To Look North 2000-1
Isis Arts [Residency / CD Release / International Talk at idfa.nl]
The short film above is one of several outcomes from this well funded and significant residency which resulted in international screenings, 1000 CDs published, and an early example of online documentary which was supported by idfa.nl - it led onto me being funded for several works in Amsterdam.
The Northern Region Film and Television Archive in collaboration with BBC Enterprises and Newcastle’s ISIS Arts, not to mention Arts Council England’s “Year of The Artist” scheme - all these agencies paved the way for this residency which had its international premiere at The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2001.
A regional news archive across Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland contained 16mm films from mainly local news items from the region. I was born in Middlesbrough and raised in Cleveland and so I was particularly happy to be given access to short films to both curate and also work on and perhaps rewrite the bias that the northeast was grim. I sought counter-cultural imagery and sounds.
Here’s a review from milkfactory.co.uk on the Enchanced CD version of the work
The work presented on To Look North is the result of Chris Dooks’s six months residency at the University Of Teesside in Newcastle, in collaboration with the Northern Region Film & Television Archive and commissioned by ISIS Arts, an art agency based in North Tyneside. During this period, Dooks spent his time between Newcastle going through hundreds of hours of films recording a hundred years of culture in the North of England, and his recording studio in Edinburgh. The CD includes twenty five audio tracks built around excerpts of conversations, interviews and commentaries, as well as eleven short films.
To Look North is a very significant piece of work in Dooks’s career as it establishes a link between his years spent as a filmmaker and his most recent work as a digital musician. Here, he creates an abstract documentary of his native region, capturing fragments of lives and fit them in seemingly arbitrary order. Each track is built around one main sample of conversation, extracted from its context, on which Dooks applies digital alterations and textures to extract the core meaning of the element used, obliterating any perspective. These voices become integrant part of the sonic substance and define the true signification of this record that is, creating a chronicle of the life in the North over the last hundred years. This process allows Dooks to perfectly integrate the intrinsic abstraction of his music with these external components. If the complexity of compositions is still present here, the digital terrorism characterising some of Social Electrics has been replaced by a more insidious form of perverse alteration. Minimalist in essence, To Look North appears luxuriant by its constant change of ambiences. Dooks dissects his sonic sources and randomly reassembles elements of crime investigations, lunch time dance lessons, scientific discussions, political activism or meaningless everyday conversations to outline the volatile aspects of life. The eleven short films accompanying these recordings accentuate this.
Chris Dooks’s aim with this record was to present a more human and happy vision of the North of England than the epitomic image built by the media during the Thatcher years, when unemployment and poverty were affecting the region. To say that he achieves is an understatement.
I thought it might be interesting to include the exhaustive sleevenotes here because this release is really about raising the profile of the northeast of England - and so apologies in advance as I wasn’t much of a writer back then (or indeed now!).
TO LOOK NORTH
The Northern Region Film And Television Archive — Demixed by Chris Dooks
The work on this enhanced audio CD is the result of an ISIS Arts ‘Year of The Artist’ residency and is a collaboration with The Northern Region Film and Television Archive (NRFTA).
The archive is physically based at locations throughout the North East of England — chieﬂy Teesside University and at a couple of other locations within central Newcastle–Upon–Tyne and beyond. ISIS Arts is an arts agency based in North Tyneside which develops and manages artist residencies, fellowships and commissions. With an active new media studio, ISIS provides a valuable environment for the creation of new media artwork. My work on this CD is part of a much larger programme of activity at ISIS.
I was the artist in residence with the NRFTA for several months during 2001 and given access to thousands of hours of ﬁlm to use as source material to make new work from. I suppose I was a kind of remix artist for the archive, observing the sociological ramiﬁcations of all this ﬂickering footage as I processed and ﬁltered the material during this large scale project. Luckily, I was working with people who had already done much ﬁltering of material themselves, so once they got to know me and the kind of work I wanted to develop, it became easier to select source material.
It was a weird personal excursion for me doing this work because I was born and raised in Cleveland, England, and in younger years, I couldn’t wait to get out of the North East in the 1980s and early 90s — not an uncommon desire for those in the region suffering under a cloud of frustration during the Thatcher years. The news coverage continually showed bleak industrial landscapes and empty shipyards, not to mention the angst of the miners’ strike and other industrial disputes. To this young boy in the 1980s, this seemed to be the extent of North East culture. Was this it?
I was tired by the fog of unemployment. It had a large impact on my family and I was irritated by how the North East was seen by the rest of the country at the time. These days, trying to explain to people outside the North East of England where Cleveland is on the map is still interesting. It takes them an age and when they still don’t understand, I have to resort to responses like, “you know, where they had all that child abuse” — stimulating a kind of rough recall of geography in their heads. If people have heard of my birth place, Middlesbrough, it’s because of the football. When I was at university, Middlesbrough ﬁnally made it to The Premiere League and continue to hang there by the skin of their teeth, (at the time of writing).
