The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories

60 minute film produced with the National Coastwatch Institution, Folkestone, Kent, UK.
showing at the NCI cabin at Copt Point (10:30 am - 5:00 pm) and in pubs in Folkestone harbour,
as part of the Folkestone Triennial upto September 25, 2011.

Our text in the triennial catalogue, "A Million Miles from Home":

What could it mean to extend “watching the coast” to “filming the sea”? Are there any National Sea Film Institutions? There should be.

Because on the one hand, as the anthropologist Michael Taussig describes it, the modern sea is an image, a wallpaper backdrop for a Malibu or Folkestone lifestyle. On the other hand, in mostly invisible movements, the seas transport more than 90% of all global trade. So from any given coastline, the sea is an image, and it is not, too. Images of the sea remind us of this situation precisely: that what you can see is always just the surface, the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

One eye or two? The inorganic, technological eye not only extends, but exacerbates human vision (i.e. could also make it worse). In a way, every optical instrument produces a new visual “medium”, like painting or television. A telescope is a medium. So is radar. So is a wink. Such mediations and their effects enter parasitic exchanges with other mediums like film or photography. For instance in the 18th Century seaside Camera Obscura, before cinema, outside which people would often line up and pay good money, just to see an image of the very same outside they just walked in from. This kind of power is not only a technical matter (it is), but also a matter of context: the lines were longest when there were lovers on the beach.

For the NCI Folkestone, the usual area of interest is the immediate vicinity of Copt Point, a “blind spot” for Dover Coastguard. But binoculars don't have speed limits, or built-in censors. In other words, what can be seen is somehow uncontrollable. It will include banana carriers and gin palaces and local fishermen that one knows. The open sea makes it impossible to watch only protectively, it asks us to watch longingly, expectingly, embarrassedly and helplessly too.

There is a room behind the film that you see here, full of voices, radio, and conversations. As the nature of watching shifts, sound does too, and we hear the overlap and struggles for space between different “sources”: coastguard radio, AIS, google searches, personal memories, shared humour, BBC radio.

In the so-called “big society”, volunteers will self-organise to do what the state now does. Education, basic services, and policing. But surely one of the preconditions of voluntary work is to be able to determine one’s own sense of what duty is: and in which way one chooses to become part of the images one sees, or films. 

Shot list:

00:05 Fire in the warren, but Viking Princess leaves harbour

00:56 Sea Shell and struggles with a pot 

04:03 Peter and Peter picking pots

05:31 Fisheries Patrol!

08 04 Genesis outside a decommissioned harbour

08:49 A phone call

10:48 Bombin’ it into the harbour, past all the boats there

12:19 That clock has been repaired

13:05 Gandhi-jaan comes to Folkestone harbour

15:16 E-N-O-T-S-E-K-Lovibond-Obsolete-Fishing  

15:51 The Burstin and news on the radio

16:22 The Mermaid

16:37 Olympic tickets

16:59 Paddling on Sunny Sands

17:39 Canoeist? Kayaker?

18:27 Wind blows the magpies, can’t see Dover

19:35 Dramatic but dangerous

20:36 P &O ferry sheltering from the storm

21:27 Stone from the Needles

22:32 You were a P & O guy, weren’t you?

23:31 Saga Ruby leaves Dover for the fjords.

28:12 Norwegian Sun

29:00 MSC Orchestra

29:27 The largest container ship in the world

31:35 The Algerian Navy

32:55 The Royal Navy

33:54 The Belgian Navy

34:31 Unknown

34:56 Its there, but you can’t see it

35:48 Shabab Oman

36:09 Lady Shana and MOL Magnificent

36:35 COSCO Indian Ocean

37:43 More boxes going south

38:09 Nouadhibou

39:15 A pan of the French coastline

41:10 CMA CGM and, is it an island?

42:18 Dungeness

42:35 Drilling platform on the Osprey

42:47 Is it a plane, or just the wings?

43:07 A close call

45:43 In contravention of Rule 10 of the collision regulations

46:06 Gin palace

46:36 Finally, a rainbow you can see

47:04 UK Border Agency, formerly Customs and Excise

47:48 Water cannon in the front

48:21 Anglian Monarch

49:28 Dave Watkins

50:45 Survey vessel

51:13 Playing survey-survey in the harbour

51:25 Extremely close-up

51:40 Police boat with many empty seats

52:27 Up and Under

54:10 An invasion of seagulls

54:41 The “Archbishop” and the dig

56:38 Gurkhas on the east cliff

57:16 Where are you?

57:55 (Sky)diver and a poem

59:12 Rescue

59:46 Watchkeeper and biscuit after a hard days work


By: Shaina Anand, Iyesha Geeth Abbas, Ashok Sukumaran and Guy Mannes-Abbott

Produced by the Folkestone Triennial 2011, curated by Andrea Schlieker

At the NCI, thanks to
Trevor Hughes
Andrew Lovibond
Andy Pope
Ciaran Casey
Frank Pope
Bev Sheppard
Roger Goody
Eric Harris
Anne Houghton
Graham Pay
Tony Hutt
Dick Liggett
Chris Hutchinson
John Keeble
Len Price
Mike Stranks
Mavis Taylor
Ken Humphrey
John Roberts

with thanks to Mukul Patel (sound), Zinnia Ambapardiwala, Sanjay Bhangar, and Aarthi Parthasarathy (at CAMP)

and further thanks to Annett Busch, Florian Schneider, Annemie Maes, Tarek Abou El Fetouh, Trudi Mann (all for Brussels, where we were stuck), Jennifer Thatcher, Niamh Sullivan (at the Triennial), and people at the Ship Inn, the Mariner, the True Briton and Gillespie's (in the Folkestone harbour).

Gallery: The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories
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