrin Olafsdottir. Film info here. We played extras in the final party scene film at Aalsker.

During the filming I made an experimental map of Papay by walking around the island. Gathering all the fragments, encirling the island was the result of several years of collaboration, mapping and friendship on Papay. The party scene from the film formed the central node site for the walk; marking the film onto the island.

The walk and map is dedicated to Sergei.

RIP Sergei Ivanov.

Posted in Collaborations, Contemporary Archaeology, Experimental Practice, Mapping and Walking, Papa Westray, Papay Gyro Nights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Characters – Artist book by Tonje Boe Birkeland is launched

A new artist book by Tonje Birkeland ‘The Characters I-IV’ has been launched. You can view selected pages on her website. We are thrilled to have our article ‘Walking (in)visible Lines: Archaeologies inbetween‘ re-published inside as part of our on-going collaboration.

This beautifully illustrated book chronicles for the first time all of Tonje’s characters to date; a lifetimes work. Aline Victoria Birkeland, Tuva Tengel, Luelle Magdalon and Anna Aurora Astrup tell their stories, share their diaries, photographs and objects. A diary within a diary, photographs within photographs, imaginary within real, real within imaginary.

“When you come across something, something old, as you touch it, you touch time. The air around your face carries the scent of an era, not of old and fungus but of body, powder, leather, perfume, gasoline: all the things that were there. All these unnecessary necessities that fill our lives, things that filled lives then. As you take hold of the object, you’re afraid of breaking it. Still you don’t want to let go. You inspect and sense: look, stroke, push, bend, turn and tilt. If it is wearable, you put it on. You search for the nearest mirror, making this thing a part of you. If it is too tight you hold in your stomach, you try to breathe carefully to not tear the fragile fabric across your ribs or shoulders, and as the garment finally slips down your chest you bless your small breasts. Or you curse your thighs, as the skirt refuses to be pulled all the way up – it goes no further than your knees – and this moment you swear to never run your miles again. The only mile you want to run right now is the one that can take you back in time. 

Clutching an object, trying it on, finding that it did fit you perfectly, without any struggle. Bending across her leather suitcase, on your knees, looking at your own reflection in an old mirror. Her sunglasses fit your face, rest comfortably on your nose. The rubber band keeps them up without too much pressure on your temples. The frames rest on your cheekbones. Imagine looking through those orange glasses. As you return your own gaze, fiction, reality and your life meet in a reflection.

The tale became my quest, conscience and concern. I would like to say it was my fantasy, dreams and desires, but as this hunt is my work, my artistic practice, it was far more real, physical and bothersome than a dream. One could say it bordered on an obsession.”

(Birkeland 2016, Introduction, THE CHARACTERS I-IV, artist book)


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ØY Papay festival, Papa Westray, Orkney 18-20 Nov 2016

Looking forward to the ØY Papay festival this weekend. You never know, there just might still be spaces to come along! Our talk is on Saturday afternoon:

Experimental mapping and place-marking as contemporary archaeology

This talk will discuss several recent creative archaeological projects that we have been involved in, focussing in particular upon the collaborative residency and mapping work we have undertaken in Papay. Through this we will present our approach to archaeology and explore the role of imagination, experimental practice and collaboration in our contemporary archaeologies of island places.


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CHAT conference was a great success

A big thank you to all those delegates who made the CHAT 2016 conference such a great success. Last weekend saw the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute host CHAT 2016 (Con…

Source: CHAT conference was a great success

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Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney – Book Review

Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney: Process, Temporality and Context. Antonia Thomas. Archaeopress. 2016 Caroline Wickham-Jones kindly wrote a detailed review of Art and Architecture in Neoli…

Source: Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney – Book Review

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CHAT conference in Orkney – RURALITY

Register for CHAT 2016 now!

Registration closes 7th October

Draft programme available on CHAT website

Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory (CHAT) conference 2016

21-23 October


Place: Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland

Venue: Orkney Theatre, The Meadows, Kirkwall

Host: University of the Highlands & Islands Archaeology Institute

Info: http://chat-arch.org/

Enquiries: archaeologyconference@uhi.ac.uk

Download a registration form and draft programme from the CHAT website (http://chat-arch.org/ ). Registration closes 7th October. We have a great line up including themed plenary sessions, film night and 3M_DO discussion. We also have exhibitions, installations and videos and poster presentations in the theatre foyer.

Fieldtrips: Why not get here a bit early?

Thursday 20th (all day) – Alternative tour of Orkney West Mainland (free for delegates, book on registration form)

Friday 21st (am) – Kirkwall walk (free for delegates, no booking required)

Halls accommodation is nearly full, so best check with us first for availability (archaeologyconference@uhi.ac.uk).

Accommodation information: http://visitorkney.com/accommodation and http://www.orkneyislands.info/ .

Travel information, getting to Orkney:  http://visitorkney.com/getting-here .

See you here!

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