Released 8 February 2018
“I was in love with the wonder, the rough romance and the potential horror of great ships: none of man’s machines have more awe and character than they do. And I wanted, more than anything, to know something of the vastness of the ocean”
Horatio Clare, Down to the Sea in Ships, 2014 (p.4)
PRAKSIS Internet Projects presents, Oslo Havn by Julia Parks. Two and a half minutes long, this portrait was shot during Parks’s time on PRAKSIS's second residency, mucker mate in 2016, which was developed with Seamus Harahan and Oslo Pilot. The following text stems from an email conversation between Parks and PRAKSIS’s director, Nicholas John Jones as they discuss the work in preparation for its launch.
As it’s title suggests, Oslo Havn captures scenes from around Oslo fjord. It offers a bright, bustling image of the area in the full glory of summer. How does this work relate to your broader body of work?
The film fits into a larger series of landscape animation work that I've been making since 2014. The series was originally inspired by the work of American filmmaker Marie Menken (1909 – 1970). In her 11-minute film Go Go Go (1962 -1964) we see the city of New York animated from different perspectives, the streets captured from the window of a car, crowds negotiating the traffic lights from high up above. Scenes of boats punctuate the film and large seafaring vessels become like toys, leaving small water trails across the frame. I found this a really exciting exploration of landscape; using the camera to capture colours, movement, textures and rhythm of a city on the move. Her film felt so carefree and fleeting but at the same time, it was so carefully crafted and concentrated on wonderful detail transforming what could be mundane into a celebration.
At the point when I joined PRAKSIS in Oslo, I'd become curious about documenting different coastal landscapes using a similar process to Menken's in order to build up a collection of maritime landscapes; I've created one in the south-west of England, a Solway-coastal one and a film in Hellesylt—a small fjord town of Norway. Each of these film has their own aesthetic, for example the Solway Coast version reflects an industrial landscape, more austere and grey, whilst the Norwegian fjord film shows a landscape used by individual fishermen and smaller ferries. Oslo’s vast port has many uses from heavily industrial to cruise liners and passenger boats, to boats for pleasure and sport. They all intermingle between the islands and sea and it was this I wanted to try and capture within the film.
And how about the practical process you chose to work with?
The film was created using stop-frame animation on a 16mm Bolex and tripod. Over two weeks, I repetitively visited sites around the port of Oslo by island hopping and walking on foot, often tying in my travels with the planned arrival and departure of larger boats such as cruise liners and cargo ships. There was also an element of surprise such as smaller vessels appearing unexpectedly and things appearing in the frame I did not notice during the filming.
I’ve edited the film a long time (18 months) after the original time I shot it and during this time I’ve become more interested in the possibilities of sound, partly through conversations I’ve had with Seamus Harahan during my time in Oslo and afterwards. I've recently added a soundtrack by using a range of my own recorded sounds and free-sounds. The edit is brutal, I left a lot out, I wanted it to be quick, to just give a fleeting portrait of a port on the move.
It’s interesting to see you start to work with sound, and I think it really adds to the atmosphere of the portrait.
The work captures a particular time, and yet the 16mm method you prefer is an old technology that dates the work differently and throws off immediate recognition of the specific era. I watched it several times over concentrating on the different periods of the boats, the fashion, the architecture. It heightened my awareness of time, and generated a feeling of nostalgia for something I never directly experienced. You mentioned Menken as a historical inspiration, is a connection to the past important to how you think about the present?
16mm film has a very specific aesthetic –the colours in this film are rich and saturated – they reference other eras; it isn’t inherently ‘2010’s’ and this makes it more difficult to place in a particular time frame. I’m interested in this slippage and time-less quality. I’ve been heavily influenced by experimental film makers working with similar cameras and film stock; and for me, keeping the link to the medium is important as it directly references work that has come before. I’m also interested in the unexpected quality of using 16mm film, I have little idea of just how the image will come out until its processed which means I’m often surprised and find unexpected results.
ABOUT JULIA PARKS //
Julia Park’s practice encompasses film, animation and photography, often using series of photographs and projected 16mm film. Having graduated from Central Saint Martins School of Art in 2015, Parks has since exhibited work in the UK and Japan. She organised the Arts Council-funded residency, The Allerdale Film Farm, which explored handmade 16mm film making in West-Cumbria. Parks is based in Cumbria, UK.