What he does, how he does it and the context in which it has been done; an Alphabetarium of Kötting
By Gareth Evans and Andrew Kötting
A is for…for the beginning and the buzzing of the bees. An anthology of ….
Acumen n. the ability to judge well; keen discernment, insight and (not that concise) compendium of a whole stack of tics, washed in a Paradjanovian symbolic sheen and a Sean Lockian black comedy with a logic all of its own. What might be its covert moral? Are we fish out of water? We live in the lives we live in. Somehow, there is a surreal making do, a strange survival. A world in which ambiguity might reign supreme.
Aphorism as an historical context. An aristocratic genre of creativity? The wisdom of concise thinking, of experience compacted into essence. This might be at the heart of the work. The fragmentary and ‘unfinished’, the fleeting and the found. Set these to dance with digression, wilful extension, waffle, natural curiosity, distraction and a sometime reluctance to discard and you have the oeuvre we might be considering.
Academics and Advisors, Couldavists and Shouldavists, Historians. They are there not because they have special access to truth but because they have been around and can read on.
B is for…Body. Ur text. Vessel and votive, subject and object. The physicality of the work, text, image, language, subjects, cannot be understood separate from an appreciation of how the maker views flesh. From micro to man-tall, sphincter to six foot, its trajectory, provocation, context and fallout are the streaming plots at the root of all manifest. And there is a democracy to bodies. From the Act of seeing with one’s own eyes to Stelarc Suspensions. They fuck and fart, bleed, pus, puke. They also come in all sizes and with all adornments. They are never mocked, always given equal footing. And those that are loved – Leila’s, Eden’s – are acknowledged openly and often as being indispensable to the continuation, nay, the very being of the project.
Being the layered reading of territories, urban and other, via signs of all kinds and without prejudice as to the source or status of the prompt. Being the eyes and all senses of a conscious drift through space, time, architecture, experience, history, the latent future. A Psyche and its’geography.
Collaboration - David Burnand, John Cheetham, Jem Finer, Eden Kötting, Andrew Lindsay, Sean Lock, Mark Lythgoe, Leila McMillan, Toby McMillan, Andrew Mitchell, Gary Parker, Russel Stopford, Nick Gordon Smith, Mark Wheatley, Ben Woolford, and, and, and…Soul-aids to a persons work. Without others the self that is known might stop. Thematically, solitary figures in the oeuvre are de-centred. They only stabilise into (eccentric) order in the orbit of others. They collaborate on the business of being. On surviving existence.
Commas, semi-colons; colons even: springboards of suspense, breath held a beat. But full stops. Never… rather a trinity of stepping stones to futures. Assimilation, collation and then the regurgitation, contingency a must.
Creation myths. Films as the shared, seen dreams of tribe, family and selves. Fables of the de/re-construction. Looping lines of narrative out of ordered time and territory. Undoing things to make new things, new arrangements of people, place, power and priority.
Cut-ups are closer to reality. No singular grain of truth. Bits and pieces gleaned from a set of contexts and practices. They are no longer bound to any prescriptive reading of the term, but instead exist on the edges of the discipline. There has been a ‘change’ and an undermining of the perimeter fence that separated experimental film and video with that of mainstream cinema we have seen a breeding of diversity.
Kötting is of that diversity. Time-based work may have wanted to disrupt the meanings and values of contemporary culture
but these are no longer grounded in the foundational certainties
associated with ‘modernist’ experimental film and video. There has been
too much ‘seepage’ and there is no longer a ‘given’ or ‘self-evident’
context. Fluids travel easily
Thus D is for…Difference. The work as a difference engine. A vehicle into otherness and revelation. Aesthetically, bodily, mentally. Everything Normal? No.
Digression. If you don’t leave the path, you won’t see the waterfall.
E is for…
Experimental moving image – i.e. technological, narrative, expanded, performative, theatrical, sculptural, structural, formal, participatory – and the opening up of writing possibilities. Explicitly Kötting as intoned through the cipher that was Evans’ theoretical debate on his oeuvre and subtext.
Eden. From the garden back to the garden; it is perhaps not overstating the case to say that the fact of Eden and the unique insights she has bought to Kötting’s life and work have led his explorations into areas. She offers thresholds for ventures into the very core of consciousness and perception. Eden, as (dis) abled daughter, agent, collaborator and catalyst, is essential to appreciating how Kötting works, why he works, how he deploys and values time and how he is not afraid. How he is opened out and into celebration by a ‘situation’ normally deemed to be one that ‘reduces’ possibility. Eden embodying and generating an instinctual tolerance.
