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Closing Night: Garden Pieces + Being in a Place: A Portrait of Margaret Tait

Garden Pieces

Margaret Tait | 1998 | UK | 12’ | 16mm | sound

Margaret Tait’s last film is a vibrant live-action and hand-drawn garden portrait. “Garden Pieces is a set of three pieces: Round the Garden is literally a look right round a back garden, from a central point, repeated da capo. As a garden, it’s a place of potentiality still, but it is a place all right. Fliers is an animated piece, scratched-on, with added dyes. Grove, the longest of the three, studies and contemplates a group of trees planted maybe sixty years ago in a disused quarry. An original score by John Gray, written with that very grove in mind, will provide the music for all three pieces. The music is to have equal prominence with the picture.” (Margaret Tait) 

Being in a Place: A Portrait of Margaret Tait

Luke Fowler | 2022 | UK | 61’ | 35mm | English spoken

Being in a Place retraces Tait’s journey, both literally and metaphorically, bringing the past and present in dialogue, considering Tait within the wider landscape of Orkney, and providing a sonic and visual exploration of the place that meant so much to her.” (Luke Fowler)

Being in a Place is not a conventional biographical portrait of the late Scottish filmmaker and poet Margaret Tait (1918-1999). Rather it proposes a dialogue between one filmmaker with another filmmaker’s practice. Fowler engages with Tait’s paper and sound archive but most importantly with her native Orkney, where she lived and filmed for most of her life, using the landscape and materials of Tait’s films in order to make his own. Employing Tait’s unrealised project Heartlandscape as a “score”, Fowler’s film is structured in chapters that respond to the evocative titles in Tait’s unfinished script: Garden Pieces, Visions of Ephemerality, Several Portraits… The proposal, written for Channel 4 in 1983, was never completed. The film also draws upon newly recovered and restored film material that was discovered in the garden shed of the house Tait shared with her husband Alex Pirie. Being in a Place draws attention to Tait’s unrealised film projects, to a “fugitive archive” of rushes, sound tapes and unmade films which cannot find its home in traditional collections but continues to be preserved under the custodianship of Tait scholar Prof. Sarah Neely, the film’s co-producer. It also draws attention to the difficulties of the independent filmmaker, then and now.  

In collaboration with Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival.

Followed by a Q&A with Luke Fowler and Sarah Neely hosted by María Palacios Cruz.