Neil Henderson’s work involves varied ways of mapping and exploring site, strata, and landscape. With static long takes, Henderson uses the landscape as a formal structure, reflecting on presence and place, repetitive variations of similar subjects/objects in a way that reminds us of Robert Smithsson and Richard Long's land-art, and photographic work by Ger Dekkers and Jan Dibbets among others. For example in "Tidal Island" (2014), Henderson returns to the site of a circular man-made island off the east coast of England. This island was part of a trial in the early 1970s to see if fresh water could be collected from nearby rivers and stored out at sea. Seawater eventually permeated the island and the project was abandoned.
In relation to the films by Henderson, we will show Guy Sherwin's rarely screened film "Connemara" (1980); a slow time-based site-specific structural landscape film. The film is, in Sherwin's words, ”partly a response to the sense of time that the landscape evoked. Time is experienced through the film in a number of ways: traces of past human activity, static shots of long duration, the same places revisited in different conditions of weather and light, exact print repeats of some of the shots, exact repeats of ambient sounds (set against different images), an overall symmetrical shape to the film.”
Introduction by Neil Henderson himself
- Three Studies In Geography (Part 3) (Neil Henderson, 2011, 16mm to digital, b&w, sound, 6'30)
Three distinct locations are brought together in "Three Studies in Geography", which encompasses three previously separate films made over the last ten years. Each location presents a particular balance of land, sky and water. In the final and the third part 'Reservoir' of ”Three Studies in Geography”, Henderson focused on, as Nicky Hamlyn writes, ”an experimental freshwater reservoir, since abadoned, a few miles off the Lincolnshire coast of England. The curious circular structure, which resembles a perfectly formed volcano, is now a haven for nesting birds. Henderson made a series of shots from a set of equidistant positions on the perimeter of the structure. The scene is dominated by seagulls. The birds animate what is otherwise a static scene, not least in a cinematic sense.” The final section of the film is a circumnavigation of the island in 36 shots. The soundtrack is a continuous recording made while walking around in the island.
- Tidal Island (Neil Henderson, 2011, 16mm to digital, color, silent, 13'07)
The subject of the film is a man made island two miles off the shore on the east coast of England. Built in the 1970s, the Outer Trial Bank is an experimental island, the purpose of which was to see if it were possible to build a larger barrage across the Wash and transform it into a fresh water reservoir. Further development of the project was abandoned when seawater was found to permeate the walls of the island, but is and now a home to a colony of sea birds. The film examines its location, structure, and the movement of the tide around it.
- Tidal (Neil Henderson, 2005, 16mm, color, silent, 3’30)
A film camera is modified to double expose 16mm film (the principle is similar to how standard 8mm film is exposed). A Polaroid of the sea is filmed for the duration of its development along both halves of the film. The tide comes in and goes out again.
- Three Studies In Geography (Part 1-2) (Neil Henderson, 2011, 16mm, b&w/color, silent, 18’00)
The first part of "Three Studies in Geography, 'Drains' is a study of the irrigation canals of south Lincolnshire. The camera is always static, and the framing is always the same. The second part 'The Street' focuses on a naturally forming jetty on the north Kent coast. It is filmed during low tide over the period of a month – its shape being determined by the daily shifts in tidal patterns; sometimes more of the street is seen, sometimes less.
- Connemara (Guy Sherwin, 1980, 16mm, color/b&w, sound, 31'00)
Made on a trip to Connemara in western Ireland in 1980, the film offers a long, slow meditation on time and landscape. Static shots linger and stare into the landscape and upon it, the traces of human activity is registered, whilst in the quiet collision of imagery and ambient sounds that return and repeat, the site lies in wait.
Q&A with Neil Henderson
Thanks to Cinema Galeries
Neil Henderson's work has encompassed multiple projector pieces, experiments with the materiality of film and photography, and films about landscape. His work has been shown at Diversions Film Festival, Edinburgh; the Onion City Film Festival, Chicago; Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; Anthology Film Archives, New York and Modern Art Oxford. In 2009 his film Circles was shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing prize. His work is discussed in Nicky Hamlyn’s book, 'Film Art Phenomena' (London: BFI, 2003). He studied at the Kent Institute of Art and Design and the Slade School of Art and teaches Film Studies at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.
Guy Sherwin studied painting at Chelsea School of Art in the late 1960s. His subsequent film works often use serial forms and live elements, and engage with light, time and sound as fundamental to cinema. Recent works include installations made for exhibition spaces and performance collaborations with Lynn Loo working with multiple projectors and optical sound.
He taught printing and processing at the London Film-Makers' Co-op during the mid-70s. His films were included as part of numerous exhibitions such as 'Film as Film' Hayward Gallery 1979, 'Live in Your Head' Whitechapel Gallery 2000, 'Shoot Shoot Shoot' Tate Modern 2002, 'A Century of Artists' Film & Video' Tate Britain 2003/4. He lives in London and teaches at Middlesex University and University of Wolverhampton.