DIVINER [2017]

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


The image of the diviner as an emblem of searching - a collision of the past, present, and future - operates as a central nexus to the film, tracing alternative trajectories and incidental relationships between disparate voices and broadcasts. A conduit for narrative, the archive is “recalcitrantly fungible, found yet constructed, factual yet fictive, public yet private”[1] … Linearity is eschewed in favour of the cyclical, with recurrent images and symbols. Resistance is periodic. A bittersweet reminder that history is bound to repeat itself: “I don't want to make Britain great, I don't want to make any country great, because Britain, let's face it, is a very small island in the middle of a very big pond”[2]

[Philomena Epps, 'Some kind of lunatic reincarnation', 2018]

Diviner takes its title from a short documentary 'Diviner Water in Luppitt' (1976), housed in the South West Film and Television Archive (SWFTA) in Plymouth. ‘Diviner’ is a term originating from the 15th century to describe a person who might use special powers to predict future events, or for someone who seeks out water under the ground with the use of a divining or dowsing rod.

Ideas of searching for meaning in matter score the work, structured as a visual and aural script, in which a conversation occurs between voices and incidental sounds in the original recordings. Diviner is formed almost entirely from moving image material held at SWFTA, apart from the opening sequence, which was filmed on 16mm in the archives. Here, the telecine process is recorded - the transfer of analogue film to a digital format - of a section of footage used within Diviner itself. Archival material includes 'behind the scenes' on other productions in the South West, amongst them: 'Far from the Madding Crowd' [1967], 'Straw Dogs' [1971], 'The Shout' [1978], and 'Dracula' [1979]; to science education films about the cosmos, news reports of UFO sightings, demonstrations against education funding cuts, tattooed memorials, natural disasters and cultic practices.

Diviner meditates on our understanding of the transmitted image, and suggests that history, rather than occurring within a linear narrative, is cyclical and bound to repeat. In this way, the past is a spectral scribe to the present, where the archive becomes a sentient, conversant being.

Some kind of lunatic reincarnation, text by Philomena Epps commissioned to accompany the exhibition at The Bower, can be read here > and review by Sophie Risner for This Is Tomorrow >



Footnotes: [1] Hal Foster ' An Archival Impulse', 'October' Issue 110, 2004; [2] 'Diviner' [2017] Diviner is a film created for the Peninsula Arts Film Commission, a partnership between Peninsula Arts at Plymouth University, the South West Film and Television Archive and The Box, Plymouth. The film has been shown at The Bower, London [2018]; and previously at Tate St Ives [2018]; Peninsula Arts [2017/2018]; Jill Craigie Cinema, Plymouth [2017]; and the Phoenix Cinema, Leicester [2017].