route to the site

My film Route to the Site is to be shown at the Peak artist film night at The Art House, Wakefield on 31 January 2018 along with films by Susan Adams, Edwin Burdis, Stefhan Caddick, Rebecca Chesney, Anna Falcini, Penny Hallas, Islet/Ewan Jones Morris, Siôn Marshall Waters, Chris Nurse and Helen Sear.  

On a road trip to North West Scotland I revisited a remote childhood beach and discovered the place where my Welsh speaking but originally Gaelic speaking great grandfather came from - but left for Wales following a period of famine and clearances. The film’s title, Route to the Site, comes from a text by the artist Robert Smithson (1969), in which he talks about the abstract nature of a highway as compared to the physicality of a trail. Voicing and stumbling over unknown words seems to similarly embody language. In the film, I copy a Gaelic-speaking man and my Welsh-speaking mother to speak words from two passages of Isaiah, which have historical relevance to the places and the loss – or resistance - of the languages.

Terry Eagleton (2003) describes the Book of Isaiah as a revolutionary document in which the dispossessed are presented as the continual failure of the dominant order and as such, the only plausible image of the future. I discovered that as English colonialism advanced, Isaiah was quoted in two thinly veiled critiques of the dominant order relating to my own history and cultural identity. First, Isaiah 56 was quoted by radical churchwardens in late 18th century Wales, defending the right of Welsh speaking parishioners to hear sermons in their own language. Second, in the mid 19th century, Isaiah 11 was read by the local free church minister to members of my great grandfather’s community, at the point of their forced emigration from the North West Highlands.