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Andrew Kötting
'Attain deliverance in disturbances.' Kyong Ho, Zen Master

Inevitably, certain works reveal themselves as exemplars of Kötting's methods and intentions. Acumen, a threshold short that builds on the distinctive preceding 'performance' films, is one such. A darkly symbolic gem in the Kötting crown and, quite miraculously, occupying 20 minutes of Channel 4 in 1991, it might on first viewing appear at odds, in both tone and narrative structure, with its neighbours. However, in its coding of key traits, at once ascetic and layered, like Jaunt it's a pivotal distillation of concerns, washed in a Paradjanovian symbolic sheen and a Sean Lockian black comedy with an implacable logic all of its own.

To a chest-wrenching cello-melancholy score, tidal flats are revealed, huge skies, glistening sand and little landfills of organised refuse. This might be a nod to post-apocalyptic gleaning, or to the kind of society we have already and why it might nudge us towards collapse, but such speculation is pushed in the detail, in the outlaw trolley of the white-line woman, the silent, wizened one who watches all and never tells. And the England she passes among… a woman in a rudimentary bathroom, co-habiting with molluscs and toads, fed through a hatch and prone to hear a baby's wail, turning her face down in the tub's few inches (certain challenges of autobiography perhaps). An 'artist weighed down by his own self-importance', conjuring sphinctered quiz challenges in his solipsism. An elderly couple in a cyclical duel of TV-gazing with lounge-scale pitch and putt. A green-tighted junk store magpie, feeding on archive broadcast theme-tunes and tales. A multi-faith convergence at a stone circle, Albion's psyche borrowed by any old robe-wearing aspirant.

What then of these multifarious denizens of the country lanes, whose private worlds, briefly glimpsed, seem to sustain them. Why here and how collected? A fabulous parable of an almost chosen containment (claustro-philia perhaps...) and wide-vista, expanding potential, Acumen nurtures constantly slipping readings within its ornate, spiralling snail's shell.

What might be its covert moral? Are we fish out of water? We live in the lives we live in. Somehow, there is a surreal making do, a strange survival. We follow our own compulsions and somehow get through.

Still from Acumen by Andrew Kötting, 1990
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