The Bartlett Screening Room is a series of events addressing questions around critical urbanism through the screening of short films and moving image, curated by Henrietta Williams and Open City Documentary Festival.
International short films and moving image artworks are screened for collective viewing online and followed by a conversation with the artists and/or filmmakers. Sessions are open to the public as well as students and staff across UCL. The screenings may be especially interesting to those studying architecture, anthropology and related arts and social sciences.
EXTRACTION 3.1 – Wed 28 April – 13.00-14.00
Splitting Stone, 2019
James Davoll, David de la Haye (score composition), Tim Shaw (sonic field recordings)
With Tim Waterman as respondent
The 2 short films ‘Splitting Stone’ and ‘Adlais’ can be read as companion pieces that tell the story of the Welsh slate industry in binary opposites: occupied and abandoned . In ‘Splitting Stone’ we are introduced to the Penrhyn Quarry, a vast hollowed out mountain that has been quarried since the 16th century and remains in use today. The scene Davoll presents to the viewer feels out of time and place, Caterpillar diggers are dwarfed against the backdrop of a vast dark grey terraced mountain. This is a scene of an industrial past, and one now unexpected in the valleys since the invention of the concrete roof tile led to the slow demise of the Welsh slate industry.
Having presented this ruined landscape, artist/filmmaker James Davoll sets up his narrative with a careful focus on the material itself. This is presented through a series of lingering frames tracing the process of quarrying slate from mountain, to tile, to crate. It is not until halfway through ‘Splitting Stone’ that we even see a human being. These workers serve the material as actors in a Fordist production line, masters of their repetitive actions, splitting stone in a cacophony of machine noise.
The bird song of Davoll’s film ‘Adlais’ comes as welcome relief from the intensity of the slate cutting factory. This second film was made in collaboration with sound artist Tim Shaw, here the focus is on the presence of absence, both visually and sonically. Abandoned houses of the slate workers sit in empty fields, stone factory buildings crumble, trees take root in huge piles of inert slate. Sonically these voids are filled with a score of industry and improvised performances made in and from the landscape. As viewers we are in the past and present all at once.
EXTRACTION 3.2 – Wed 12 May – 13.00-14.00
All that Perishes at the Edge of Land, 2019
Hira Nabi and the Gadani shipbreakers
The short film ‘All that Perishes at the Edge of Land’ takes as its site of investigation the Gadani Shipyard in Pakistan, a location of multiple incidents of fire, explosions, and environmental disaster. The global ship recycling industry operates at a monstrous scale with little regard for human life and the rights of workers. Gadani is one of the largest ship breaking yards in the world, workers here break up over 150 vessels each year salvaging 100 million tons of steel in the process. However, this process of so-called recycling has led to such an increase of toxicity levels in the water that the local fishing trade is in collapse.
Artist/filmmaker/writer Hira Nabi presents to us this beautiful and terrible landscape, one of vast rusty dying ships and Lilliputlian workers as they carry out their work of destruction. In the course of the film we are led to understand that the Gadani shipyard has been well documented by the international media as a case study of the chaos and danger of the recycling industry.
Nabi’s contribution offers up a more detailed and pertinent study. Rich visual imagery presenting the spectacle of the yard in action, with elderly locals coming to set up deckchairs for front row viewing. The romance of these rusty hulls bathed in golden light is undercut by the voices of a series of workers describing the brutal reality of their daily life. Nabi skillfully oscillates between the voices of her ship breaker collaborators and a fictionalised narrative voiced by the ship herself as she tells the tale of her own achievements as a Korean container ship and her ultimate demise on the sands of Pakistan.
Credit: Image from All That Perishes on the Edge of Land (Hira Nabi, 2019)
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“The Bartlett Screening Room is a series of events addressing questions around critical urbanism through the screening of short films and moving image, followed by discussion.”