Throughout July, our Summer Screenings programme explored how artists and filmmakers have been inspired by the sea and its infinite possibilities.
Every Friday a new film, nominated by a different arts organisation each week, was exhibited alongside some specially created content which further explored the ideas and themes in the work.
Explore the selection of interviews and podcasts with the creators below:
Friday 24th – Friday 31st July
Looking for Looking for Langston by Adam Patterson, nominated by Live Art Development Agency
A captain dreams of setting sail in search of an intangible but comforting vision that rests at the edge of the horizon. An exploration of desire, distance, secrets and surprise, Looking for Looking for Langston is a cruise of poetic correspondence, queering sailors and transgressing horizons.
Also available this week is a podcast called Queer Shores: Poetry-by-the-Sea by Dr. Will May, Associate Professor, University of Southampton.
In response to Adam Patterson’s startling film, Looking for Looking for Langston, this podcast explores queer poetry evoking the liminal space where land meets sea. Focusing on the New York waterfronts, and drawing on a history that includes Walt Whitman, the pastoral, and the Harlem Renaissance, May asks how the meeting point of ship and shore has shaped representations of identity, gaze, and the body. The podcast is accompanied with a shoreline soundtrack including Billie Holiday, The Drifters, and Josephine Baker.
Further Watching, Listening, and Reading, Recommended by Dr Will May
Isaac Julien, Looking for Langston (1989)
Josephine Baker, ‘Partir Sur Un Bateau Tout Blanc’ (1933)
The Drifters, ‘Stranger on the Shore’ (1962)
Billie Holiday, ‘I Cover the Waterfront’ (1946)
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself X (1855), ‘As I Ebb’d With the Ocean of Life’ (1860)
Langston Hughes, ‘I, Too’ (1925), The Big Sea (1940)
Gwendolyn Brooks, ‘Gay Chaps At The Bar’ (1944)
Hart Crane, ‘Cutty Sark’ from The Bridge (1930)
Kei Miller, ‘Psalm for Gay Boys’ (2019)
David Wojnarowicz, The Waterfront Journals (1997)
We also recently caught up with the artist themselves, Adam Patterson, who told us more about their film, Looking for Looking for Langston and a new collaborative work which is currently being exhibited at TENT Rotterdam, A Ship of Fools.
Hi Adam, how are you?
I’m cold. Where did summer go?
Tell us a bit about your film, Looking for Looking for Langston
Looking for “Looking for Langston” tells the story of a captain dreaming of setting sail, in search of a mysterious, intangible, comforting vision, that rests at the edge of the horizon; a vision or fantasy embodied by a sailor.
We’re showing Looking for Looking for Langston as part of our GHT Beside the Sea: Summer Screenings programme, which explores how artists and filmmakers have been inspired by the sea and its infinite possibilities. In your opinion, what is it about the sea that is so alluring?
As someone who grew up on a small not-so-idyllic island, I have a complicated relationship to the sea. It can be both the walls of a prison or the portal to different experiences of elsewhere and otherwise. It can be calm and caressing and it can also be violent and effacing. It is the thing from which life arrives, it is the thing from which hurricanes arrive. I’ve always been appreciative and terrified of the uncertain and endless possibilities the sea is capable of embodying.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just opened my first major solo exhibition, at TENT Rotterdam with a new collaborative work, A Ship of Fools, a three-channel music-video installation. The work is a vessel for divergent voices, each trying to articulate their experiences of a difficult present. In terms of its title, it comes from ongoing conversations with friends from different parts of the world who are facing different experiences of climate crisis. It became more and more urgent to make space to listen to these stories, to grieve each other, aboard what feels like a sinking ship.
Thanks Adam, great to speak to you.
Thanks, you too <3
Live Art Development Agency supports contemporary culture’s most radical artists, practices and ideas.
Friday 17th – Friday 24th July
Undersea Adventure by the Shadowlight Artists Associates, presented by Film Oxford
The Shadowlight Artists are a collective of seven artists with learning disabilities based in Oxford. Undersea Adventure is an animated film in which the artists travel to the bottom of the ocean in a submarine seeking lost treasure.
We caught up with Wendy Belcher, one of the Shadowlight Artists, to find out more about the film and the group’s collaborative art project.
Hi Wendy, how are you?
I’m Ok, just sitting on my bed with TV on quiet.
Tell us a bit about your film, Undersea Adventure
Undersea adventure is about going into a submarine and having adventures with mermaids and finding treasure and ghost ships. It is green screen acting with animated backgrounds. Really good to act in it, draw backgrounds and film, and really nice to work in group with friendly people. I really like acting particularly screaming when the whale comes to swallow the submarine.
We’re showing Undersea Adventure as part of our GHT Beside the Sea: Summer Screenings programme, which explores how artists and filmmakers have been inspired by the sea and its infinite possibilities. In your opinion, what is it about the sea that is so alluring?
I love the seaside, I like to walk on the sand and put my feet in the sea and when the wave comes, it is cold at first but I love the feeling that on a hot day.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a new comedy solo film called “all the things that really annoy me”. It is based on the things that annoy me and that make me angry at home, at my cleaning job, and out and about, like people being noisy on the bus, and waiting in big queues, people messing up the bins at work and noisy neighbours waking me up too early. I recorded a voiceover, then we created some background images and I had lots of help with that from my Shadowlight Artists friends, I was really grateful because there were so many drawings to do, like my bedroom, on the bus and in my kitchen and at work. Then I acted all the scenes out in front of the green-screen so I can put myself into the animated backgrounds. Luckily, we finished all the recording before the lockdown. It is nearly finished, just some more editing to do.
How has the global Coronavirus pandemic affected the group?
