Video Journeys #1

Whilst researching The Wind, I have not only written about and taken photos of my travels, but also recorded them on my phone, pressing the camera lens against the window, which narrows the field of vision but gives better footage (less shaky) and a clear picture. On the back of Will Self’s new book Umbrella the blurb reads “…they squeeze up the stairs and make their way to the front seat. Finest penny to be spent on the London stage, her father has said often enough, and he also says, A wide window on a widening world.” Reading this for the first time I smiled. The journeys I have made on the front seat of the 50 bus from Moseley Village to the bottom of Bradford Street in Digbeth give an impressive, almost aerial view of the sweep of the city. As you turn from Balsall Heath into Highgate Middleway you take off into the air and see Birmingham from a superb vantage point. Travellers on the top deck playing the watchers of the skies.

The first journey takes the viewer from Winson Green to Cape Hill on the 87, sitting on the top deck in the middle, looking out of the right hand window. I pressed the camera to the window and recorded for seven minutes. On playing the footage back I was pleased to hear the sound poem that came from the audio – the muffled conversations, the playful shouts, the sudden sirens and the mechanised whirring. On Longbarrow Press’ blog they have featured the excellent  collaboration ‘Lost Between Stations’ between film-maker Brian Lewis and poet Matthew Clegg, mixing words to imagery of a bus journey, and on another blog – Fife Psychogeography, takes the words overheard on a train whilst listening to John Cage’s 4’33” – these films i’ve taken attempt to do the same thing, conjuring imagery out of the gaudy shop fronts, the stories of the people who walk from their houses to their cars. When the bus stops, the film carries on, fixed on a particular image that becomes a point of interest. The viewer can look into the window above the shop and imagine the interiors behind the net curtains, or look into the businesses and create their own narratives. After watching this film I was reminded on my experiences whilst watching Patrick Keiller’s London at the great Lizzy Piffany’s flat, my thoughts wondering to different matters and tangents whilst the film played out, visiting new backstreets and getting into different cars.

The second film was taken earlier on in the year, from the train journey back from Perry Barr to Birmingham New Street – starting here at Duddeston at a traffic lights, on the left hand side of the carriage. The familiar industrial landscape is swapped for darkness, with lights from cars and street lights passing by, taking the place of people making their journey back and forth from their homes. The video resembles the quietness of space and the bottom of the sea, lights floating and crossing each other, suddenly flickering into the shot and out again. It’s not as dark as i’d hoped, the glare from the carriage lights appear at the side of the screen, but I have just pretended it’s the sort of distraction you’d see at the side of an old film where the print has been become worn and knackered. I haven’t seen Sarah Turner’s Perestroika but it’s on my list. The journey ends in Birmingham New Street at night in what seems to be absolute solitude save for another vehicle making it’s journey across the viewfinder, saved completely by happy accident.

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3 thoughts on “Video Journeys #1

  1. Enjoyed watching these James – thanks. Like the narrow ration in the first one which really makes you focus on the images moving through the frame so to speak. In the second one, particularly like the part of the journey which is almost in complete darkness, save for the occasional flickering light. In another time-frame could be the birth and death of stars.

    • Thanks for the kind words! Really appreciate that. The narrow frame certainly works well with the framing of the terraced buildings, each one so different than the other. I think when I take the film of the journey from Moseley Village to the bottom of Bradford Street i’ll definately use the horizontal – and rows of terraces for the vertical (else i’ll get a proper film-maker in on the deal!)

      Thanks also for articulating my thoughts on the ‘birth and death of stars’ – there’s barely any people in this – the lights/stars have taken the place of people, so this could be the world after the lights have finally gone out and the human race has been erased, now floating as angels in the darkness. I like the slow creation of New Street Station as it comes into view – particulary as it’s currently going through a radical makeover in itself. I like this video – i do like the concept of the architect utopia which is something i’ll study at a later date.

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