Diviner (2017)

22 min, 53 sec. Single channel film, 16mm film and betacam video transferred to digital, colour, dual mono.

A short documentary housed in the South West Film and Television Archive, 'Diviner Water in Luppitt' (1976), is the seed for Diviner. A ‘Diviner’ is a term originating from the 15th century used to describe a person who might use special powers to predict future events, or who looks for water under the ground with the use of a divining or dowsing rod. Diviner meditates on the nature of history, and how we might understand the transmitted image. It proposes that rather than a linear experience, history itself is cyclical and bound to repeat, in which the past not only inflects on the present, but is also a spectral, contemporary scribe. More than a silent collection, here the archive becomes a sentient, speaking being.

This notion of searching or seeking meaning in matter scores the work, which is structured as a visual and aural script formed almost entirely from material found within the archival footage at SWFTA. In this way the narrative arc is produced through a ‘call and echo’ across decades, so that a conversation occurs between voices and incidental sounds within the original recordings. The sound design by Chu-Li Shewring allows these cut-up materials to appear both part of the original sound track, and disparate or unstable. The opening sequence was filmed in 16mm, and records the telecine process at SWFTA, the transfer of analogue film to a digital format and the very same method by which Diviner is created. The selected archival material spans science education films on the cosmos and planetary cycles, to documentary footage behind the sets of other film and television productions – Dracula (1979), Straw Dogs (1971) and Far from the Madding Crowd (1967) amongst others – to news reports of UFO sightings, demonstrations against education funding cuts, tattooed memorials, archaeological digs, natural disasters and cultic practices. It concludes with the image of a beached whale, circled by two figures, in deep mud on the banks of the River Tamar, Devon.

Diviner is a new film created for the Peninsula Arts Film Commission, a partnership between Peninsula Arts at Plymouth University, the South West Film and Television Archive and Plymouth History Centre. The film has been shown at the Jill Craigie Cinema, Plymouth and at the Phoenix Cinema, Leicester as part of an event curated by Anna Lucas with Keira Greene (and programme 'Little City Studio' with artists Ursula Mayer, Rachel Maclean, Martine Syms and Beth Kettel). Forthcoming presentations include an installation at Peninsula Arts, Plymouth in January 2017; and screening alongside exhibition at The Bower, London, curated by Joyce Cronin and Louisa Bailey of Luminous Books.