English/ness. Albion the longer, older, wilder island, Anglican Gothic, but England is the place into which the work is lovingly tossed. The amour/hate relation with what makes us is the tick tock here: an ironic celebration of things Anglo that allows for absurd affections to dance a pier-end afternoon waltz with occasional vehemence towards insular narrow-mind, but more likely amused observancing of island ways and folk. Time Based Media as hymns to ‘Ancient and Modern’ madness.
Experience. Sleeves rolled up and forearms plunged into the pulsing tissue of existence. Work it like a Cornish tin miner, your very life part of the seam. Hands inside a sentient being, head in the air and not up its’ own cinematic colon :
F is for Family. Tribal without the fences. They acknowledge extension, the social constituency of being that then allows the private visions to blossom from the head out, meeting the wider air, changing and being changed. Where there is dys-family, let it be used.
Fence (up over it). Vistas larger there: a refuge and safe-haven outside the
gulag that is the mainstream pantomime. But it’s not just choice. It’s necessity, a stratagem by which to reach the future of one’s own life. Avant-garde and wanton experimentalists. If the halls of access are sealed against them, then they shall (do) wander this world with the evidence and the report. They project the films on ravaged sheets and weather-beaten walls. And those who value such reports shall be there also, waiting first, then watching, then transported… evaluating the impact and role of the artist’s community and now writing their anthologies of.
(Self)-Funding. The British cultural machine feels self-satisfyingly well-oiled enough without these larky sparkers running amok with their crazy rants. Now, it seems, at best, from film fund end, these works are tolerated, almost with embarrassment (by some backers even), like a loud relative on the gin at a funeral. But more often, such relevant outrider visions - and others in their tribe - are seen as barbarian deviations that somehow got in when the windy lookout was unstaffed. That they were made at all on this rocky pile is enough for awe. Bumsonseats, it's a low-end shot for certain, but not in the ambition. Like the cockroach after the blast, perhaps the justice comes when the struggle they've been through to arrive at all, means that they can survive as documents and testaments to other ways of telling. Someone giving it out - or not - does not determine the making. A man lives, he thinks and feels. He makes. Somehow.
Funny ha-ha & funny peculiar. Exactly.
G is for…
Gallivant. The first proper long one. Are you shore? The desire and faith to explore family and autobiography. The littoral truths of an island are perambulated in a shaggy circuit activated by family across three generations, (well de/scribed in Iain Sinclair’s
Sight and Sound dispatch ‘Big Granny and Little Eden’.) What must be mused upon however is the democracy of looking. The wide ear and eye, both for folk, their ways and for signage. Make the personal a generous filter into the social.
H is for…He is not alone. There are and have been many of them and Happenstance and bricollage. Structuralist, post structuralist, essayist, non-sequiturist, modernist, post modernist, late modernist and hyper-modernist, actionist, narrativist, anti-narrativist, implied narrativist and thus Hybrid. n. an animal or plant resulting from a cross between genetically unlike individuals. Hybrids between different species are usually sterile. Not always….always room for the not-always.
I is for…Imagination. The more you imagine, the more difficult it is to find words for what you’re imagining.
J is for Derek Jarman. Proof positive and evidence of a commitment to experiment with the moving image outside of the industrialised pantomime. An index and register of the Kötting (Jackofalltradesandmasterofnone) (vulgar?) project. For why? Because they are too interested in things; they are both irreverent and kneel at the altar of a life-given seriousness, a creative urgency-imperative; they work in all disciplines, media and weathers; they build no fence between life and work; they thread a personal mythos with that of a hybrid nation; they dig into place but think wide; they layer intent; they are shredders of linear time; they hymn the margins; they speak in ‘folk’ languages; they are found challenging, a threat even, by much of the state cultural apparatus; funding is not a given; family and friends are central to their practice and project; they are the glue and they have both taken a fine photo.
K is for…Klipperty Klöpp. A man running around in a field. Obsessive, arcane, manic. Performance in the Great Out Of Doors. We’ll never know with him… where he was going until he was coming back…and then he’ll swear blind half the time it wasn’t him that went.
L is for…Language, lingo, gramlot, verbiage: formulation of the current in relation to the historical. Word as a new strain of image-making. Visuals in the sonic as in the seen. Respect for place, personality and the social. The constantly mutating rituals of the daily. Let it all out of the mouth and in at the ear. Never Oxford English, but multilingual ease. Lived lipwork. Biodiversity of the tongue.
Leila Dorcas McMillan, without whom… and whose menstrual blood ignited a fire. The Sibyl to the BadbLoOd &.
M is for…Making (do). And Modus operandi for him, like so many others. Mother Thatcher the great inspirer, no more funding so to the getting-on-with-it. Stretch the life one finds oneself within, like skin, into fresh forms. Hands on haptic. Turn the lackof and inadequate to advantage and celebrate the difficulties. One word in French: faire – to do and make. Fair play to them, if it’s not one thing it’s another. Making (it up) as they go along. Map. Normally folded around the stretches covering London, the South (Coast) and French Pyrenees. The axis of action. The trigonometry of incipient desires.
