Defences

Defences

Trethevy Quoit

Trethevy Quoit

Clacton-on-Sea to Walton-on-the-Naze

Another Part One

With still three weeks left before work for me, for you, just one, we decided to walk along the coast from Clacton to Walton, passing by Frinton. For us both there was something from the past that attracted us to this strip of coastline. For me some photographs I took when visiting with both my mum and dad over ten years ago. For you a story from your Grandma about how, as a young girl, she had walked from her school in Frinton to the train station at Clacton to return home to London. This would have been nearly eighty years ago.

And then there’s the sun. Sun too strong for March, it encouraged us away from home. By eight o’clock that evening your forehead would be red, our lips dry and cracked.

From Liverpool Street, the train to Clacton takes just under an hour an a half. Once out of London we passed through some small towns and imagined, each time, what it might be like to live there. I was rude about the houses on the edges of one town – all the same, yellow bricks, small white-framed windows, stacked up and down the Essex slopes. Comments made in passing, so distanced from the I love yous, I hate yous, the Come ins, the Get outs.

From the station at Clacton it seemed we walked a single straight line directly to the end of the town’s pier. The pier was preparing for the Easter holidays with acrylic animals squashed into clear plastic sacks waiting to be hung as tantalising prizes. The wind turbines far out to sea turned slowly and turning south we saw a little way down the coast two Martello towers. We changed our plans and headed first to these squat towers surrounded by beachside redbrick and magnolia walls.  So, it was from there that the walk would begin.

All Divided Selves

Luke Fowler 2011

Screened at the ICA, London on 28th March 2012

The experience of watching All Divided Selves felt rare and exciting in both its sincerity and its clarity. That’s not to say that this film presents you with a straight-forward narrative. This is an experimental documentary that combines archival footage of psychiatrist R. D. Laing and his contemporaries with more recent footage shot by Fowler of what we assume are his own contemporaries, his colleagues and collaborators, his friends and family, along with more abstract images that are unashamedly beautiful and captivating. The soundtrack supports this intricate collage and vice versa, with both image and sound providing moments of suspension in which the other can be absorbed and understood.

The editing of this work is the most remarkable thing about it and yet, as the cliché goes, you hardly notice it at all. At first Fowler’s own footage leaps out in its brilliance against the dull greys and browns of the archival broadcast images but a rhythm is established and the two strands combine to suggest an intriguing emotional power of the subject over it’s artist. Apparently the last in a trilogy of works about R. D. Laing by Fowler, the production of which has spanned over ten years, All Divided Selves feels like a declaration of love; the full admission of someone or something into your life that finally lets you accept and express something of your own self.

The reverence shown for Laing by Fowler is clear but never over the top. The respectful, gradual reveal of Laing’s own vulnerability over the course of the film positions his fallibility as the means to understanding his radical but humanist approach to psychiatry. At one point in the film we see Laing on a television chat show accused, by his interviewer, of being drunk and ‘slow’. Looking sad, tired and maybe a little drunk, Laing dolefully denies the accusation but a it is a few members of the audience that suddenly speak out in his defence, pointing out to the interviewer that it is he alone that has set ‘an unwritten rule’, a standard of behaviour for appearing on television and that no-one else is obliged to adhere to it. This is a memorable moment that is simultaneously literal and richly symbolic in its challenge to oppressive prescriptions of behaviour. I also couldn’t help but interpret the inclusion of this clip as both a protective and revealing gesture by Fowler; the scene that vindicates the hero and dismisses any claim to objectivity.

More information about Luke Fowler at The Modern Institute. He is currently artist in residence at the ICA.

Eleventh of March

Eleventh of March

Down to earth

Bird formation

Two Piece Reclining Figure

Two Piece Reclining Figure

Dog face

Dog face

47 ist

47 Ist

Montserrat 1999

Montserrat, Spain