The Moon and the Sledgehammer

By Andrew K├Âtting

the-moon-and-the-sledgehammer-philip-trevelyan.jpgThe Moon and the Sledgehammer, 1971

“A culture is no better than its woods” – W.H. Auden

If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise…

We’ve climbed a mountain and passed a valley of fear, there is thick woodland and in it a clearing. Butler’s Erewohn? Gun shots ring out. The camera explores the landscape, the fecund and verdant landscape. A closer inspection. Close-ups. Close. Smoke billows out of the cabin in the clearing. Skeletal car carcasses, buses, heavy metal inland flotsam and jetsam. A forlorn piano playing along to things pastoral. Probably discordant. Or is that the tinkersound of Tom Waits?

Who are these people?
More gun shots. Where are these people?
There he is.

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen

Battered, beautiful and Beuysian besuited. Mr Page. No teeth, gnarled drift wood face, sump-oil soaked cigarette stuck to the corner of his mouth and welcoming. Stand back you boys as the elephant’s about to make water. Beuysian behatted. Of all the felt hats I felt, I never felt a felt hat like this felt hat felt.

We are in the world of Philip Trevelyan’s The Moon And The Sledgehammer. It is 1971 and the spell has been cast. It was maybe ten years later that I saw the film. Transfixed, it transformed the way in which I would make my own work. A template for the believable heaviness of making.

The Sussex landscape is the real place. But this is a thousand places, a thousand faces. I’ve stumbled across them in South America, The High Andes, Kenya, Madagascar and The French Pyrenees. All round England and back again. Wizened, weather-beaten, life-ridden oracles. And Richard Stanley (camera) has captured it in order that Trevelyan can make his magic. The father, the sisters and the holey sons beguile with Pagean banter (what happened to the mother?) Not cant but manna.

The world’s all to pieces, isn’t it? They’re like a lot of rats and mice in England. They don’t know what they are going to do. It’s a good job the moon’s well up there too, I’ve got room enough to swing a sledgehammer underneath him without hitting of him. He’s well out of my way. But if they had their way they’d get the moon down you know and they’d be trying to wheel him along the road on two wheels.

Man will invent things to destroy himself. And it’s true.

But what I know other people will never know because I shan’t tell them.

Seminal aphorisms and insightful anecdotes, a glue for this their apparent nonsensical way of living. A portrait of a fantastical family at odds with the world and then themselves. Scrap metal, steam-driven lumber-jacking self-sufficientists.

The film was my compass for Gallivant and my accomplice for This Filthy Earth. It has nurtured me and fed me. Jon Bang Carlsen must have drunk from the same trough, as his companion films It's Now or Never (1996) and How to Invent Reality (1996) contain smidgeons of the same spellbinding. Ben RiversThis Is My Land (2006) is a magnificent pretender and then of course there’s Stalker

If you go down to the woods today you’ll hardly believe your eyes…


Andrew Kötting’s In the Wake of a Deadad project can be seen at Dilston Grove, Southwark Park, London from October 4th – November 11th (visit www.cgplondon.org; www.deadad.info).