Orcadia 2007 // digital video/43min
Dawn breaks on an achingly beautiful, clear spring morning looking North over the Atlantic to the Orkneys. Rainclouds clear. The sky colours itself like a celestial canvas, as the sun slowly rises and a new day starts. Orcadia is the second collaboration between Scottish Landscape artist Iain Stewart and London based sound artist Keith Berry, following 58º North in 2006.
Both films were made in the remote Scottish Highlands near Cape Wrath in the Northern Highlands. Inaccessible by road, and only by boat once the winter gales have died down, 'The Cape' is journey's end for the dedicated traveller alone. Of the two films, 58º North is the more "formally" structured, running in three sections, the middle part finding focus through rolling grey clouds to face the void from the depths of a rain drenched cavern. Orcadia is gentler and more lyrical. It's simplicity of structure echoes Stewart's earlier abstract dawn/dusk landscape work, 'From the Morning' (1995).
Like much of Stewart's earlier work , the films position the viewer at the doorway to some vast timeless, space - '...images of ‘not-here,’ resonant with ‘elsewhere,’ the possibility and the promise of passage. They point towards the journey’s end without designating it, without characterising it or giving it a name. They are invitations to a journey, not to arrival. Stewart’s Seascape works often represent thresholds ... as in certain meditation practices ... we are situated in emptiness, looking over emptiness, towards emptiness ... ‘ *
The sparseness and stark beauty of Berry's accompanying audio pieces for 58º North (24:21) bring rich new layers and textures to the narrative of the visuals. For Orcadia, Berry sensitively sourced then gently deconstructed the work of Spencer Grady to make the delicately evocative pairing Left At The Sun (21:07) and Right At The Moon (21:50). The marriage of visuals and sound is perfect.
'Keith Berry's minimalist sound sculptures form the perfect accompaniment to these visual paeans to natural beauty, barely moving and yet full of textural richness and complexity that is to be found within these stunning images. His music, reminiscent of Thomas Koner's glacial drifts and Steve Roden's tidal figurations, is so evocative and cinematic, it lends itself perfectly to the film. The muffled rumbles constitute their own auditory weather system that, when taken in tandem with Stewart's visuals, create still further images, metaphors and avenues of thought. ' **
Both pieces end, with deliberate ambiguity, as the sun rises, echoing an oft occurring motif in Stewart's work. Once more the viewer is left captivated - though perhaps with more questions than answers.
* from “Footsteps to Infinity; On Iain Stewart” extract from land/sea/sky © Iain Tromp 2004
** from '58º North' Iain Stewart/Keith Berry, Wire Magazine, January 2007