By Gareth Evans
When a final analysis is made, the constituents of the moving image – beyond the technical vessel of their carriage – are few and primary. In Ur terms, versions of time enter into complex conversation with space, or what we might think of as the unfolding of time (it’s a debatable point, and one universally larger than the remit of this posting, as to which is fowl and which shelled) to produce the territory of the image, its place, both in the world and in its representation of that reality.
This can be said to apply as much to an entirely abstract/ed image as it does to the figurative, narrative or topographic kind. All incarnations of the seen occupy an optical zone which requires a chronology fully to be appreciated. And yet, this is only the foundation of the architecture that is a film (whatever its means). Almost all moving image makers engage with the sonic of course, crafting arcades, galleries, high vaults of perceptual extension from that sensory exploration alone, even before it waltzes with visual across the receptive terrain of the audience.
Once these have been established, the secondary fashioning can begin. Here, narrative (or plot, story, exposition) embraces character; genre frames subversion, systems of conveyance are ruptured by luminous glitches that contain medium (in both definitions) secrets the import of which only they themselves are fully cognisant.
More, location dialogues with action, the moment finds its priority – or hierarchy – within the series; the startling framing of a singular vision submits or rises above the body entire. Context is all, or nothing. The fleeting speaks volumes, or the volumes speak volumes. Poetry wrestles with prose and both understand they are necessary to the outcome. Information bleeds into insight as if it has wounded itself deliberately to transcend its own mundanity.
And now, in our times more than any other, questions of volume rise like gulls off landfill. How might any image, any constellation that edges towards meaning in its arrangement, find spectatorship at least, acknowledgement and appreciation at best?
Strategically, and before one even considers the context of this particular award scheme, Corin Sworn’s As the Mark Strays takes all of this on board; indeed, it makes these questions, enquiries, investigations the actual stuff of its purpose. A nourish conspiracy text, in which a young researcher finds herself paranoid of surveillance within the image archive of an information facility, a corporation of classification that appears to aspire to a Borgesian one-to-oneness between image and reality, in both time and space, her sketch towards a very likely already arrived future compels with its light touch, large implication gathering and deployment of the tools in patterns and arrangements that make one wonder and wish further.
The protagonist’s employment requires categorisation by editorial, commercial or other criteria (all of which feel, in this fiction and in the actually existing world, to be increasingly meaningless divisions. Unfortunately. Sworn, however, subscribes to the undomesticated impulse of the lyric at key pivot moments, hinges that open the work, provisional but prospective, onto vistas that cannot be restrained by the index. Most notable among these is the recurrent image of small jellyfish, navigating beyond our consciousness and carrying their own illumination. Their meaning is both inherent and other, in and of themselves while also carrying signification past their knowing. In these ways, they embody for us, here, in this proposal and more widely, the raison d’etre of the moving image, of art, creativity, even the soul in its own passage.
Large claims maybe – do judge for yourself as always of course – but in serious times, it doesn’t pay to be frivolous. Lightly treading yes, but always serious. And what treads lighter than a jellyfish? And what is more serious. Like anything that is; it wants to live.