The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories, 2011

A film that compiles observations made by volunteer guards watching the English Channel, over one year. Filmed by small cameras connected to the eyepiece of telescopes. Produced with the National Coastwatch Institution, Folkestone, Kent, UK.

60 minutes, 5.1 surround sound.

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


Credits

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
The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories

at the
Sunday Painter,
Pekham, London
September 19-22, 2013

as part of
Pekham Artists Moving Image

CAMP: Two Stages of Invention

Experimenter, Kolkata
September 23, 2011 - December 8, 2011

This exhibition proposes an after-form and before-form for two of art's (and our own) usual objects. The first is a film that was shot over last year on the English Channel that is now re-installed in Kolkata, making a certain claim for its universality. The second is a "not-yet-film" treatment of the Radia leaks as a screenplay, with an audio guide as its soundtrack. Both these are moments lit up by separate alignments of, broadly, government, technology, and opportunity...

at the NGMA/ Skoda Prize exhibition

Two Stages of Invention

CAMP's exhibition at Experimenter, Kolkata

is now showing at the
National Gallery of Modern Art Delhi
upto March 5, 2013
Show Extended till March 23, 2013

As If - III Country of the Sea

A journey with CAMP’s five-year Wharfage project and related maritime explorations.

Tales from the Networked Neighbourhood: The Cinema of CAMP

Five films by CAMP curated by Vassily Bourikas and Filmmaker Festival

21st march
6:00 pm Khirkeeyaan (2006) 17 mins
and Hum Logos (2012) 45 mins
at Careof DOCVA, Milan

22nd March
Cinema Palestrina, Milan
5:30 pm
The Neighbour before the House (2011) 60 mins
7:30 pm
From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf (2013), 83 mins
22:00 pm
The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories (2011), 60 mins

Country of the Blind

A film that compiles observations made by volunteer guards watching the English Channel, over one year. Filmed by small cameras connected to the eyepieces of telescopes.

Wharfage

At first, a project on the creek in Sharjah, from where a large number of ships leave for Somali ports.

Men-At-Work with Boxes in Stereo

20 mins, HD. 2 - channel installation
Cantonese, Mandarin
Filmed in Guangzhou at the Zhuhai International Container Terminal

Destuffing Matrix

4 channel HDV, 8 minutes



A Passage through Passages, 2020

Video project that takes us on new and recently rebuilt roads in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and India. Endoscopic views from the interior of the road system, and of the interfaces through which pride, money, data, climate, and vulnerability are connected to it, heighten our sense of developmental possibility, failure, and the deep ambiguity of road achievements.

‘A Passage Through Passages’ is a collaboration with anthropologists, and draws upon ethnographic and archival work in five field sites. This film is part of Roads and the Politics of Thought, a European Research Council (No. 616393) funded, 5-year ethnographic study of road-building in South Asia in which CAMP is a partner organisation.

In Cameras Res, 2019

De Appel, Amsterdam

On three screens, a city-symphony filmed by automated CCTV cameras in Amsterdam. The optical and motor capacities of these cameras are pushed to an extreme. Certain human subjects reappear near or far in the images, suggesting a form of reciprocal knowledge or intent, a secret pact between cameras and people.

A Photogenetic Line, 2019

A 100-foot long sequence of photo-cutouts, first shown at the Chennai Photo Biennale, March 2019

Matrix : Skulptur Projekt Münster, 2017

MATRIX
Of mother, womb, array, environment in which more specialised structures can grow.

Theater Münster
Neubrückenstraße 63
10 Jun - 1 Oct, 2017
Site-specific installation with Electric cable, switches, speakers, monitors, custom electronics.

The Country of the Sea

Single exposure solar cyanotype print on cotton fabric
CAMP with Shunya collective and Clark House Initiative 22 x 5 feet
An image of the sea as its own “country”, with frontier towns at its edges disorients an easy reading of this territory

Descendants, 2014

A three-channel installation from 8mm film From the Clark House family archives, sequenced in a timeline as above. Each screen is a different part of the same 8mm frame, usually a face.

From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf, 2013

Feature-length travelogue by sea between western India, eastern Africa and the Persian gulf. First shown at a purpose built outdoor cinema on the creekside in Sharjah in 2013, where many of the sailors gather. Shown in Documenta 13 in an abridged form, as part of the installation The Boat Modes.

83 mins. Original format(s): HDV, SDV, VHS, Cellphone videos (variable). Stereo audio and in-cameraphone music.

Swearing-In-Whispers, 2011

A screenplay in Courier 12pt melodramatic format, spanning the first three days of lobbying for cabinet spots, in the wake of the Indian general elections of 2009. The dialogue is entirely from phone taps made by the government. The screenplay slows them down and asks: what kinds of environments and scenes may lie behind them, and how are they connected?

Printed screenplay and IVR-based phone line, audience can type in scene numbers to hear dialogue in the original voices. Also performed as a reading.

Hum Logos

Act II (Hum Logos) is a 45-minute audio film spliced from the Pad.ma collection of the Radia Tapes. It covers two months after the Indian general elections of 2009, with the new cabinet in power. The film asks: if debate around these tapes was about whether they are edited or not, or as Justice Mukhopadhay put it, "splice has been added", then what can further editing do?

The Annotated Gujarat and the Sea Exhibition, 2011

An exhibition that builds upon photos of another exhibition that was made of photos of....

All Works