Mapping Perception. Pan-media expanded cinema. The beating core of how brain makes mind makes consciousness makes things and makes the work work? Makes it matter, makes critical text? How it magpies things for use. There is, in mind and work, a constant re-incorporation of the stuff across time and place. Experimental scientific love poem to a daughter. Margins are central. Edgelands are normal.
Man-in-the-mountain dereliction. Mongrel. Nowhere is more mongrel, more nomadic than 'terra cinema', (eArthouse) in its stories, yarns, hybrids, mixed-race in form and content; in its frames and personnel, in the influences that wander like rogue crew members between shoots or the formats that find their way in. Deploy multiple styling for the multiple realities, audio/visual dysfunction, fissures in sequence, cutaway from the linear, everything is possible.
N is for never a finite Narrative, neither one thing nor another, hither and dither within the neverneverlands of spillage, post polemics and critical histories, new.
Nomadic. Keep innovative production alive in this country. From the outskirts (but at the centre of experience) keep the creative human story turning. Tell tales from the end-zones, fire yarns for gathered folk to stave off night (but dig into it also, like darkest peat, damp to touch). Mongrel futures are the only workable ideal.Reclaim the current in relation to the historical, mine the deep strains of popular experience and folk memory re-present them for the digital age.
O is for…ö, Umlaut and Kraut. He doesn’t know where he originated from but he’s been sound in his family for years and years and years. Occitania, Cathars and the French folk of Oc. A radicalism of people, culture, lifestyle, belief, geography. Peripatetic bandit country. Tunnels, subterranean and the underground. An influence on the work. Orient and exotic; alternative film culture as early Moorish spices and Turkish delight instead of boiled potatoes and Bakewell tart.
P places contemporary moving image practice and polemical discourse within the historical context. Post Cathar and pre eminent evaluation of the impact and role of the artist; always has been and always will be. The placeless place and the co-ordinated zone share the projection when it comes to territory. We move through it on our ceaseless journey towards understanding. Some people carry it, like a burden or a memory, or both. They bring other places to other people, who then take a little of the weight and mix it with their own longing to create narrative. So not really place as landscape at all, but more of Manley Hopkins' inscape, consciousness as it might look if it were dimensioned into say video or film. Searching for works that have been to the edges and looked over, shamanic flights returning from the far reaches with word of the void's whistling rim.
Pan’s people. The school of anarchic Arcadian genius loci Pan. Work can challenge pretty Pastoral, never the Merchant Ivory, always a streak of debauched fertility and the wildness of outlaw woodland. Non-urban and definitely not happy-clappy ; rather it’s where the bestial occupies folk and bloodletting. Performance. Artifice as an index of certain truths. It might start with the body’s business and work out. From 8mm onwards, reels soaked in Live Art and multi-media japery, the staging of self and others, perhaps as an acknowledgement of certain confessional tics in the social order and Politics. It does not have to be placard politics but the vision must be inherently committed to degrees of dispossession and the reverse - reclamation. Less the megaphone, more the hope of ‘politics’ and ever the Prank. n. a mischievous trick or joke, esp. one in which something is done rather than said, or is it?
Process. The work is as much process as framed product. In constant flux, images and sounds migrate, are curious about the elsewhere, are remixed, lose titles and gain new labels briefly; fixity is not the spine here; things arrive into being, are held like water in the hand, then pass on. Are flawed, unfinished. This is how the work is like the life. It holds light like mercury. It pools and spreads.
Q is for…
(nowt so) Queer as folk. People are the bedrock of the landscape, from which grow flowers and trees of ideas. Family, friends, strangers all bring worlds, more or less delved in. In the, eARTHOUSE manifesto it is counselled that there be an obligation to spend time with arms or feet inside another sentient being, alive or dead. This is a more or less accurate description of relations with folk as much as fauna. The stories and histories are inhabited by, and live within, people. The world breathes through people. Through what they do and fail to do; what they reach and fail to reach. From home-movie to Imax spectacle.
R is for…
Regional. No place is less than any other place. In potential. And Ritual. The functional symbolic. The acts that explain lineage, thresholds, group identities and their reasons; to themselves if nobody else. The oeuvre, and the actions of those drawn into its web, is one of accumulating, acquired and observed ritual. Ritual is the psycho-geography of personality and community. It layers identity so that it can be read and mis-read. The reflection as an attempt to rationalise and locate the work within an historical canon.
