Video / Film / Moving Image
Whether as film maker or writer or performer, my engagement with video art or moving image has been spiralling around and away from literature and its possibilities. This is most felt in that my contributions to the various film projects I've had a hand in have been linguistic, about how language works with moving image, and how that relationship is metaphorical in its construction to how we feel and how we speak / express how we feel, and the lacuna between these two things. My work in video has also been fundamentally collaborative, and while this is perhaps innate to the medium, and why it attracts me against / instead of writing for certain ideas and projects - this collaborative work has been something very deliberate for me, a form of pedagogy where I have learned from artists like Noah Hutton, Tereza Stehlikova and Joshua Alexander more than just film technique.
The Animals films with Joshua Alexander
explore the sad, macabre, abstract threat of contemporary britain
Featuring Animal Bones (seen above) as one of five films this ongoing collaborative series of short, conceptual poetic films are about disease, menial work and the remnants of the British Empire. They were 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 films calls on the miserabalist, absurdist 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, and environment specific.
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.
'Manichean visions revive disputed and despoiled London ground. Poetry in light and stone' Iain Sinclair
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 with Noah Nutton
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 with Tereza Stehlikova
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 Series with Ed Prosser
Video art as performance documentation, taken to a new level in film composition and construction thanks to the gifted Ed Prosser as lead collaborator. These are short films masquerading as performances. For more details see www.stevenjfowler.com/soundings