Rooms - Fragments from an unfinished film
Rooms is a unique film that portrays a marginal, ephemeral history of the spaces we inhabit - the echoes, ghosts and memories that haunt these sites - using video collage, archive loops and spoken word.
It is an imaginative non-fiction piece that uses a collage of images, archive and visual textures.An original score by electronic artist Rob Shields takes a deceased man’s collection of 78rpm records as a starting point and uses it to create a spatial collage of loops and textures, each piece representing a different room, a chapter in a house (Sadru Loops). Likewise the film is divided into chapters, each corresponding to a room.
It starts with lights travelling across the ‘room’, like the light from the window as it changes throughout the day. Each room then expands upon a different idea: one is a sick room where the person is trapped, their synapses and flesh merging into the walls. Another is made from hundreds of empty rooms from archive films and images, a collective history where a human presence flickers out of frame. Each space merges into the next and Rooms becomes a depiction of domestic history, fears, memories, aspirations and dreams: shadows flicker, walls crumble to be reconstructed from different elements, from earth to fire to water to stars.
Rooms is haunted by the spectre of lost futures. In the modern age, as cities are redeveloped, buildings are collateral damage – they are lost or repurposed, sometimes leaving just a shell or façade. Do their absences and ghosts remain? Are the shadows of old rooms and corridors still there? How do we live with the imprints of lives perceptible in the walls, the resonances of past lives lived, the clamouring presences of absence? This project is an ethnography of memory and experience, crossing the boundary between documentary and art film. It is a transmission from a place of ghosts and memories trapped in the subconscious of the city.
There is not time, not anymore. This is nowhere, and forever...
Mr. Joseph left hundreds of treasured old 78s when he died. The format is so obsolete hardly anyone can play them now. Rob has made them into a series of loops, each one represents a room, a chapter in a house. Incidentally, as well as a verse, stanza can also mean room; a standing place, a stopping place.
My grandparents died last year. When I dream of their house it is still as it was when I was 8 - spanning the whole building with a long corridor across the whole length of it, two sets of stairs we could chase around and a room full of trinkets and relics. When I lay in the bedroom at a certain time of day I could see the cars moving below projected onto the ceiling – the angle of the light made a crude camera obscura. It had been two houses that divided and expanded as their family grew, then divided again for their son, their portion gradually diminishing and becoming more modest as their lives and movements reduced. They both died at home within months of each other. Now that they are gone, the relics of nearly a century have been divided up and sold and their house doesn’t exist apart from one room stuffed with photos. I have kept a few fragments from there. It felt like I was rescuing something. I think of their lives expanding and contracting; a building inhaling and exhaling. My childhood memory of the building remains the most vivid—the remembered rooms imprinted on the geometric layout. How can secret rooms, rooms that have disappeared, become abodes for an unforgettable past? The house image becomes the topography of our intimate being.
She was born in the Royal hospital, but now there is nothing left of it but a facade. Not even a shell of the building, just a two dimensional flattened plane of what it once was. A whole spatial axis knocked flat, and re-expanded. My friend’s mother lived in one of the luxury apartments they built from it. Do the people who live in the flats that once were sites of hospitals, churches, schools... do they feel the presences of these lives? Of these moments? Of these lost rooms? Of these microcosmic universes carried around in countless people’s heads - evolving over years and extinguishing as we die? Do the buildings and sites themselves hold imprints of what they once were, what they could have been- all of their infinite possibilities stretching forward and intertwined with the unrealised histories that might have been?
Collage techniques are used to capture the room as a palimpsest of marginal histories, personal memories, dreams. The content/contents of the room are easily rearranged – archival materials (documentaries, home footage, advertisements, out of copyright fiction films, PSAs) of lost and unbuilt rooms are cut and displaced, the windows looking out to constructed landscapes, or the room spliced together with other rooms, or the façade placed in the desert. Mismatched scales, locations and temporal/spatial/sonic anomalies create an infinite mosaic of surfaces and qualities to the experience.
Gathering fragments of footage and sound from archive then layering and looping them, the film will become a multifaceted, sensory portrait of the collective mind-space. The piece is concerned with a wider shared experience of place and history: stories and memories are threaded together to make the ordinary uncanny. The sound creates a multi-focal spatial sonic collage with layered spoken voices and haunting, scratchy loops and textures.
This layered style reveals hidden narratives, creating shifting forms and layers of consciousness, igniting the imagination and disrupting the everyday spaces we usually overlook.