All these factors have had an effect on the residency. In other words, I came to it with some baggage. This stimulated a desire to make work which showed an alternative North East — one which I knew to exist gave a fuller, true and honest picture of this varied part of the world. I wanted to blow the clouds away to see the open sky. If you think I have some sort of chip on my shoulder about the bleak North East, think again. I love the area, but I don’t love the ‘media North’ where the working classes are portrayed only in a Catherine Cookson drama or are pictured queuing outside the job centre as their hearts blacken with the burden of being Northern.
The North East’s home grown media has been as guilty as the national media with this self –fulﬁlling prophecy. No wonder I spent my youth listening to The Smiths, walking the dog on Marske beach.
At my interview for the residency I remember saying to the panel that I was going to avoid footage of trade union disputes, shipyard closures, dole queues and other personal baggage that plagued my relationship with the North in the past. I was approaching the archive with a strict manifesto — to try and ﬁnd works which reveal aspects of life full of humour, passion and eclecticism. Having said all of that, it was no simple task to ﬁnd these works — a massive percentage of material in the archive is exactly the kind of material I was trying to avoid.
But even having said all that however, I felt that half way through my residency, by the time I had assembled this alternative view, what I was creating was kind of a freak show. I had gone too far. It was too removed from the truth — from one extreme to the other. Much of the time then, I endeavoured to make a balanced collection when viewed as a whole. There is the odd union march, the odd dark story and other bits and pieces that are more obviously North East–esque. I was making lots of little video pieces and lots of little audio / radio works — a bit like an arty ‘Noah’s Ark of the North’. As I was working over the summer of 2001 on this project, I wrote an online diary about my experiences with the archive — at the time of writing it is still online at www.tees.ac.uk/artist — but the idea is to ultimately put the project on–line somewhere as a semi–permanent home.
The residency works themselves have had different approaches in their construction. Some are actual newsreels I have simply edited down to reveal their magic in a concise way — and these are the more narrative selections. On the other hand, there are works constructed entirely from the detritus of the archive, scratches, blips, hums and pops — forming a musical piece from dirty scraps of sound and ﬁlm. My own archive is a combination of soundscapes, stories, music and digital visual pieces remixed from the original clips in the collection. Some have been gently edited and some have been completely turned upside down.
They say you can tell a lot from someone’s rubbish — so, when choosing material, I have looked as much to what newsreels and ﬁlms leave out, as to the material that did make it to broadcast on local news programmes like Look North. Much of what lives in the archive is the detritus of the newsreels anyway — the repeat takes, the sound checks and so on. One piece of work I made called THE NORTHUMBERLAND BUDDHA, was constructed almost entirely from the presenter’s mic check, counting from one to ten in a Buddhist Abbey in the Northumberland countryside. It was a beautiful moment because some schools of Buddhism use counting in their meditation practice.
Another piece of work LAZARUS STATIC, is made from audio mistakes and blips on the soundtrack of a ﬁlm about country dancers — the ﬁlm had been physically pulled and stretched at some point in its life and I have rescued the junk from obscurity. You can still clearly recognise the archive source material in my audio edits, but in a piece of work like this I have pushed the material to its conceptual limit — there is fat chance of telling where it came from, but I can assure you it’s from the archive, not just my hard drive! All of the works on the CD do have the archive at their heart, having all been derived and/or informed by the footage.
To illustrate the kind of treatment I gave some of these works, I’d like to focus on two pieces — one is about a ballet dancer who was visiting the region (and since Billy Elliot was so popular here, I thought “What the Hell! I’ll do this”.) and the other is an interview with BBC DJ John Peel. These are pretty typical tracks on the audio part of the CD. The title of the Ballet Dancer’s piece is ONE’S OWN PHYSICAL DIFFICULTIES and the John Peel track is THE TOUPÉ AND GLISTENING TEETH. The following notes are based on my online diary notes as I was making the works.
ONE’S OWN PHYSICAL DIFFICULTIES
The Ballet Dancer ﬁlm then: I was working with BBC material derived from an interview with a ballet dancer who was visiting the region, and like a lot of the material in the archive — there’s not a great deal to go on regarding the actual source material, just a catalogue number and the footage. I need more time to be a detective!
To begin with, I made a loop of the phrase “it’s very very tiring”, and made this the subtle backbone of the piece, as this particular ballet dancer was talking with an air of exhaustion during the interview. She also speaks with a touch of gentle arrogance of the pain her art causes her. She comes across as a bit of a martyr for her art.
