Derek Jarman – A Journey to Avebury

My short Bradwell video prompted my lecturer to point me (back) in the direction of Derek Jarman. I’ve read about Jarman’s work before, seen clips of his Edward II, and heard about his interest in the medieval from various talks, including one by Bob Mills at the 2013 MAMO conference in St Andrews.

But, from a purely superficial point of view, I can’t believe the visual similarity between my video and Jarman’s. The quick shots edited together, the focus on distant points on the landscape. Even the birdsong sound at the beginning. We also both turned to the lo fi technology (his a super 8, mine the iphone). Perhaps it was simply an obvious aesthetic to go for: how else to document a journey other than arrange the points on the landscape that most absorbed you? The journey to a place is just as important as actually arriving and being there: a journey on foot or bicycle allows you to survey the landscape in a way that a journey by car doesn’t. Returning to a slower pace perhaps is a way of experiencing the world in the way it might’ve been.

Although this risks romanticising the medieval pace of life, I think it’s worth investigating further. The journeys would have to have been slower. The making of text and image was slower. To produce an illustrated version of the journey would take much, much longer again than the films.

I’d love to experiment more with sound next time I film a journey to ‘the medieval’. Sound again can transcend time – the wind off the sea, the rustle of long grass. What can we do with these other sensory experiences as we explore medieval culture? Too often we rely on the ‘reading’ sense: looking at texts, images, or buildings. But why do we limit these other sensations: touch, taste, smell, sight beyond the museum or library, hearing beyond reading aloud.

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