Tuesday, 2 March 2010

magic lantern

I seem to have blacked out when the 3.28 to St Pancras passed under the Thames though I remember clearly enough Dexter Gordon playing on the i-pod. I was on my way to hear the pair Harry Gilonis labelled ‘the Ollie and Stan of the New British Poetry’: Iain Sinclair and Brian Catling. This event at the Swedenborg Hall was the result of researches the pair conducted in the Society’s archives, most of it in an extensive and bunker-like basement below the Hall (some of their work was displayed in the bookshop at the front of the building). To the side of the stage next to the bust of the great man was the image of a nineteenth-century audience (above), while projected on the back wall was an article on mesmerism. After some early twentieth-century footage of a mesmerist Iain Sinclair read a piece on Swedenborg in England and the Blakean connection. Brian Catling spoke of the archives themselves before the gradually coalescing image of a bookshelf. This was followed by a series of old lantern slides with some sharp (and sharpened) images among those that had succumbed almost completely to their chemistry. After this Sinclair identified many of the individuals featured in the image shown here, then produced a cheap old camera and proceeded to photograph the interior, the audience, the furnishings, the lighting. Catling stepped up to a table on the stage on which, throughout the proceedings, had sat a crystal ball (was this an aspect of the esoteric nature of Swedenborgianism?). On finishing the film Sinclair passed Catling the camera which he placed on a wooden block then smashed to pieces with the crystal ball. He removed the film from the shattered plastic and ate it with the aid of a glass of water. We were invited to wine and supper in the basement but as this proved somewhat claustrophobic I headed back to Faversham. The carriage p.a. repeated ‘if you see anything suspicious please report it to a member of staff immediately’. I saw a full moon over the Rainham Marshes.


Martin Edmond said...

Catling ate the film?

Laurie Duggan said...

Yes. There was about 800mm of it in all so he probably couldn't have kept it in his mouth. Someone said it might have been made of some sugary substance but it looked like real film to me.