REVISITINGBy William Fowler
The Avebury henge monument and interlining circles resonates in a multitude of ways, not least for those interested in alternative cinema and Derek Jarman’s A Journey to Avebury (1971) where he stalked the stones using a Super 8 camera adjusted to an indoor setting, thus casting a peculiar yellow hue over the proceedings. He was interested perhaps in a metaphysical experience of the place, the interior. Any visit or consideration of the historic stone pathway brings a large chunk of ourselves as well as its numerous surrounding, attendant histories and associations. Daniel & Clara’s journey to this same place is billed as a Revisiting, for it is precisely that.
Daniel & Clara travel, they see things, they document those things. And we see them performing as documentarians. I am reminded of The Blair Witch Project, with the camping out and use of recording technologies to stalk and haunt something (as they themselves are stalked and haunted), using the type of media that long pre-date the iPhone and instant internet access. Take the picture, film it and send it to the cloud? No, theirs instead plays with the association of old equipment, the taking of Polaroids – the once immediate technology – being private and still based in objects and the so-called realities before them.
But they are not immune to the ‘new’ either, as seen here. The Googlemap images and maps emphasise dislocation as much as presence and a coming arrival, but an arrival where? The piece deftly mixes these different representations and modes of capture to almost trick us. Just as they return to things, so they do so for us, repeating images, building and explicitly extending narrative moments and expectation. Herein perhaps lies the Blair Witch connection, playing genre in an immersive way. But the thing here is that the film actually sets up and exposes the sinister, fragmented tropes of horror and gothic literature, even using diary quotes as if plucked from a Victorian explorer’s journal. Committed to the idea of the artist in a classical, romantic sense, often highlighting personal response and archetypal imagery, here the artists instead highlight and up-end, satirise even, ideas of spirituality, the landscape and deeply hidden truths. The piece subverts the thing they are exploring; fascination and critique coil around each other.
I resist saying more, and have probably said too much already; the experience is in the viewing. And it is usually better to watch a film than to write about it, or at least to write too much. And for Daniel & Clara, it goes even further than that. As a cinephile nourishes themselves on the visual feasting of the moving image, so do Daniel & Clara through craft and production. Their films, over which there is well over a hundred, are like some giant on-going personal diary, or a huge, rolling project that provides a continuing and on-going witness to their lives, fascinations and travels (not just in the UK but between the UK and Portugal, their respective homes). Revisiting keeps picking over something and there is a sense that this project will never be finished.
William Fowler is a film archivist, writer and curator of artists’ moving image at the BFI.