Stereo sound work with single screen video, 4 mins, 2017.
A reworking of an Edwardian variety song about a worker’s grave that has to be moved so that new drains can be laid for a rich gent’s new residence. The worker, the song goes, will haunt the toilet of the city chap in revenge ‘and only let him go’ when the worker allows him. The video uses found drain-inspection footage that could almost be depicting the journey of the worker’s lost, wretched soul back up to the surface of the world for his frightening, riotous vengeance. The work appears on the Paul Rooney album Futile Exorcise on Owd Scrat Records.
Still at Large (The Creeping Things Cut) written and presented by Nicholas Still
Single screen video with six channel sound, full version 11 mins, 2015-2018.
This 2015 video was initially a film essay about Holy Island, northern England, presented by architecture writer Nicholas Still and directed by Paul Rooney. But the film was re-edited in 2018 by The Creeping Things (aka Lola DeWitt-Still of Berwick-upon-Tweed and Berlin), who made her own (unsolicited) version with her soundtrack, New Theme to Still at Large, imposed on top of it. This was uploaded to Owd Scrat Record’s Vimeo and YouTube channels, with Paul Rooney’s permission, in February 2018.
The female monologue on the new soundtrack (which DeWitt-Still claims is not her own recording but was sent to her via an anonymous email in 2015) speaks of a male figure on the run from an unspoken crime. This figure is up to his neck in the sea, in the manner of St. Cuthbert, who liked inducing trances by the chill of the water. Over DeWitt-Still’s relentless motorik beat and analogue synths, the voice describes the fugitive’s many ‘hyperthermal’ apocalyptic reveries, until the monologue seemingly drowns in its own twisted poetic vitriol. The voice, and the figure it describes, both seem to be hunting for something or someone. Are they aiming their threatening intent towards Still himself? Interestingly, Nicholas Still has not published or made any public appearances since the new version of his video was posted. The Creeping Things’ New Theme to Still at Large is released on Owd Scrat Records.
Thanks to Berwick Visual Arts, Berwick Film Media & Arts Festival, Lola DeWitt-Still, Richard Stephenson Winter and Melanie Dagg.
Single screen video with stereo sound, 25 mins, 2008.
In a dark, apparently derelict Liverpool cinema, Tony (played by Tony Schumacher), an amateur comedian and gumshoe detective, chats with other comics in the ticket queue and the bar. He talks of his recent visits to his past life regression therapist, and tells some of the jokes he has written about it. At various points the other male and female comics in the cinema relay messages to Tony from an unknown and unseen man who is trying to contact him. There is clearly something unpleasant that Tony has stumbled on at some time in his past, something that he is impelled to uncover further, despite the risks. Will Tony’s past catch up with him before he does? Originally commissioned by Tate Liverpool.
Purchased in 2012 by the Victoria Gallery and Museum with funds from The Contemporary Art Society.
Alex Hetherington (A-N website) review of the work.
Tony Schumacher‘s memories of filming the work.
Lost High Street
Stereo sound work with single screen VHS video, 11 mins, 2008.
Post-punk spoken word paranoia soundtracks a VHS tourist video. The tourist is on an open-top bus tour around Edinburgh, pointing out the sights, unsure of his own past life, mixing what he thinks are his own memories with misheard fragments of the tour guide’s spiel. The narrative eventually takes a bleak turn as it is revealed that the tourist could be stuck forever on a tour that never stops, an endless series of circuits around a city that may be the capital of a disturbing foreign empire in the grip of cold-war paranoia. The tourist fears he may be dead, killed by the empire’s security forces because of an act of espionage he has unwittingly committed. This means, he thinks (though he is never sure of any of this), that he is now condemned to repeat his final act, the filming of a bus-top tourist video, in a blossom filled, sun-drenched city, forever. The work appears on the Paul Rooney album Futile Exorcise on Owd Scrat Records.
La Décision Doypack
Stereo sound work with single screen 16mm film (also text only version), 27 mins, 2008.
The work is inspired by a real web memoir by a retired Australian food-packaging company manager, Mackenzie J. Gregory, who remembers walking the night-time streets of Paris during the turbulent events of May 1968. The dominant monologue of the work (spoken by John Eastman) — which is accompanied by rock music, sound effects and 16mm film images of drama students awkwardly ‘acting out’ the narrative — extends Gregory’s memoir into fiction, playing with contradictory writing styles, from consumer product description to romantic poetry. It is partly because of this connection with real life and real events that the work’s imaginative confabulation and formal artifice is thrown into relief, underlining the melancholy comedy of our attempts to do justice to the past. Originally commissioned by Radar and Matt’s Gallery with funds from Arts Council England.
Skye Sherwin (The Guardian) preview of the work.
Stereo sound work with single screen video (also text only version), 9 mins, 2006.
In the partly sung, partly spoken female monologue (spoken by Paula Berry, with music by Oliver Jackson and Greg Arrowsmith) a fictional hotel maid describes a song (the Brecht-Weill song Pirate Jenny, which is about a maid who looks out of her hotel window and imagines a ship that appears in the harbour, a ship that has come to avenge her suffering). The maid’s description of her song is, in turn, imaginatively expanded to incorporate various historical moments involving ships that do not berth and remain offshore, including the Norwegian container ship Tampa, which, when carrying Afghan refugees in 2001, was not allowed to land on Australian territory and was condemned to wait offshore for days in the glare of the world’s media. A single unedited video shot of the view walking the deck of a freighter accompanies the sound. Originally commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella as part of the Single Shot project.