If I sleep, I may be caught… the motto of HMS Wakeful, a WW1 destroyer on which my father was ship’s cook, sent off in November 1918 just days after the armistice to fight Bolsheviks in the Gulf of Finland.
Wakeful is a work about listening to the past and being vigilant. Film records the passing of time experimentally: the sorcery of catching frames, slowly, outside the minutes and hours of history, shifting lenses in ritual movement: strange time travel and the crossing of temporal borders. We walk, as vigilambulists, awakened through the past, softly, softly, listening to the brutal rivet sparks of human-machines that make war move across the seas, to all the sparkling bones of the lost boys dispatched in ships to hell and ice and killing and to their brothers across false borderlines in fluid depths. Awake, we listen to the voices raised in worksong, sailor song, love song, shot through with cold or heat or fear, later strained away to the silence of trauma. Lyric sounds move us beyond language rationally comprehended and voices soar, refusing borderlines. Noise echoes, the voice comes through in body-remembered songs, felt deep and raised again.
And with their blood they were to colour red
A shore that neither owned. I hear it said
That they were forced to kill each other. True
My only question is: who forced them to?
Bertolt Brecht, from: War Primer
This new, experimental work in progress considers the ‘peace’ 100 years on: working as a filmmaker in collaboration with sound artists from Estonia, Russia, Germany and the UK to explore and reflect on pacifism, loss, war trauma, voice and inter-generational memory. My father was traumatised but largely silent about his war experience apart from one single, stark memory, related in a drunk delirium: of ‘Russian sailors in the ice.’
There will be two versions of Wakeful: one of these will be a single screen, experimental film work, including sound mixed from the collaborations. approx. 30 minutes which may be screened in cinema, gallery, educational or community settings. The other will have the material edited in a longer, expanded version, which will work across more than one screen and which may either be shown with the existing sound or in a ‘gig’ context with a live score performed by sound artists.
If I sleep, I may yet dream. If we sing, we may be heard. The sea, always in motion: and voices fluid. Borders in the sea are an impossibility and we may overflow them.
Still image from Scottish Screen Archives