Sunday, 5 October 2008

Green on the Horizon

Green on the Horizon, 18 min, 1988, Philip Sanderson & Steven Ball

It was well over twenty years ago that Philip and I spent weeks scouring the folk archives and local libraries, from the marshlands of the Medway delta to the lanes of the outskirts of Maidstone and that mysterious suburban liminal hinterland between, collecting loosely connected local folklore, phenomena occurring around pagan sites, universal urban myths, hatching plans to realise this as some kind of major cinematic opus. But how to achieve this vision?

There was some interest from influential figures in the experimental film world, which led exactly nowhere. Without the means to produce the project in its entirety, we were however able to make some forays into the project, first with the extremely DIY Apostrophe S in 1986 and then in 1988 for Green on the Horizon we received funding from South East Arts. It was shot on several days over a couple of months on Cliffe Marshes, using the London Filmmakers’ Co-op’s just about functioning Nizo super 8 camera, balancing precariously on bicycles while shooting, pacing around fields and along the Thames Estuary foreshore as Angie Staples made attempts to interpret the directors’ intentions through self-choreographed parading up and down, round and round. The finished video was influenced as much by Tarkovsky and The Avengers as it was by avant-garde formalism.

Green on the Horizon
was well-received in some quarters. Stephen Bode wrote “Short cuts make long delays. Green on the Horizon makes a wonderful diversion.” (City Limits, 28 April, 1988) and made it number four in the City Limits ‘Indie Vid Top Ten’ for 1988 (placing it above works by the likes of Mona Hatoum, Cerith Wyn Evans and George Barber). It was included in Electric Eyes, an early Film and Video Umbrella touring programme which resulted in screenings at the Tate, ICA, Video Brazil, and Wien Medienwerkstadtt, among many others.

But elsewhere the video received a more muted response. Mike Jones was frustrated: “A film that contains elements of dance/choreographed movements, but is not really a dance film; a film set in a landscape, but its insistence for much of the time on framing the figure closely in relation to background means that it’s not really a ‘landscape film’” and he goes on to suggest that it “…stumbles and then trips itself up…” (Independent Media, July 1988).

So, after twenty years how does
Green on the Horizon fare?

It looks to me now to be something of an ante-narrative, a catalogue of gestures and phrases on a linear path that suggests a parallel narrative that it is placed beyond; the narrative elements presented only partially in the work itself, which still curiously appears quite self-contained, well-formed but paradoxically incomplete. It is an enigmatic piece and perhaps best viewed alongside its complementary works: the aforementioned
Apostrophe S and Hangway Turning. The latter was made by Philip in 1990, after I had left the UK, and effectively collects most of the remaining elements that we had developed for the project into a work with a more satisfying narrative structure. This is achieved chiefly through the introduction of a second character, a kind of reluctant psychic archeologist who provides a narrative continuity, played with deadpan aplomb by Nigel Jacklin. An extract from Hangway Turning can be viewed here, courtesy of the archive at


Anonymous said...

For some reason the text to the GOTh entry doesn't show up in Safari. Works finr in Firefox.

Steven Ball said...

Blogger was playing up when I posted it and for some time everything was centrally aligned and the sidebar was at the bottom until I recut and pasted it. I just tried in Safari and the text is there but with huge spaces between the paragraphs. Very odd. I'll see what I can do with it.

Steven Ball said...

It should be OK in Safari now

Anonymous said...

Yep all fine.


it (all) weathers just fine!
far ahead of the times, you where, green on the horizon...late bloomers then, in a while.