Richard Rorty and his Final Vocabulary – forever impressed – pre-empting Bauman’s Liquid Modernity, thus few closures in the work ... He’s crossing the river to get to the other side, don’t ask him why, the river’s not wide.’ (Hoi Polloi) set in the Pyrenees – Realm of Old Oc. Here is the generating locus for fifteen years of production. Here the house site of much work but more, the escape route into the real work. The high ground of all the ideas. Conception and working up. Its isolation. Running, walking and sitting there, mulling it into being.
So to Scale. Scale shifts, accompanied by similar strategies in sound and thematic. They are central to the operation. The spectrum of sensual awareness that acknowledges continuous flux from macro to micro is seen as simply being the case of things. It is less an aesthetic choice (while being one) than an accurate response to things on the ground. It’s in the nature of attention.
Structuralism? Gently does it, John Smith-style. A little doesn’t hurt but don’t forget the humour. Self, Soil and Society. The seamless story. The moebius strip of relations. The hall of mirrors. What one starts with, goes on with.…picture after picture after picture, whatever the per second.
So to the Sound the world makes. Not just music, not just ambience, not just voices, not just found sound, archive echoes, signal spillage, technical accidents, hiss, guffaws, foley and radio. But all of it and also the silence and also, what cannot be heard. It’s the sound the world makes. Without sound, vision is stumbling in the dark. And anyway, there’s a bonus: Noise Drives the Devil Away.
Stock. Anything. From 8mm to 35mm, pic to pixel, digital to découpage. Whatever’s available, whatever works, a bricolage and right carry on.
T is for…Time. Hurry up gents, it’s body time vs. geological time, the rock against the public clock, the seasons stirring it up with ‘living memory’. Sculpting in time is the aim of the game, whether in council house close or with continental reach. The timepiece has human hands, its face is the sky at dusk and its numbers a tree’s banded years, ringing in the changes.
Things for the experimental moving image; Objects. Bodies. Matter. Clutter. Flotsam. Jetsam. Consumer ephemerals. Landfill. Mindfill. Stuff. The Real. Where ideas live. Whether it be a borrowing from John Berger's Pig Earth or digging deep into Zola's La Terre. Film lives absolutely in a material world - bull and man, sperm on the hands, pigs in branches, rooms like caves or armpits, piss in graveyards, phlegm, pus, shit, rock, rain, mud, mud. Institutions are built of walls. A vision for the differently sighted. Traces and smidgeons, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Picking them up, leaving them. Transportative : ‘I’m going to take you to a place where you have not been before’ (Klipperty Klopp).
Tree. Lumberjack (of all trades and master of none); trees as plankage and life-force. A mountain think-tank bang in Ariège timber territory. From the under-tree, the root expanse, artesian influences feeding in through the practise itself. Trunk, to the work’s arching network of boughs, branches, foliage. Hubub in the Baobabs: shelter and story. Often weather-shaped and shaping, focusing, patterning the surrounding area, it acknowledges dependence while simultaneously standing clear. For John Fowles, the tree is the prime imago of creative endeavour.
U is for…anti Ubermensch and Useful. ‘It’s in the most unlikely places you’re likely to find things.’Gallivant Pilot and Undermine (the self). ‘They took his body and drank his blood and didn’t feel very good.’( Anvil head and Hun). Ongoing tension between seriousness and nonsense. Serious nonsense. Certain doubts should prevail in the work. They help humanise those lofty intentions that make the project, they protect from those that take everything that little bit too seriously.
Therefore V is for Vagabond. Hither and dither, upstairs and downstairs and in the lady’s chamber. The rationale is not to locate the work within any historical blood line. The Videosyncratic or Vaudeville Cow Opera?
Virus (benign), it’s cross-media: the idea is out and spreading. Hosts are numerous and the virus can survive in the harshest environments. In fact, there’s a sense it can turn adversity to its breeding advantage infiltrating diverse paradigms and tested in experimental moving image.
Voices. In the head, throat and chest, on the tongue like varieties of honey. Archive accents, society sounds. The nanny noises of radio revelations, institutional informing through information. Knocking up against local crackle, the chatter of place and profession. Stories told in the timbre they happened in. An island’s audio bank of tales tall and true. The (Hoi Polloi)poetry of necessary phrasing. Listen closely and you’re half way there…watch carefully…I wonder how many of you did?
W is (other) Words that are important and that can be gathered here as time goes on…Work. Written, this, in the shadow of The Long Man, at Myrtle Cottage (c.1550), Wilmington, East Sussex, Stoke Newington, London and Gensing Road, St Leonards on Sea, back in East Sussex. And within the rarefied atmosphere of the thing that is; the past forty years of practice led polemics.
X and Y: ‘You don’t ask to be born, do you? You’re born, you live, you die. You’re here, you’re not, you are and you’re not. And that’s the end of it.’ (VisionaryLandscapes)
and Z not yet attained? Digital futures and highDef disasters.