I do go out shopping and walking about but mostly I stay in. I do get bored and miss seeing people and seeing the group. I chat on phone to some of the group or on messenger. Everyone is missing each other and getting lonely sometimes, I am lucky because I live with my family but some of the others live on their own which is harder.
Thanks Wendy, great to speak to you.
Undersea Adventure was nominated by Film Oxford, a film and creative arts charity which has been providing training and activities for over 30 years.
Friday 10th – Friday 17th July
Offshore (Gallivant) by Andrew Kötting, nominated by Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network
Starting in the pitch-black early hours of a September morning, this film follows a 14hr 17min cross-channel relay swim that the artist made with his brothers and friends. The attempt was witnessed by writer Iain Sinclair and is narrated by the artist’s daughter, Eden Kötting.
A few weeks ago, we recorded a podcast with the artist, Andrew Kötting in converstation with Philip Hoare. Click play below to hear the filmmakers discuss Andrew’s film, Offshore (Gallivant) and their shared love of the sea.
Andrew Kötting’s most recent film, The Whalebone Box will be streaming on the BFI Player at the end of July. The film follows three men on a quest to return an artwork, a box made of whalebone, to the place where the whale was beached. You can find out more about the film here and visit the BFI Player here.
Philip Hoare’s most recent project, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Big Read was curated in partnership with Sarah Chapman and Angela Cockayne and commissioned by The Arts Institute at the University of Plymouth. The project is an inclusive, immersive work of audio and visual art from the 21st century that reflects the sweeping majesty and abiding influence of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 18th century epic poem. You can experience The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Big Read here.
Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network supports London-based artists working in moving image in all its forms.
Friday 3rd – Friday 10th July
Bivalvia: Act 1 by Yu Araki, nominated by videoclub
Mixing fact and fiction, Yu Araki explores the culture, structure, stories and symbolism associated with European flat oyster shells that he first discovered whilst walking along a beach in the Galician region of Spain.
We caught up with Yu Araki last week to find out more about Bivalvia: Act 1 and what the artist is currently working on. You can read the interview below:
Tell us a bit about your film, Bivalvia: Act 1
Sure. Bivalvia is an ongoing project, started in 2017 that deals with my personal confrontation with death and vanitas told via the perspective of oysters. Bivalvia: Act I is an unscripted, patchworked narrative exploring the universal question of loss and how to cope with it. The film combines a real-life story about a young couple who committed double-suicide in the sea between Japan and Korea in 1926, the legend of St. Jacob, French phonetics lesson, and various representations of oysters, a symbol for vanitas. Utilizing the aesthetics of Karaoke subtitles, which literally means “kara (emptiness)” + “oke (orchestra)” in Japanese, while “kara” is also synonymous with “shells”. I was particularly interested in the idea of a song being covered as a way of rebirth in different times and place, analogous to reincarnation. Moreover, the Chinese character for ‘song (唄)’ is a combination of the symbol for ‘mouth (口)’ and ‘shellfish (貝).’ That’s it, more or less, in a (nut)shell.
We’re showing Bivalvia: Act 1 as part of our GHT Beside the Sea: Summer Screenings programme, which explores how artists, filmmakers and amateur movie-makers have responded to the sea and its infinite possibilities. In your opinion, what is it about the sea that is so alluring?
The sea has been a recurring motif in my work, and that may be related to the fact that I live on an island nation. And also, one of my earliest memories is looking down at the vast Pacific Ocean from an airplane window. I was 3 years old and it was on my way to the U.S. with my family, and I just remember looking out at it for a very long time. I think what attracts me most is that there are still so many elements of the unknown in the sea. It’s as mysterious as outer space, even though it’s relatively close to us in proximity. It is sublime, but can also be dangerous. It must be those complex feelings I have about the sea that I’m really drawn to.
When I conceived of the Bivalvia Project, I was doing a residency in South Korea, the closest country to Japan. During the course of my stay, I decided to take a ferry between Busan and Hakata, wanting to get a better understanding of the distance between the two ports. It felt close, but at the same time very far, and it made me think a lot about migration and traveling in the pre-aeroplane era. The sea gives you an illusion that the world is connected, but it is also what separates people, and vice versa.
What are you working on at the moment?
I recently got a grant from Arts Commission Yokohama, so I’ll be developing sequels to Bivalvia, which is very exciting as I originally planned it to be in 5 acts. However, the project itself is quite open-ended and it could go in various directions and forms. I also like the fact that I can develop this project practically anywhere in the world, as long as there is seawater, since there will always be some sort of bivalve. Aside from that, I’m keeping myself busy juggling several projects, one of which involves exploring 16mm celluloid film.
How has the global Coronavirus pandemic effected your work and your artistic practice?
It hasn’t quite yet affected the content per se, but it certainly has affected the way I work. It’s gotten really difficult to form a film crew or to physically meet and collaborate with others in general. Plus it’s hard to make plans these days since the situation could get worse and we have to adapt accordingly. Traveling has become a challenge too, which is a pity but I suppose I have to be in my shell for the time being.
Bivalvia: Act 1 was nominated by videoclub, a platform for contemporary artists’ film, video and moving image based in Brighton.
Moritz Cheung, the curator at videoclub sent us the following statement about why he nominated Yu’s film:
“Bivalvia: Act 1 by Yu Araki was selected in reflection upon the significant history of God’s House Tower and Southampton as a port city. Inspired by the culinary obsession with oysters in the west, Araki’s film explores notions of emptiness and death through the metaphor of this famous mollusc, alongside which is told the tragic love story of a couple in Asia. In addition to the film’s references to oysters and the sea, the showing of the work at GHT provides a new context to reconsider the impact the sea has had and continues to have on our everyday culture, language and habits.”