Optimism at Point of No Return: Dan Walwin and the Implications of Landscape

By Gareth Evans

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Images, like crashing planes, arrive out of left-field. Those at least that jolt us into new ways of seeing, or of seeing what has long been there, minted afresh. In the volume, in the pixel-noise, still the image - that speaks aslant, that watches and waits, that reflects – can both be made (there is a future of sorts then) and find its way through.

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If the city has been read, albeit often brilliantly, until it is on its knees begging for the cameras to be put away, the phones, the sonic pods that of course are also lenses (everything is something else), then the action now could well lie elsewhere, in the rapidly altering arena we sometimes call the ‘countryside’, the rural or (perhaps most accurately) the non-urban. Not yet, anyway.

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Here, among the sleeper agents in GM crops, among the pesticide residues, among the detritus of past conflicts and the seeds of future clashes, in the shadow of instant buildings and the fallout from road-widening, around the back of stage set estates, there are still lanes and trees and ditches; and some sense of space, of place. And time, and a quiet – unsettling, disembodying – in which to consider the nature and agency of that time and how it might best be spent. On this uncertain earth.

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Dan Walwin has been out, and active. Has understood the fiction of such a construction. Has understood that the sharpest way to appreciate such a site is as a ‘location’ and, in so doing, has discovered that the invented was there, waiting, all the time among the hedgerows of the real.

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In a native image culture that has almost never actually ‘looked’ at its own landscape on film, beyond roping it in with bad sandwiches as an extra to creaking foreground fantasies of costume history, Walwin’s Optimism at Point of No Return speaks loudly in a very restrained voice to a brooding sense of purpose and position. He’s surely read Ballard, has watched Marker. But also Petit and Reeves, Keiller and Powell. And, through them, he has shaped his own gaze. Has worked a great seam with little money but a quarry’s worth of imagination and has made a rich sense of ‘environment’ through judicious angles, skilful accumulation and a well deployed use of sound. Having authoritatively claimed an atmospherically charged but overlooked interstice, he has made it central, while maintaining its latency. This is how the culture is revived. There might be cause for optimism after all.

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Visit www.danwalwin.co.uk

It is hoped that Optimism at Point of No Return will be shown in a Vertigo-supported screening in May 2009.