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Sky Light (Single Screen)

Chris Welsby
1988
26 min Colour Sound 16mm

Sky Light (Single Screen)

An idyllic river flows through a forest, flashes of light and colour threaten to erase the image, bursts of short wave radio and static invade the tranquillity of the natural sound. The camera searches amongst the craggy rocks and ruined buildings of a bleak and windswept snowscape, a Geiger counter chatters ominously in the background. The sky is overcast at first but gradually clears to reveal a sky of unnatural cobalt blue....

This film is made in three sections, each leading towards the final abstraction, and each resembling a search for meaning and order amidst a plethora of electronic, chemical and mechanistic information. Space in Sky Light is both highly compressed and volatile; the film challenges the notion of its own form, ending in a beautiful but violent abstraction in which only nature and technology remain.

"The unseen is no longer playfully negotiated but instead threatens cataclysm in Welsby's latest film, Sky Light. Welsby, who is English, calls the film "post Chernobyl"—it was shot 48 hours after the disaster was announced. Echoing Adorno's dictum on the impossibility of poetry after the Holocaust, Welsby stated at his Millennium screening that "it is not possible to look at landscapes in the same way after Chernobyl." For Welsby, the accident means that his film project - which he (mistakenly) labels a "cool and distant area of research" - has become "emotional and keyed."

"Sky Light begins where his earlier films leave off, with beautifully composed images of nature. A sense of urgency and immediacy, however, conveyed by the introduction of sound and camera movement, soon indicates a profound shift in Welsby's formalist project. As in Ernie Gehr's Signal—Germany on the Air, the radio noise and voices speaking in several languages make apparent the hidden danger masked by the benign imagery. Sky Light ends, not with another English landscape, but with pure white and the crackle of a Geiger counter. The visible is longer a guarantee of absolute knowledge." Village Voice April 25th 1989 NYC

Made with assistance from the Arts Council of Great Britain.
Sound Realization - Jolyon Forward.

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