December 13th 2018 - The Animal Drums premieres at Whitechapel Gallery Cinema, London.
A feature length art film exploring the sad, macabre, abstract threat of contemporary London.
'Manichean visions revive disputed and despoiled London ground. Poetry in light and stone' Iain Sinclair
The Animals Drums emerges from a four year collaboration between myself and Joshua Alexander that began in five experimental shorts about everything from disease, menial work and the remnants of the British Empire to a London in the grips of constant development.
The films called on the miserabalist traditions of post-war European avant garde theatre and poetry. By employing the red herring of the Comedia Dell Arte ‘plague doctor’ mask and the actual endless human skulls of one of Britain's few open ossuaries, as juxtaposition to the glossed over friendliness of a contemporary ‘happy’ urban landscape they invoke deliberate absurdity in their visuals as well as in their text. They are London shot, or in commuter towns.
For example Animal Waste spreads itself over the lands of London which seem to have inspired a re-understanding of the city's literary and psychological history, from Limehouse to Wapping, Rotherhithe to Ratcliff. Mutely nodding to this profound and now taken for granted reexamination of these once were slums, Animal Waste sets itself against the confident and touristic glean of that history, instead aligning itself with the suffering sediment of the actual past. Shot around Wellclose Sq and Hawksmoor's St Anne's, and hiding from the Thames, the film evokes Falk, Swedenborg, Linneaus in all their intelligent menace.
The film is born out of a collaboration between two fellow and former employees of a major British Museum institution, and draws on shared experiences of the potential, and actual, vapidity of assumptions of improvement and beneficial pedagogy in such institutions, as well as shared negative experiences of a vast, global tourist deluge. In that sense, the films are born mutually, conceived by the two artists at the same time, and created without much dialogue yet with a certain sense of synchronicity.
The animal films explore the particular, baffled and morbid character of English attitudes to mortality, along with the specific influence of place and conformity on the quintessentially English deferral of emotion and melodrama. The films aim to capture the ambiguous menace of an often accidentally humorous resolve, manner, apology and understatement so prevalent in the English character.
Enthusiasm : made with Noah Nutton (Wellcome Collection residency 2016)
Emerging from the beginnings of The Hub residency at Wellcome Collection, Enthusiasm is an experimental short film exploring how our internal and external languages collide. Following an unnamed protagonist through his daily life in the city of London, Enthusiasm examines sexual attraction, power, exhaustion, and the dichotomy between the body and the mind.
"The result of a transatlantic collaboration between British poet SJ Fowler and American director Noah Hutton, and drawing from new techniques in analyzing internal monologues and self consciousness used by contemporary neuroscientists, Enthusiasm uses the potential of cinema to reveal the conflicts of inner and outer narrative. Through innovative sound design, voiceover technique, and a sensitivity to its urban setting, we encounter the lurking tensions of contemporary life in their menacing, ambiguous, and intimate forms."
Worm Wood : made with Tereza Stehlikova (Kensal Green Cemetery Residency + 2016 to present)
Part of the Worm Wood residency at Kensal Green Cemetery over the summer of 2017, the central output of my extended collaboration with Tereza Stehlikova is a film which fuses the industrial and reclusive landscapes of these areas of London with poetry, exploring the specific history of the cemetery and the part of London where it resides, as well as death and the culture of cemeteries specifically, and all the notions of geography and city that this entails. The project also explored London's painful development boom - perhaps most importantly and most accidentally - the film also documents the transformation of West London as the Old Oak Common Development begins its decade construction.
The Soundings Films : made with Ed Prosser (Wellcome Library 2015 to 2016)
This collaboration with filmmaker Ed Prosser was an attempt to see how the means of film, most especially the editorial possibilities of the medium, might marry with Sound Poetry and Conceptual Performance - how it might create a kind of strange narrative potential. The films embodied a real range of ideas, from documentation to faux documentaries. These are short films masquerading as performances. For more details see www.stevenjfowler.com/soundings