To Stand and Stare: A Somerset Landscape 2018, 62 minutes
“Gorgeous and tremendously moving – just lovely and welcomingly transporting”.
‘Surely this is a love letter to Somerset?’. That was the first thing an audience member said to us in our recent test screening in Los Angeles. In part that’s true of course, but this work has had a long genesis and has been many things before it became what it is today. To Stand and Stare flirts has elements of documentary, but is not a documentary; uses the processes of moving image art, but is not an art film. It takes Somerset as it’s text, and elevates its imagery from the parochial to the iconic, the mundane to the extraordinary. To Stand and Stare is a work about the meaning and nature of the act of the gaze by mature artists and crafts people within a Somerset landscape that has embodied a particular significance for its inhabitants over the centuries. Within this work the makers, Visualfields, experiment with its form and its function to reflect on the nature of that landscape and it is only through gazing at and reflecting on its meaning, that the radicalism of the project reveals itself. This story is told from a standpoint where values such as intention, will and creative behaviour that have survived throughout the centuries, may still have value now.
In our introduction we’ll tell you how this work came into being and why it's taken 6 years to complete and we’ll speak about how to watch and listen to the work.
Q&A or Debate?
At the end of the screening we’ll invite you to consider some ideas:
At first glance this work appears to centre on the concepts that surround the construction of values within a rural community. But there are absences here that cannot be ignored: ‘the digital’ which is sitting embodied within a smartphone in your pocket or handbag resonates silently with what you have just seen. The story told is not told from the standpoint of the young, because the young know something of how to speak within the digital and have their own proponents to advocate for them. The absence of the city in the work demands an answer: we tend to go to the city to experience elements of our lives, which the countryside currently does not seem to offer. Yet everything is beginning to change culturally: If you have a fast broadband connection then you can watch Altered Carbon on Netflix which proposes a future after Blade Runner - and yet the location of your sofa and TV screen is irrelevant whether you’re in Guangzhou, New York or Seoul – or in fact Sticklinch.
At the cutting edge of future thinking is the idea of futurality, (a combination of future and rurality or futureality) which questions the presumption that ‘the future’ will happen in the nexus of the city. The idea that the city is part and parcel of the future is a hundred and fifty year-old idea that is born out of the latter stages of Victorian capitalism - with it’s heroes like Brunel who would cast massive iron bridges over impossible gorges - followed by Ford who would make available dizzying faster-than-horse vehicles for the common person, followed by speeding up of the processes of production by digital technologies into a Film-Noir Sci-fi future where all human values are eclipsed by the production and consumption of things and the satisfaction of desire through consumption.
But of course digital technology and the forthcoming step-change of technology that is represented by quantum technologies will render the city as unnecessary and render the country as the only possible escape from futures that pre-suppose that no one has a choice when confronted with the wealth of the oligarchs and the power of the meta-national companies. At its heart, To Stand and Stare: A Somerset Landscape, whilst not speaking explicitly about Glastonbury, speaks about the combined mystery of Glastonbury and Somerset itself. It suggests that the rural environment and the culture that might develop here, aided and abetted by committed and forward thinking people as willing accomplices, may in fact be the saving of the nature of the future itself.