Close Up

25 February 2017: Welcome to Britain


At a time when discussion of border control and exclusion pens in national and international political debate, Welcome to Britain reflects on Britain’s historical relationship to the movement of people. What is possible in a welcome? What does British hospitality mean? Combining archive and artists' film, including recent work by Sarah Wood, Alia Syed and Anthea Kennedy, Welcome to Britain opens up the argument. Curated by Lucy Harris.

Boat People
Sarah Wood
2016 | 20 min | Colour | Digital
“Homelessness is coming to be the destiny of the world” suggested Martin Heidegger in 1946, in a discussion with Jean-Paul Sartre and in the immediate aftermath of the mass movement of people created by the Second World War. In 1946 this displacement was a shocking legacy. Sixty years on, with the escalating movement of people escaping conflict and environmental catastrophe across the world, has Heidegger's prediction come true? Has homelessness become the norm rather than the exception? And is contemporary thought anywhere near catching up with this reality?
Boat People is an essay film that explores this question. Taking as its starting point the historic version of Britain as an island and seafaring nation the film counterpoints the surety of this assertion of identity with the contingency of movement. This movement isn’t only human. Boat People is also a questioning of the role the moving image itself plays in the representation of human movement and the migration of ideas. Just as the invention of the telescopic lens brought near and far together for the very first time, Boat People is about the way in the twenty-first century the near and far are mediated and transformed by the new "perception accelerator", the digital image.

The Bag of a Thousand Pockets
Anthea Kennedy
2002 | 8 min | Colour | Digital
""My bag has a thousand pockets. In each one is a memory." These words are spoken by my father during this short film in which he recalls brief and fragmented memories of his life in Germany before being forced into exile. These memories connect to a wider German history. A work which reflects on history, memory, old age and death." – Anthea Kennedy

Points of Departure
Alia Syed
2014 | 17 min | B/W & Colour | Digital

"The objects and places we cannot leave behind create the tapestry that is Points of Departure. Exploring themes of personal and collective memory through my relationship to the city of Glasgow, a voice over describes a tablecloth I retrieved whilst clearing my elderly father’s house. The film attempts to unravel the threads of memory held within this mundane item and to find an image within the BBC archive that relates to my memories of growing up in Glasgow. My father’s unrehearsed attempts to translate an Urdu Ghazal discovered in the archive, a poetic expression of the beauty of love and the pain of loss exposes a process of translation that becomes the key allowing a path through the labyrinth of both my own memory and the BBC archive." – Alia Syed

Lucy Harris
2006 | 3'30 min | B/W | 16mm

Situated in a small area of London the film explores the shadows of surrounding buildings to construct a secondary city landscape. By inverting the urban environment, the camera searches and reveals traces that commonly go unnoticed, creating forms from light and dark. Detailed surfaces and textures of the city’s fabric create a filmed drawing with a musical structure exposing transitory spaces.

Sarah Wood
2016 | 7 min | Colour | Digital

Azure is the colour of the sky on a clear summer’s day. Azure is a colour that suggests openness, ease, possibility. Azure is the name of the card given to the people who arrive in Britain seeking asylum. This short essay film accompanies Boat People in a questioning of the meaning of hospitality.