Notes for a Film

This short piece of writing was presented as a spoken word performance and was accompanied by a series of photographs taken at Liverpool Street Station and Crystal Palace Park in London.

Notes for a film, draft 3. Provisional title: A Romance of the Near Future

The opening scene must be complete darkness, over which we can hear the sound of a train coming into Liverpool Street Station.

Cathy is travelling from their home in the suburbs to the main rail station in the east. The train takes just twenty minutes to reach its destination. There she will meet Simon. They have been together for nearly 10 years and, at times she thinks that they have become almost the same.

Alone for now, she is absorbed by the sound of the train as it approaches the final station. Loud, occasionally uncomfortably so the sound is first, what is seen comes second. She knows that the attraction it is not so much the sound of the train but how she, only she, hears this sound.

This order of perception is encouraged by the tunnel, completely dark, only the light from the train’s windows illuminate the tunnel walls, the tunnel’s bricks, the tunnels own damp.

Having halted for some minutes in the tunnel, the train moves on, its last few hundred yards into the lights of the station.

He asks me why I want to photograph these models. The train is quiet. I start, I attempt to explain but feel self-conscious. I ask if we can continue this conversation when we are off the train in the hope that he will forget.

She steps off the train and looks up at the white globe above her. One of 200? 300? It is like…

A planet with rings
The sun
The moon

It has something of forever about it. She is happily falling under its spell. A pearl, soft light.

What are you looking at? He says.

Tomorrow and the next day, and all the ones after, she thinks of replying but says nothing.

Now they are both staring up at the light, six feet above them. He thinks he sees something that goes on and on forever.

Is there a problem here? Someone else. A man in uniform.

The three of them look up at the light. They are each having a revelation.

No, nothing, they say.

Then, please, make your way down the platform. Thank you.

Do you know, he began as they walked down the platform, this station was once completely destroyed. Nothing at all remained of the original. They based its reconstruction on a short film that was made two or three years before its destruction. The film recorded every detail of the architecture, the roof, the floors, everything. A kind of portrait I suppose. Everyone thought the memory, the record of it, the station that is, lost and then this film popped up at some train-spotters club.
Oh yes, she continued for him, for now the story was quite famous, some distant relative of Edward Wilson was in the audience. It was Newcastle.

It didn’t annoy her that he thought she might not know the story, in fact, she didn’t even think that he thought she wouldn’t know. He was quite certain that she would know the story of a structure conjured from 17 minutes of flickering light.

Some people don’t believe it. They don’t believe in the original. Do you think it matters?

I was there. I saw it before it burned. I’m sure… he tailed off.

Impossible.

The park has many historical references. In one mile you can walk through time from the present through to the Victorian era, from the time of the First World War and into pre-history, each with its own object on which you can focus your attention and imagine. The problem though is not where you go, where in the past, but from where you think you travel from.

Where are you now? Do you know? He says, grabbing her arm.

It is a shame, she replies looking toward the steps, that we can’t go through there now. A fence, an unsteady stone in the step, a crack, keeps us out. I walked there before I think. Let’s go this way, she says pointing, down the steps, over the terrace and then down the slope towards the pond.

Where are you? He repeats. There is no way through here. The steps, I think, no, look, there aren’t any here anymore. Maybe to the left? Or up, back up along there and down over there.

What do I see? Something that is not there or something that he cannot see.

Keeping close, they walk amongst the dinosaurs. Cathy is listening to the audio tour, which she has downloaded and copied to her personal mp3 player. Amongst other things it tells her that each of the models was made first in clay, referencing both the fossilized remains and living creatures and in some cases, such as with the Elk’s antlers, actual fossilized bone was incorporated into the model. It also told her that the model of the giant sloth has killed the tree on which it is positioned. Though the tree had earlier cracked the arm of the sloth as its branches thickened. It also recounted an anecdote about a dinner party that was held inside the iguanodon, a dinner hosted by its maker, Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins.

Huh, funny, he said unimpressed.

I like them, she said. They are all wrong you know. I like them because they are wrong. Then, in 18-whenever, they made the best possible guess based on the fossils they had and what they knew of the world they were in then. These models are mistakes that they, we, whoever chose to keep as mistakes.

So, why you want to photograph them?

There will be some fairly lengthy moments of contemplation of the models and landscape here. A sort of useless pondering on the nature and usefulness of knowledge. For all these proud and visible mistakes, one might want to consider all the mistakes we will never know and with what we compare our mistakes to anyway. I’m changing my mind now. Maybe it would be a pondering of the loss of uncertainty, if there could be a time of ‘no mistakes.’

No one remembers the damn things anyway. It’s over and done with.

My film is out. Hang on a second. Can we sit here for a moment while I change this?

Central Saint Martins, Charing Cross Road, April 2010