During this digital editing and manipulating process, I found that certain voices (well, nearly all voices I suppose), reveal quite deﬁnite musical tones in their diction — especially when they are ‘time stretched’ to unnatural durations. I have done this to the dancer’s voice. These musical tones can even be observed when you simply remove vocal snippets from their context — and if you then repeat those snippets over and over again, you begin to take more notice of how language relies on a fairly wide tonal, even musical range. Speak to any musicologist and they will highlight anthropological signiﬁcances in differing tonalities of individuals. It was satisfying to be exploring and learning about this kind of stuff as I beavered on into the night on the computer, dissecting this dancer’s comments. The archive was teaching me something here.
With the other works also, as I manipulated and extracted some of the clarity of the voices in some of the clips, all I could hear were the ‘notes’ devoid of content. I realised then how much of our vocal communication relies on what I think is a kind of ‘hidden music’. This hidden music is a small theme which can be observed in a few of the works. This is one of my reasons for doing a high percentage of audio–only works on the CD.
I suppose we sing every day without realising it consciously in our conversations. This ballet dancer’s voice taken out of context is one of those examples. Of course, all this was discovered years ago. I remember school music lessons on people like Aaron Copland and his ‘tone poems’ of America, where voices and tonal experience were translated directly into a score. Then there’s the sixties minimalist, Steve Reich and his massive arsenal of voice related music.
Only fairly recently has it been particularly easy to digitally unlock these secret tones and hidden music from conversations and other ﬁeld recordings — or in my case, archive material. It would be nice to work on this clip again, perhaps with a string quartet increasing the musical connections; perhaps in a similar way to Steve Reich’s voice/string quartet piece ‘Different Trains’, where he scored musical signatures over cut up vocal audio. What I have done here is multitracked her own voice so she is kind of singing to herself. The ‘hidden music’ has come directly from the source material and if you listen carefully, you can hear this kind of stuff in the background of the track.
Making pieces of musical art out of interviews is like walking a tight rope. I have been careful not to alienate listeners who want to hear chunks of the actual interview and so I have been restraining the desire to butcher every piece of source material into some unrecognisable digital audio montage. Suzanne Heywood, who works with the archive let slip to me of her concern that I was fond of the word ‘butcher’ when I was talking of my initial thoughts at the start of the residency. Hopefully I haven’t been too heavy handed in this example. As I mentioned earlier, there are other tracks on the CD where I have cut up stuff so there’s just a thin layer of the source remaining. In this piece, you get the gist of what the original interview was all about — ‘one’s own physical difﬁculties’.
THE TOUPÉ AND GLISTENING TEETH
I am sure there must be some religious philosophy in the world that says when we die, we transmutate directly into what we were, what we did, or the things we used in life. In other words, I might actually become a camera… or something… maybe a piece of sound software. BBC Radio DJ John Peel’s transmutation would be to take on the form of a record, and by record, I mean vinyl. He’s been one of the longest standing heroes of popular and not so popular music, spanning several decades of broadcasting. I love his voice, his attitude and self depreciating humour and humility, even if he does come across as a total posho in this example. His voice is more man–of–the–people now. What can you say? He’s just such a nice, nice man. I was delighted to ﬁnd this in the archive.
Retrospect is a great thing, because Mr Peel is talking in this clip about his ambitions to stay in radio, and to simply be ‘a broadcaster’. These days, such media ambitions would seem gentle and modest, but Mr Peel has managed to stay in radio and retain his personality — no mean feat. In the clip, he is nonplussed at the ‘cult’ (as the interviewer calls it), forming around his ‘groovy’ radio shows. I love this clip because we know the outcome of the last thirty years or so since this was recorded. (I am guessing, but it looks like very late sixties).
The treatment of this clip was similar in style to the Ballet Dancer but I tried to make a piece of work that was more informed about what I knew of John Peel — his love of records, his deadpan quotes. I have been more aggressive with the sound design of the piece. I have given this old BBC interview with John Peel a soak in vinyl both metaphorically and sonically at least! I have taken the sounds of blunt needles scratching records and superimposed them over vocal samples taken from the interview, such as “put… on… records”, “stay in radio” and “John Peel isn’t groovy”. It is as if we were somehow ﬂitting through tracks — or switching radio stations — and then I did something a bit over–conceptual with it. I added the sound of a toilet ventilation unit to the audio. I have no idea what I had in mind at the time but I think it had something to do with the punk ethos. I still don’t know if it works. What I think I may have had in mind with this example was to unite ﬁeld recordings of everyday life (mine) with the archive, so that in years to come, people snifﬁng out work in the archive will have been able to see these two elements fused together, as evidence of what artists were up to in 2001. In one–hundred years time, John Peel will probably still be broadcasting. Maybe he’ll dig up this homage.
