on the varne, with CAMP at the folkestone triennial

The Varne NCI Folkestone’s channel map [Ph. Guy Mannes-Abbott]

The Varne is a mid channel sandbank, slightly closer to the French coast than the coast at Folkestone. If I stood on it, you might see my hand waving above the water. This is where the Varne Lightship Automatic of radio legend is permanently anchored, where massive ships can and do run aground. A place that obtains peculiar potency when watched from the shore.

Everything that goes on in the world’s water, as observed and imagined from the NCI at Folkestone, is the subject of the film I’ve been working on with CAMP -during intensive bursts in Brussels and Folkestone itself. The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories will be installed in a bunker-like room at the back of the NCI Folkestone, high up on the cliffs overlooking the industrial scaled port of Folkestone and English Channel during the Triennial. It will be worth the walk…

Folkestone Triennial opens on Friday 24th June and to the public on the 25th June until 25th September. CAMP were commissioned and worked on this film for almost a year before inviting me to collaborate by writing the script; drawing the recorded material together, adding dimension and depth to it. I hope that’s a faithful way of describing a very intimate investment in the film [credited to CAMP [Shaina Anand, Ashok Sukumaran and Iyesha Geeth Abbas with Guy Mannes-Abbott].

It was a fascinating and demanding process of working with visual anecdotes in ways that remained faithful to their peculiarly potent quality. A lot of structural work, drafts of complete scripts and spontaneous interventions ensued, the recording of which was a lot of fun and fascinating for a writer like me -even as tortuously exact lines dropped away!

I’ve always refused to countenance script writing per se, though I did a bit of script-doctoring very many yrs back and worked on mainstream movies. I more or less detest the zone in mainstream culture where books become films, films become books and there is a really uninteresting hinterland of monied interchangeability between them.

This was not a conventional scripting process obviously, but actually it did require the capture and invention of voice and everything is necessarily carried in those voices. The art for me was in arriving at that apparently simple and essentially crafted end point…

I’m obviously going to give nothing away, but the film embodies many of the ambiguities of the place and the things, lives and locations looking back at it. However, on a personal level, I was happy to ‘discover’ Folkestone as a place. Though many of its land, rail and sea connections have been severed in the recent past [and what stories therein!], it is accessible on the fast train from St. Pancras International…

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