Andrew Kötting’s Gallivant

By Gareth Evans

gallivant-andrew-kotting.jpgGallivant, 1996

A unique journey through the moving image is properly celebrated on dvd

Andrew Kötting is one of Britain’s most intriguing artists, and perhaps the only film-maker currently practising who could be said to have taken to heart the spirit of visionary curiosity and hybrid creativity exemplified by the late Derek Jarman. Formally exploratory and aesthetically innovative, like Jarman he is also a great collaborator, building around his various projects a community of shared interest, while anchoring his prolific production in an ongoing report on the lives of those closest to him.

His twenty-five-year progress to date has moved from early live-art inflected, often absurdist pieces, ripe with their own internal logics and skewed mythologies, through darkly comic shorts – teasing out the melancholy surrealism at the heart of contemporary Englishness –  to two resolutely independent features that take landscape and journeys as the springboards for visually striking and structurally inventive enquiries into identity, belonging, history and notions of community.

In all Kötting’s work, there is a more or less active reclamation of deep strains of popular experience and folk memory for the digital age. At the same time, his oeuvre is underpinned by an instinctually psycho-geographical approach to place. The above has come together most winningly in his award-winning debut feature, the warmly experimental Gallivant. An unscripted camper van journey around the entire British coastline, in the company of his grandmother and his daughter Eden (then eight years old and suffering from the rare Joubert’s Syndrome) allows Kötting to excavate all his interests at length. Multiple filmstocks, found footage, non-synchronous sound, home movie reveries and encounters with a host of distinctive personalities all make for richly textured, humourous and fascinating viewing. At its heart however is the affecting relationships, across three generations, of family members learning both about the country they inhabit and themselves. A genuine one of a kind road movie and a unique British film.

It’s now been beautifully packaged by the BFI. With two fully illustrated booklets boasting insightful notes by Kötting, an extended treatment for Gallivant and a very fine essay by Iain Sinclair, this double disc set boasts nearly three hours of extra material. Eleven shorts, drawn from across Kötting’s oeuvre, are included. A two screen work, Visionary Landscapes, made from super 8 Gallivant outtakes in collaboration with musician and Pogues co-founder Jem Finer, is also included. All in all, as Sukhdev Sandhu has observed, ‘a tantalising vision of a parallel British cinema.’

Gallivant is released by BFI.

It is also out in France from ED Distribution. In an equally impressive superb four-disc overview of the Kötting project, it includes his feature This Filthy Earth, its installation version and the soundtrack CD, 16 shorts, magnificent print accompaniments and interior design.