The CD is divided into audio tracks which will play on any standard CD player — about the length of an album — and video tracks as one long movie. To be sure that the video works will play on your PC or Mac, you need to download QuickTime from www.apple.com/quicktime
Some tracks work as both audio and video material and content is repeated in both audio and video sections.
I don’t have a great deal of detailed information on the source material for every piece. Hopefully, there will be further web site material developed over the next year that will link to more information about the project and where the material was sourced. But here is a list of most of the tracks and what I know about each one.
VIDEO WORKS ON THE CD
1. CINEOESTROGEN — from BELL & HOWELL advert / Turners Collection.
This is an amazing piece of footage. It’s a ﬁlm or TV advert for an 8mm ﬁlm camera. It revolves around an evening’s viewing of holiday movies. It is a very middle class occasion, almost like a pastiche of what post–war, upwardly mobile Northerners did in the suburbs. All the women in the source clip are doing fairly subservient tasks, like taking visitors’ hats and coats, putting up the screen and collecting children. The men smoke pipes and point at the projector. What I did with this was to use the very brief shots of women and make them the focus of the ﬁlm. I have attempted to make a piece of work that spins the gender roles around a bit. It ended up looking like some fascist propaganda a–la 1930s Olympics. I wrote the score with friends over the internet and told them what the images were, subsequently arranging our sounds in a wall of subtle digital noise.
2. LUNGS — from JUVENILE JAZZ BANDS IN CLEVELAND
The story behind this simple clip is quite interesting. I just liked the image of this woman smoking — her steely face not quite enjoying the puzzling spectacle before her. What is she watching? Well, it’s actually a jazz band (as in the title) and I edited it together to turn her into a kind of smoking machine. She looks as if she was bred for nicotine. I tried to blur her inhalations and exhalations together so she is nothing but smoke and lung. I edited all this mute as I wasn’t really interested in the sound. However, when I was turning up the volume, I realised that the visual edits I had made tallied with what was on the soundtrack already and had given the piece a lovely bit of a score, playing at different speeds, totally in synch to her smoking. It was as if I had composed it specially! What the sound is, is the jazz band playing in slow motion, somewhere in the distance.
3. GOSSAMER — from JACKSON THE TAILOR Turners collection
This clip features studio set–ups of bespoke tailoring and some gaudy fashions as a contrast. It also features a Dennis Waterman type actor circa Minder, driving an open top sports car down a lane with a female passenger’s hair wafting in the wind.
When I was a young boy at school, someone brought some durex condoms into English class and I was bizarrely shocked at both the contents and the packaging. It was the packaging that had more of an effect on me. The ‘gossamer’ condom box had a man and woman driving in exactly the kind of car you see in this clip. In fact, this clip threw me back to seeing that box. At the time, I kind of knew what condoms were for, but I couldn’t relate the artwork to the contents. It made me feel very strange inside! It didn’t really compute. It was a weird rush of hormones and confusion. When I saw this clip, I came to reassess that period in my life but also to examine how seventies media saw the world of sexual attraction. You almost imagine the driver in this clip sliding his hand over the passenger’s knee. It’s amazingly cheesy now — all sheepskin jackets and fat rings.
I have made this more of a sinister piece. There are four elements in it: The soundtrack I composed, shots of trees from the car, shots of the car, the passengers and the mystery tailor with the throbbing vein in his head. It is one of my favourite pieces.
4. EQUINE DAYS — from APPLEBY HORSE FAIR
No words like ‘gypsy’ on television much these days then. They have been banished along with The Black and White Minstrel Show, in a seventies amnesty (somewhere where you’d also ﬁnd programmes with fat racist comedians talking about Asians and mothers–in–law). But the culture of the gypsy and the gypsy life makes this a riveting clip in the original form — so much so that I have used it more than any other piece of source material for my modest bits and bobs. The other Appleby audio tracks feature the original source material in a more direct way than this video treatment does. I wanted to examine an unusual style of shot, the kind of which crops up on other video works on this CD. I have developed an unintentional motif throughout the video works. The shot in question is from the Appleby horse trading fair — an event which I know people in my family have been to and enjoyed the spectacle of. Like a fashion catwalk, there’s a kind of ‘horsewalk’ where the quality of the horse is measured on this one–hundred foot stretch. Either side of the horse stand the buyers and tourists and the odd amateur photographer. In this clip, the audience stare at us, as we are shooting from the point of view of the rider in the cart. It’s a very short clip which I have time–stretched to emphasise what is almost like a journey through another dimension! People line up like witnesses and because of the status of the camera, we the audience become the entire focus of the piece. It’s as if we are being judged somehow. We are treated the same as the horse but then I use a second clip to reveal the animal on show again, before allowing the camera to rest on one of the most amazing groups of people — children and adults in cowboy hats and a very confused man with a dog on a leash.
