PHX [X is for Xylonite] [2019]

Single channel film, 12 min 54 sec, 16mm film transferred to digital and 3D animation, colour / black and white, stereo / / film credits, exhibitions and screenings here >

In PHX [X is for Xylonite], the first semi-synthetic plastics are considered through their relationship to the chemical and industrial development of photography and film. Cellulose nitrate - Xylonite - was used as the base for film-stock until the mid-20th century shift to acetate, and in the production of film props. 3D digital animation is composited with hand-processed 16mm film, including footage from the demolition site of the original ‘Parkesine’ plastics factory in East London. These flickering, contingent materials propose a warped love song between organic and synthetic, where sounds of voices and recordings in shellac - the lacquer obtained from the secretion of the Coccus Lacca insect - are transformed through a Vocoder. Polymer Chemistry laboratory technician, Dr. Miriam Wright, reads extracts from Roland Barthes' essay 'Plastics' [1957], colour experiments from a British Xylonite Company formula book [1888] and symptoms of plastics degradation: 'crazing', 'yellowing' and ‘bloom’. Although Barthes suggests that plastic “embodies none of the genuine produce of the mineral world: foam, fibres, strata”, in PHX plastics are proposed as strata; the layers that make up the film - its emulsion and plastic substrate - are made evident; like the material seams in future sedimentary rock layers that will signal our Anthropocene era and its flawed capitalist productions.


Image: Frances Scott, 'PHX [X is for Xylonite]' (2019), film still