Volume 3 - Issue 3 - Editorial

By Holly Aylett

tereza-stehlikova.jpgImage: Tereza Stehlikova

Landscapes of intent: place and the moving image


"I think the answer is for everybody to write as well as they know how, therefore speak as well as they know how, and as truthfully as they know how. That’s our job and we must continue to do it, because any form of keeping the record is better than letting things sink into silence." – Martha Gellhorn, 5th November 1996

All stories begin with a place. Or rather, the telling of the stories (is there a difference?) begins, whether spoken or not, with this place. Once upon a time… As if time was first a hill from which the landscape of the story might be viewed, and from which its topography conveyed to the story’s listeners. And from such a point, with the wind’s message and high light in mind, just as the story surrounds the hill, so the time of the story, its moments, lie also like fields, pastures; its past, present and future exist for the teller as one. They are all seen, heard and held (that is not to say they are all known by the teller, but she knows them to be present). This is implicitly understood by the audience, who volunteer themselves to be led by the teller and, in doing so, both become and change the story. They are all now. In French this is maintenant, hand holding.

Without break, they walk together. The question then is: in what order shall the story be told, what route shall be taken?

Five years ago, in Volume 2, Issue 2, Vertigo raised the question: “where is Cinema?”, displacing André Bazin’s first interrogation of the form in “What is Cinema?”. We searched for our 21st century experience not only in the movie theatres, but in the galleries, on the web and beyond. Chris Dercon, former director of the Boijman’s Museum, speculated that whilst movement (in time) had been the project for the 20th century, perhaps growth, “the capacity for an organism to incorporate”, might be the project for this coming period.

From its start this has been a century of growth – convergence and globalised change – yet institutionally we still seem bound to contain it. Peter Hewitt, CEO of the Arts Council of England, in his address to the Smith Institute this year, pleads for the “arts” to be written into the “core script” of Government policy, yet film, moving image, cinema even, is not once mentioned. Is it still the industrial pretender? To whom should it appeal? And in respect of territorial divisions between the Arts and Film Councils, and the Departments of Culture and Industry, when films are categorised as “experimental”, “artists’” film, “specialised” or “mainstream”, does it serve more than institutional tick boxes and the latest needs for treasury accountability?

The question is really how to find an audience for the most ambitious and groundbreaking filmmakers and films, and the public and cultural values to support them. Where that audience might be, where that work might originate and arrive, is a constantly changing territory. But what we do know: Stop making the work, stop writing about it, and there is no audience. The threats are everywhere but so are the energies, the dedications, the networks of resistance. Nothing is over until it’s over. Onward.