5. FOR LOVE — from HOLIDAYS AT HOME 1940s colour footage
The Second World War. No bombs, no explosions. No pain and suffering. People dancing right through into the evening. It is an eerie colour sequence and because it is in high quality colour, it looks like it was shot recently. It makes people like me, who have never lived through a war, try to imagine conﬂict on my own doorstep. In fact, it looks like these people are extras in the movie Pearl Harbor. Their uniforms look like costumes! Unfortunately, I got a little carried away with this clip and removed the realism. I did lots of visual processing of material to make it less real. I felt my sequences might be provocative enough for viewers to hunt out the original source material at the archive. What I did, was to use the images from the source to make a peaceful, devotional work from images that had admittedly subtle connotations with destruction and conﬂict. I wanted to use the source material and turn it into an audio visual prayer. I realised I had various recordings of my own which had a woman I had interviewed in the USA talking about ‘different expressions for love’ and ‘when you love someone a little’ so I took these samples of the extracted war footage and used only the images of children in the clip to make it a kind of elegy. There’s something quite satisfying about diffusing images of war for peace, or in this case for love. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that).
6. “+/–” — from BBC archive material, exact date and title unknown
This is part of an unidentiﬁed clip of children playing on a beach. (maybe Redcar or Tynemouth) The footage shows a huge white balloon which the children can somehow climb into and then walk on the water. At the time of writing, we are still trying to ﬁnd out more information about this clip. It is one of the most bizarre things I have seen in the archive. There are scraps of a soundtrack on it, but it’s just children having a wild time. I used this as the source for my soundtrack. The section I used features an embryonic looking boy doing the classic ‘trying to ﬁght his way out a paper bag’. Is he on the inside or the outside? It’s another example of something that lasted for a second or two on ﬁlm, but I have made it the major focus so that I could use the technology available to me as a kind of Bill Viola ‘temporal magnifying glass’, which examines more detail by slowing down time. There’s something very birth–like about the footage, something which seems to me to demonstrate human survival. The boy in the clip is frantically punching what appears to be an amniotic sac, in an effort to break out and birth himself. It’s like he is in some bardo or limbo land between states of being.
7. CIRQUE — from HOLIDAYS AT HOME
More footage from the 1940s material of the Home Front. This time, a very short clip which employs a technique I have used on LUNGS: multiple dissolves in a shot where the camera is locked off, so that the content of the shot dissolves in on itself. The little girl in the clip is trying so hard to get on the roundabout that just when you think she’s made it, she’s back again, and again. I realised when I made this piece that at some point in the work the viewer makes a decision to trust whether the girl is going to make it or not. It separates the optimists from the pessimists and is different with any viewer. It’s only thirty seconds long, and some people say as soon as it starts that she’s not going to make it, whilst others with a bit more faith in human nature hope for longer and hold out till just before the fade–out! But does she make it? I had at my disposal the clip where she does make it onto the ride, but did I use it?
8. WURL — from WURLITZER ORGAN, REDCAR PIER
My decision to use this clip was partly personal. I am from Marske — sandwiched between Redcar and Saltburn — and I had never seen Redcar pier in my lifetime (or any past lives as far as I can remember), as it’s only a stump now. My other reason was that I was trying to ﬁnd material which worked as both potent music pieces (for the audio CD part of the disc) and as works which had a strong visual element. This footage of the Wurlizter served both purposes as it is basically a newsreel piece about the restoration of the organ. The organist claims, in sample–tastic tones that “the modern electronic organ is a very sophisticated and very desirable thing to have”, before playing a tune called The Runaway Train. I have taken sound bites from this clip and reconstructed the audio ﬁrst before stitching the visual material back into itself. It’s probably one of the more quirky pieces on the disc, but I was blown away by the aesthetics of the organ, both aurally and visually. The Wurlitzer has such a speciﬁc noise, which for me immediately generates associations with the soundtrack of David Lynch’s surreal noir hell, Eraserhead. More ordinarily, it brings images of fondant fancies and Blackpool to mind.
9. UNITY — from JUVENILE JAZZ BANDS IN CLEVELAND
I advocate the use of the kazoo — an instrument that the musically inept (like me) can play. It’s a great instrument because anyone can play it. It’s a unifying device! I won’t have a bad word said against it. That said, it’s an awful sound, much like a bag of wasps being forced through a blender, so I avoided the kazoo on this clip and focussed instead on the Transport and General Workers’ Union march that followed the hordes of marching kazoo–players in the clip! ‘Unity is Strength’, is the motto of the union, and I felt I wanted to use this clip to pay homage to the industrial heritage of the region. My dad was connected with the union at some stage in his tanker driving days and the ofﬁce in Middlesbrough was a bit of a landmark when driving into the town. I have altered the playback of the clip, so that the steely–eyed dignitaries, like the mayor, walk as if they are stars in a Tarantino ﬁlm. After working with the material, a couple of friends commented that this clip looks like a sectarian march — something to do with the deﬁance in the eyes of the marchers, the clothing and the general mood of the piece. I think the treatment of the clip ampliﬁes the marchers’ show of strength, but it also certainly ampliﬁes the more sinister nature and undertones of imagery like this.
