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PRELIMINARY NOTES ON SWANDOWN COLLABORATION WITH ANDREW KÖTTING, AFTER WRESTLING PEDALO FROM HASTINGS PLEASURE BEACH TO SEA. 5 MARCH 2011.

iain sinclair and Andreas Kötting The Swan Pedalo Project

iain sinclair and Andreas Kötting The Swan Pedalo Project

OUTLINE

An English journey, in advance of the 2012 Olympic moment (that global-corporate invasion). Between Hastings (traditional entry point for invaders) and the emerging Olympic Park in the Lower Lea Valley.

A water pilgrimage, swanback, welcoming difficulty and celebrating local particulars, traces of submerged histories (song, civil protest, wilderness).

iain sinclair and Andreas Kötting The Swan Pedalo Project

iain sinclair and Andreas Kötting The Swan Pedalo Project

TREATMENT

Two swan pedalos are liberated from the shallow pond beside a pleasure park in Hastings Old Town. This action may, in part, be a response to the remaking of this traditional fisherman’s zone as a Grand Project art gallery. The business of lifting the hooded beasts from the turgid lake, and dragging them over the shingle to the sea, is the film’s opening sequence: dawn or dusk. Shots framed from the depressed fun fair with its haunted house, gaudy paintings and helter-skelter towers. The mood here reflects, in absurdist form, the era of WWII guerrilla raids launched across the English Channel. The other obvious strand is the megalomaniac vision of Werner Herzog, choosing to wrestle a paddle-steamer over a jungled Amazonian hill.

At certain points in the journey, other people (artists, naturalists, writers, performers) will be invited to come aboard the swan. Encounters with hikers, dog accompanists, fisher-folk, are expected and welcomed. The evening campsite with the fire, as in generic Westerns, will be a focus for conversation, tale-telling, music. The strange swan craft, in the course of its epic voyage, should become part of a natural ecology, weathered, chipped, gouged. The search for a story, becomes itself the subject of speculation by others. A landed chorus: ‘What are they doing? Are they mad? It’s only art? Where’s the money come from? Is it the Olympics?’ Etc.

In essence, you have two complimentary but distinct versions of the swan voyage. Kötting asserts that the journey is the film, that a measure of manipulation is necessary and acceptable. Sinclair’s position is shamanic, the exorcism doesn’t work unless the swan really is peddled or dragged every inch of the way. He is a fundamentalist of difficulty (especially when someone else is doing the peddling.)

iain sinclair and Andreas Kötting The Swan Pedalo Project

AFTERTHOUGHTS/REVERSES, FOUND(TH)INGS

A first taste of salt and swell, being on the water, even a few yards from the shore, sets the soul afire. And confirms one instinct: that the form of the voyage is Homeric, that is its underlying structure.

And then went down to the ship

The dragging of pedalo to beach seems to hover between potential Carry On/Rag Week stunt and Jarmanesque apocalypse out of The Last of England. (And why can’t it be both?) One element of the Homeric Odyssey (carried on by Dante, customised by Joyce and Pound) is the flight from hell. Suggested here by the mirthless gothic fun fair and the ruined pier. We could petrol-fire a line in the sea.  The voyage crosses a watery wasteland to achieve the ‘paradise’ of the Olympic Park, which may be revealed as another purgatory (making the trip a plunge into a funhouse mirror).

iain sinclair and Andreas Kötting The Swan Pedalo Project

iain sinclair and Andreas Kötting The Swan Pedalo Project

iain sinclair and Andreas Kötting The Swan Pedalo Project

iain sinclair and Andreas Kötting The Swan Pedalo Project

iain sinclair and Andreas Kötting The Swan Pedalo Project

(all photos courtesy of NRG Smith).

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