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Patrick Keiller
Nearly half way through The Clouds, the narrator finally gets born, 'in a city of our time, a city of sedimentary rocks and reborn expectations'.

Returning to the personae of the infant, yet another continuum opens out, 'I had no sense of separation from the world and I had no language'. The image that accompanies this is one that will pre-occupy Keiller later on, one of many pieces of rock art said to date back to 2,000 and 3,000BC, located in northern England and Scotland. The rocks are horizontal on the ground into which patterns of arcs and circles, dots and squiggles have been inscribed so long ago that their rounded carvings seem an unlikely work of nature. They have the alarming randomness of Samo's graffitti figures (later to surface as the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat) that used to appear on sidewalks and buildings in New York City's back streets. While there is much room for conjecture about this rock art, its context here suggests not just a step away from language and towards direct transfer of meaning from body to stone, as the narration has tapered off, but also a movement towards the randomness and the amorphousness of the inform. A waterfall, close ups of rock formations, water and foam follow the rock art, getting nearer and nearer to the humility of formlessness. 'I was in the world and I was all the world there was', says the narrator. This is not a mere gesture towards the pre-symbolic, but towards the negation of form, towards pure materiality. From image to image now, formlessness and pre-history lurk under and behind, and the world that carries on as if its frock coat were only natural begins to look presumptuous, if not strange.

Still from The Clouds by Patrick Keiller, 1989
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