10. ANTI–SOCIALISM — from SOUZAPHONE PLAYER
Sections of the original footage from which this clip is extracted, reminded me strongly of the Ronnie Corbett series, Sorry! (Remember that?) This charming clip shows a middle–aged man who is lodging at his mother’s home and driving her mad. Why? Because his enormous tuba–like instrument is taking up space in the living room. It’s either him or the Souzaphone. This is another clip which makes us address and examine gender roles and a cornucopia of sociological issues in the subtext of the original clip. But you don’t get any of that in my version. You get a short clip with a punch line. That’s it.
11. WAR REQUIEM — from TRAVELLING STREET MUSICIANS
Probably my favourite piece as far as the video clips go. The treatment of material in the clip is partly inspired by one of my favourite composers, Gavin Bryars, whose composition The Sinking of The Titanic, is one of my favourite pieces of music. His piece is a one–hour long composition — a kind of requiem or elegy, based around the hymn, Nearer My God To Thee. It’s based on the eye witnesses’ (contested) claim that the said hymn was playing as the ship sank. Bryars stretches out notation to unnaturally long lengths. This generates very long drones and rich deep timbres of the string section as his players perform the valium–like piece. A similar technique happens here. A locked–off shot shows war veterans playing White Christmas. I have slowed it down around four or ﬁve times, so a twenty–second clip lasts a couple of minutes. After the initial desire for something fast to happen in the ﬁrst few seconds of the clip, the mind slows down and we see things which would otherwise pass us by. As we watch, the one–legged money box collector accepting donations from children, now looks very sinister. At this speed, the other characters in the clip affect the senses with a slow burning funereal sonic wash. If you listen very carefully, towards the end of the clip you can just about make out the section of the song where we can faintly hear “May all your Christmases be white”. Marconi stated that radio waves never really die, they merely grow fainter to an indiscernible point of measurement. Bryars used this idea metaphorically to suggest that maybe the sound of Nearer My God To Thee, is playing underwater to this day at the location where the Titanic sank, growing fainter with every wave and every day but never dying. I like this idea that places or instances retain some kind of emotional imprint of an affecting past event. I could imagine this music in the clip, or indeed even the men in the clip haunting some aspect of my life in years to come — and totally without warning. It is as if the event still resonates throughout the footage.
AUDIO MATERIAL ON THE CD
This material will play in your standard CD player.
1. THREE TONS OF ONIONS from FRENCH ONION SELLERS IN BYKER
This is an amazing clip, which I have attempted to preserve the content of. Three charismatic French onion sellers rent a house in Wallsend and stuff it with onions. They spend days tying the onions together and then they sell them to Tynesiders! Fantastic! The best thing about this clip is the way these guys have hybrid accents — a kind of Gallic/Geordie hybrid. Listen to the way they say “turn” in this piece.
2. THINGS LIKE THAT from CHILDREN’S SCIENCE WORKSHOP
A clip from the 1960s. Schoolchildren are given a kind of ‘funky’ science lesson where they learn about gravity. The hilarious thing is, that when asked what they have learned, most of the children reply, “about gravity and things like that”. What I have done is edit all the “things like that” together from the different kids’ responses under a digital score. The aesthetics of the responses are amazingly similar, a kind of nervous response to the question as if they didn’t really understand the lesson.
3. THE TOUPÉ AND GLISTENING TEETH from JOHN PEEL INTERVIEW
As described earlier.
4. NO MEN! (THEY’VE BEEN BANNED) from WOMEN ONLY DISCO
or HARDCORE FEMINIST RAVE ANTHEM. A city club promoter, who looks and sounds a bit like Jackie Stewart, gives an interview with a female reporter (a rare thing then) and the whole thing has a whiff of Peter Stringfellows about it. It’s a slightly bizarre piece, which today would have major, same–sex overtones, as it’s a lunchtime women only disco. Women working in the city centre can, ‘get a drink and a bite to eat’, ‘watch fashion displays’ and the like. It really is a very odd clip. I pay homage to it in this dance track. No men? They’ve been banned! See also, track nine, which explores the clip in greater detail.
5. GRAVITY AND FRICTION from CHILDREN’S SCIENCE WORKSHOP
As No. 2
6. GYPSY BATTLE CRY
7. AFTER THE HORSE SALE
8. EQUINE DAYS SOUNDTRACK
…are all from APPLEBY HORSE FAIR as mentioned in the video section.
