Selected Films 1973-1993, Welsby

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The location for this film is a small London park which is situated close to the busy centre of the city. The camera faces south east across the park, in the foreground there is an expanse of grass surrounded by walkways and luxurious trees. In the middle distance is a junction of the busy Euston road, trucks busses and commuter traffic surge past halting only for the traffic lights.
The camera angle remained unchanged throughout but the filming speed changed according to the wind speed. The camera motor was driven by an anemometer, a device used to measure wind speed, the harder the wind blew, the faster the camera motor ran, and vice versa. If the wind stopped blowing altogether, no images were recorded, causing a jump cut in the film's continuity.
As a result of this process, cars, buses and pedestrians are seen in "gusts," the mechanistic rhythm of the traffic lights no longer dominates the flow of people and traffic. The motion of the wind breathes new life into the stale tedium of the London rush hour.
1974, 10 min, colour, silent

This film is based on the colour separation process. High contrast film stock was run three times through a stationary camera; once for each of the light primaries. In the composite image, anything moving is represented in primary or secondary colour whilst anything still, having been filmed through all three filters, is represented in "correct" colour.

When projected the film resembles a moving impressionist painting but the passing of time is not represented by the coloured marks of a painters brush but by the colored emulsion of the film stock.
1974, 2 min 30 sec, colour, silent

Shot in the waters just off the Port of Vancouver where large cargo ships wait at anchor for their turn to dock. Sometimes, in clearer weather, the ships dominate the landscape. At other times, when the fog moves in, the landscape dominates the ships. On some days they assume a monumental, sculptural presence, testimony to the technological domination of the environment. At other times they are no more than grey, ghostly shapes, only half-seen in the swirling fog.
The overall feel of the film is sombre and mysterious; a study of winter light falling on the surface of water, metal and cloud. The dominant colour is grey; grey infused with a multitude of ocean blues and greens. There is little land in this film and very few landmarks from which to navigate from one space to the next. The picture plane is in continuous motion like the ocean, which on the surface at least, is the subject of this film.
On one level Drift is a film about the ocean, about winter light and about ships at anchor in a sheltered bay. However, it is also a metaphor, an essentially filmic metaphor, about time and space, about being and perception, a metaphor for the act of looking, looking at film and looking at the world through the frame of a camera.
1993, 17 min, colour, sound

The camera was pointed at right angles across a busy park pathway connecting one part of the city to another. On the other side of the path are many trees receding into the distance. Many people move through the picture, both on and off the pathway. One frame was taken each time a person on the pathway moved into the picture and one frame was taken again as they moved out. The procedure was repeated over a period of three days with filming beginning at dawn and ending at dusk. Two of the days were sunny and the other was very stormy. The speed at which people, clouds and shadows move in the film is directly related to the flow of people through the park.
This is not so much a film about a park, or a record of the people passing through the park. Here the camera is not a passive observer, nor is it used as a surveillance device. Rather, in Park Film, the camera, like the passers by who trigger its shutter, is an active participant in the interaction between a park and the city, which surrounds it. The film is the result of that interaction.
1972, 8 min, colour, silent


One frame was taken every ten seconds throughout the hours of daylight. The camera was mounted on an equatorial stand, which is a piece of equipment used by astronomers to track the stars. In order to remain stationary in relation to the star field, the mounting is aligned with the Earth's axis and rotates about its own axis once every 24 hours. Rotating at the same speed as the Earth, the camera is always pointing at the either its own shadow or the sun. Selection of image, (sky or Earth; sun or shadow), was controlled by the extent of cloud coverage, i.e. whether the sun was in or out. If the sun was out, the camera was turned towards its own shadow; if it was in, the camera was turned towards the sun. A directional microphone was used to sample sound every two hours. These samples were later cut to correspond, both in space and time, with the image on the screen.
In Seven Days the in camera-editing is governed by the passing clouds and the shape of the film is therefore, not imposed on nature but emerges spontaneously from the collaboration between the film-maker, the rotation of the planet and seven days worth of stormy, unpredictable weather.
1974, 20 min, colour, sound

An idyllic river flows through a forest, flashes of light and colour threaten to erase the image, bursts of short wave radio and static invade the tranquility of the natural sound. The camera searches amongst the craggy rocks and ruined buildings of a bleak and windswept snowscape, a Geiger counter chatters ominously in the background. The sky is overcast at first but gradually clears to reveal a sky of unnatural cobalt blue....
This film is made in three sections, each leading towards the final abstraction, and each resembling a search for meaning and order amidst a plethora of electronic, chemical and mechanistic information. In sky light the layers of imagery are gradually stripped away: Rivers, trees, snow covered rocks and clouds gradually give way to an ominous cobalt blue sky and the rotating blades of the camera shutter. In the final sequence the layers of the photographic emulsion are gradually striped away until only dust and the light of the film projector remains.
"The unseen is no longer playfully negotiated but instead threatens cataclysm in Welsby's latest film, Sky Light. Welsby, who is English, calls the film 'post Chernobyl' - it was shot 48 hours after the disaster was announced. Echoing Adorno's dictum on the impossibility of poetry after the Holocaust, Welsby stated at his Millennium screening that 'it is not possible to look at landscapes in the same way after Chernobyl'..Sky Light begins where his earlier films leave off, with beautifully composed images of nature. A sense of urgency and immediacy, however, conveyed by the introduction of sound and camera movement, soon indicates a profound shift in Welsby's formalist project. As in Ernie Gehr's Signal - Germany on the Air, the radio noise and voices speaking in several languages make apparent the hidden danger masked by the benign imagery. Sky Light ends, not with another English landscape, but with pure white and the crackle of a Geiger counter. The visible is longer a guarantee of absolute knowledge." The Village Voice, New York City, April 25th 1989 NYC.
1988, 26 min, colour, sound

This film is a continuous, "real time" tracking shot of a stream bed. The length of the track was ten yards. The camera was suspended in a motorized carriage running on steel cables three feet above the water surface. The camera pointed vertically downwards recording the contours of the stream bed and the flow of water along its course. The sound of the water was recorded synchronously from the moving carriage.
The "drama" in this film comes from the topography of the stream and not from the camera motion or from the editing. Throughout the unedited length of the film the camera tracks along a straight line at an absolutely regular speed. In contrast the stream runs fast and slow, cascading over boulders and swirling turbulently from left to right.
I think of the straight line formed by the tracking device as a metaphor for technology. However, the straight line does not dominate the landscape like a highway or a row of buildings; in this model the straight line is used as a means to articulate the complexity of nature.
1976, 8 min, colour, sound

The camera was placed on the flexible branch of a tree in a strong wind. The composition included both stationary and moving trees (a wooded landscape). The relationship of this landscape to the vertical and horizontal plane was maintained as much as possible. The camera ran continuously until all the film was exposed. The world is seen from the point of view of a tree as its branches sway to the rhythm of the wind.
1974, 4 min, colour, silent

The camera films a park landscape through the blades of a small, hand-built windmill. Each of the eight blades was covered in mirrored plastic. The film was shot on a windy day in the park, with three 100-foot takes being shot on the same day. The camera angle remained the same throughout. Variations in wind speed and direction cause a constantly shifting relationship between the landscape in front of the camera, as seen between the blades of the windmill, and the reflection of the camera with the landscape behind it. The rhythm of this movement between foreground and background is created by variations in the strength and direction of the wind.
1973, 8 min, colour, silent

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