9. BEING MARRIED I HAVE NO CHOICE from WOMEN ONLY DISCO
As No. 4
These clips are remixes of the soundtrack to LUNGS taken from DURHAM FOLK FESTIVAL — a clip which talks about bringing culture to the Northern working class in a slightly patronising way. The intentions are honest enough though.
12. FRIDAY 05/09/58 from NEWPORT ROAD MURDER
A strange choice of direction for such a tragic story here, but it’s fascinating and brilliant. Stand aside Taggart, Morse, Kojak (insert your TV detective hero here), because the presenter, in this case, Luke Casey (For whom I am waiting to call and tell me to stop insulting his 70s TV work), beats them all. It’s a great progressive performance, a slice of dramatic–cum–factual local television. Basically, Casey talks of a terrible murder in a carpet shop. The camera followed him meditatively down Newport Road in Middlesbrough to the premises where on 5th September 1958, the young worker in the shop was brutally stabbed, apparently without rational motive. The killer was never found and the shop is to be knocked down to make way for a new development. Casey, the master orator, reveals other brutal Cleveland murders, but there is no Crimewatch ‘don’t have nightmares’ here, just a bleak list of local victims. In this piece I have buried the sound under layers of distortion and scratchy composition as if the dramatic transmission is still ﬂoating around Newport Road like some restless ghost.
13. JUMP JUMP JUMP JUMP JUMP from CHILDREN’S SCIENCE WORKSHOP
14. LAZARUS STATIC from archive ‘detritus’
I am a big fan of the Finnish electronic music duo Pan Sonic, formerly Panasonic, before an injunction put an end to that. They use pure sine wave sound, and very cold minimal austere electronic noise in their compositions. I have made a piece as a kind of nod to them but instead of using pure sine waves and tones, I have used scraps of damaged audio found on the beginnings and endings of various clips in the archive. I like the idea that generally speaking, absolutely no one would voluntarily select such material from an archive unless they were nuts, like me. I have played God with these, runt–of–the–litter clips and resurrected them into a shape. This clip works best on headphones. Technical note: watch the tweeters in your speakers! My ﬂat–mate hates me playing this sort of stuff on his stereo.
15. LITTLE ANGELS — CHILDREN’S NURSERY RHYMES
The content of this is very dark and is spoken by my computer as the original audio was very poor quality. I transcribed Tyneside nursery rhymes word for word to the Macintosh Simpletext application, which can phonetically read the typed text. There’s nothing new with an artist using this application, but it’s bizarrely wonderful to hear words like Cullercoats read by a soft, American, female robot. The piece surrounds the good work of teacher Mrs Rachel Smith who began to do something one day. She listened to everyday nursery rhymes, and found that the seemingly innocent rhymes were full of birth, death and pain. They were kind of legacies of illness and dark folk tales through the ages. There’s one piece: “There is a lady on the mountain. Who she is I do not know. All she wants is gold and silver.” Then there’s the “Now we are getting married, now we are getting older, now we are digging our graves, now we are dead and buried.”, rhyme of the little Dutch boy and girl.
16. ‘+/–’ — BBC archive material, exact date and title unknown
17. SILVER BUCKLES from DURHAM FOLK FESTIVAL
I have given the classic Tyne folk song Bobby Shaftoe a slow–motion remix, coupled with a scholarly voice–over from a teacher. Earlier, I was talking about trying to avoid things obviously associated with the North East but I felt that I still wanted some of the culture in the project. So I am happy this is here.
18. THE RUNAWAY TRAIN from WURLITZER ORGAN, REDCAR PIER
19. ANTI SOCIALISM — from SOUZAPHONE PLAYER
20. UNITY — from JUVENILE JAZZ BANDS IN CLEVELAND
21. AN OUTSIDER FROM FINLAND
I have a loose but slightly bizarre connection to Sirkka–Liisa Konttinen, the Tyneside photographer from Finland who appears in the archive. If you want to know more about this story you are welcome to email me, it’s one of those examples of synchronicity one sometimes reads about.
In this clip, I have again used the Simpletext application to ‘read’ material I transcribed from this clip. I did this primarily as an experiment and ended up really enjoying working with this method.
22. AN OUTSIDER FROM FINLAND SPEAKS — SUNDAY 11:30 AM 05/08/91
I ended up tracking down the photographer at her home! (Thirty years after the original clip was aired). The clip in the archive led to a couple of meetings but that’s not the end of the story. She’s talking about tomatoes and death in this audio clip taken from an interview with me.
23. ONE’S OWN PHYSICAL DIFFICULTIES as mentioned earlier.
24. WAR REQUIEM — as mentioned earlier.
25. THE NORTHUMBERLAND BUDDHA — from KATE RIVERS’ BUDDHIST FILM
Every few clips I keep writing — “and this is my favourite clip”, but my favourite one of them all is this one. I have been following the dharma (Buddhist teachings) for about a year and have been to places that are similar to the abbey featured in the original material of this clip. But there’s a story connected to this clip that is quite interesting. Bear with me, because as I start to write this sentence I don’t know if it will make sense.
There is a location in California not far from where I lived in 1998, called Mount Shasta. I was working near there, ﬁlming sacred Native American rock art sites. But there is also a Buddhist abbey belonging to The Order of Buddhist Contemplatatives in Shasta, which is connected with other abbeys all over the world.
Coincidentally, at the time of making this piece, I had ordered a six–part cassette tape series from a Buddhist tape library. The set was called Zen as Eternal Life. I ordered this particular title because it said it came from Shasta and I had a personal interest in that area.
Meanwhile, my archive work involved choosing ﬁlm material that I might ﬁnd interesting. One entry at the NRFTA said nothing more than ‘Kate Rivers’ Buddhist Film’, date: 1972, and I thought, let’s have a look.
So, by day I was watching archive ﬁlms including one of this abbey and by night I was listening to these tapes in the bath. They had nothing to do with each other. They were completely separate. Reverend Master Jiyu–Kennett, was the name on the tape, which was playing very slowly as I listened to it in the bath. The man’s voice was almost asexual and genderless. I assumed it to be male until I turned the tape over and it played at a slightly different speed. This time the voice was unmistakably female!
The next day I was back on the computer mucking around with sound ﬁles from this ‘Kate Rivers’ Buddhist Film’, when it dawned on me. My cassettes and the ﬁlm had the same familiar ring. It was the same voice on both. This is some coincidence!
Basically, it turned out that the place I had been to in California — the abbey belonged to The Order of Buddhist Contemplatatives, as did the one in Kate Rivers’ ﬁlm! So, Northumberland and Shasta were linked. Indeed, I felt like I had some kind of link myself with all this stuff. Bizarre. Master Jiyu–Kennett was the woman on my tape and the woman in the archive material — my day–job, if you like. It turned out that the personal six part tapes had originally come from Northumberland. The abbey was called Throssel Hole and the recording was actually made in Shasta. Confused yet? It turned out that Master Jiyu–Kennett founded The Order of Buddhist Contemplatatives. All you have to remember here is that a great coincidence occurred during this residency and it wasn’t the ﬁrst time either.
This has little to do with what I actually did with the material but it was a nice thing to happen at the time. I will say no more, other than the fact that Buddhists sometimes use counting in meditation. Sometimes reporters also use counting in mic checks. I fused the two in the clip.
WEBLINKS OF INTEREST
These refer to elements of the residency, sleeve notes and related organisations.
ISIS ARTS http://www.isisarts.org.uk
TEESSIDE UNVERSITY & CHRIS DOOKS WEB SITE http://www.tees.ac.uk/artist
THE YEAR OF THE ARTIST http://www.yearoftheartist.com/
NORTHERN ARTS http://www.northernarts.org
PAN SONIC http://www.phinnweb.com/panasonic/discography/
THROSSEL HOLE ABBEY http://www.throssel.org.uk
THE NORTH EAST OF ENGLAND http://thenortheast.com/
BELL AND HOWELL http://www.bellhowell.com/
APPLEBY HORSE FAIR http://sca.lib.liv.ac.uk/collections/gypsy/appleby.htm
DJ JOHN PEEL http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/alt/peel.shtml
BIP–HOP RECORDS http://www.bip–hop.com
Thank you to: Clymene Christoforou, Clive and Lindsay and all at ISIS arts, Chris Galloway, Lisa Bond and Leo Enticknap at the NRFTA, Paul Wells, Carol Cooke and Suzanne Heywood at Teesside University, Repeat Perfomance Multimedia, Andrew Conway, The Big M team, Digital Fringe, Throssel Hole, John Peel, Heather Powell, Kenneth Simpson and all the collaborators, both alive and dead on this CD.
All tracks (c) copyright controlled BBC / NRFTA / CHRIS DOOKS 2001
Copying or re–use of this CD–ROM which contains material by The BBC and The Turners Collection is strictly forbidden. No unauthorised broadcast or use of this material outside of an educational setting is permitted without written permission of the NRFTA.
For further information on ISIS Arts please contact Clymene Christoforou. Tel: 0044 (0)191 200 7349 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information on accessing archive works please contact Leo Enticknap, Director of The Northern Region Film and Television Archive. Tel: 0044 (0)1642 384022 email: L.Enticknap@tees.ac.uk
For further information on running The QuickTime movie, please see the QuickTime notes in the Windows folder on the CD.
Sleeve notes (c) Chris Dooks November 2001. email: email@example.com