The Whalebone Box. A new collaboration with Andrew Kötting

Artist, writer and director Andrew Kötting has built up a string of quintessentially British films. The Whalebone Box is another of his experimental jaunts made with his regular collaborators and this time with his daughter Eden in the lead role. Shot in Super 8, 16mm and with an inspired use of archive material, this is a strange, haunting and magical film … with a sting in the tale. 

A box made of whale bone, entangled in a fisherman’s net was washed up on a remote beach in the Outer Hebrides. Is it an enigmatic object containing a secret? A relic, a survivor from a mysterious shipwreck or perhaps possessing magical powers? No-one knows except that it was given to writer Iain Sinclair who sets out with Kötting and the artist Anonymous Bosch on an expedition to return the box to its place of origin on the Isle of Harris. 

And all the while Eden Kötting narrates the story, working as both muse and soothsayer. She tries to make sense of the strange and mystical goings on as the journey unfolds, sometimes awake and sometimes in deep sleep. Ultimately the whalebone box is finally buried in the sand on the very beach from which it came all those years ago.

+ IN FAR AWAY LAND Dir: Andrew Kotting. UK 2019. 6 mins
A companion piece to The Whalebone Box, featuring Eden Kötting’s animated drawings, collages and paintings by the artist Glenn Whiting and the voices of John Smith, Miranda Pennell, Mikhail Karikis and Marcia Farquhar.

Followed by a Q&A with director Andrew Ko?tting and Iain Sinclair

The museum of loneliness: Flying down to Rio

The Gallery @ sketch

9 conduit street, london w1s 2xg

16 JULY, 2pm

Performance by Chris Petit, Iain Sinclair, Kirsten Norrie, Wenge Dur & Govenda Asiti.

Music: Wenge Dur (Sound of the Fars-Uzaklarin Sesi)

Vocal 1: Aysegul Erdogan

Vocal 2 & Saz / Kurdish String: Mehmet Fatih Aydogan Saz / Kurdish String: Hamit Sag

Guitar: Selim Guzel Violin: Emre Kubilay

Percussion: Kibar Erdal

Santur: Peyman Heydarian


The premise is simple: a filmed drive, projected on four walls, replicating the act of driving, or being driven, and representing the metaphorical dimensions of any journey, into which insertions are made, the interruptive equivalents to red-light reverie, that peculiar dreamlike state of the driving mind, caught between passive, screened insulation and rage.

Four fixed cameras inside a car: the first points forward, to the road ahead, (the future/destination); the second points backwards to the road behind, (the car following in the rear view mirror; departure/escape from). The cameras to left and right mark the peripheral, less noticed pedestrian aspects, while, in cinematic terms, act as classic tracking shots. All four cameras are neutral points-of-view, with no obvious human presence behind.

Within this, the viewer is free to recall memories of other personal journeys taken in life or through books and cinema. Road, like cinema, is a form of projection and, like cinema by way of back-projection, a memory loop: the point-of-view driving shots in Vertigo being among the most haunting in cinema. This presupposes the apocalyptic/romantic notion proposed by JG Ballard that the key image of the 20th century was a man driving alone down a super-highway. But the coolness of that image no longer holds in a world of people carriers, oil crises, prohibitive prices, gridlock, the knockabout of Top Gear, Boris bikes, speed humps, jungles of road signage, with the London motorist’s average speed slower than in the age of horse and carriage. There is no open road. The London Westway, that elevated expressway and testament to concrete, what Ballard himself called a “stone dream”, has shrunk under a now crowded skyline, and what once appeared expansive – bursts of speed, skimming rooftops – has contracted, and what was cinematic (not that anyone noticed particularly) now looks like a relic from an abandoned theme park, therefore quaint.

The questions now, in a world that has been shot to death, are what to shoot and whether to shoot at all, and whether to subscribe to a vision of speed. Two years ago we drove empty motorways in Poland and across the south-west of the United States on underpopulated roads, but both felt like visions of a future past. That was followed by a cinematic stretch of M62 outside Hull on a fine summer’s day, since when the cost of gasoline has gone sky-high. Logistics of equipment hire and school pick-up further limit the working day and narrow choice, plus the realisation that perhaps more rewarding than motorway verges already shot might be shop fronts and passing pedestrians whose unimpeded progress stands in contrast to the stop-start congestion involved in nearly every vehicular journey today. One paradox of virtual technology is how much the corresponding world stutters. What was not made clear when the London Congestion Charge was introduced was how the apparent invitation to buy into a free-flowing zone of restriction was in fact a surcharge for the privilege of sitting in a traffic jam. Which leaves one contemplating the great, clotted arterial routes out, and discounting roads previously shot – Westway, M4 – (Radio On [1979], radio on (remix) [1999], Content [2009]) – A13 – (So Near, So Far [2004]) – M25 – (London Orbital [2003]); or those too familiar (A5, A40, A1); or the suburban shuffle, with anti-cinematic sleeping policemen and school- run frenzy. Maybe the North/South Circular suggested by Iain Sinclair, as a shrunken-head version of our London Orbital film, would stand, but that belongs to a longer project.

Given the recurring collaboration with Iain, the two routes that present themselves (in memory of the uncommissioned project on the North-West Passage) are the A5 from Marble Arch up through Maida Vale, to Kilburn and Cricklewood (my main axis between 1979-84), and Kingsland Road through Hackney, Dalston to Stoke Newington and beyond, which for me always represented one of those personal boundaries, an eastern border, like the Holloway Road, beyond which lay blank zones into which it was inadvisable to stray (rather like Jeffrey in Blue Velvet), but to Iain it came freighted with baggage: “Kingsland Road… the old Great North Road, the way out (or, in the case of James I, in). (Jack the Hat’s Axminster corpse avoided the deadly one-way system by taking the back route mantra: ‘Narrow Way, Mare Street, Cambridge Heath Road’… the ghost road.) You’d have to come from the south, Shoreditch. It’s the classic route from the City, joined by the foot-foundered John Clare. And you’d have to respect geography – the wide spaces of Kingsland Waste narrowing to current insanity of Dalston Junction and Stoke Newington High Street, up the ridge through Hasidic orthodoxy. The post-Dalston Junction move into Turkish and Kurdish territory really needs to be done at night. Flowers and haircuts at midnight. Nail-extension parlours, barbers, fast food for Afro-Caribbeans. I do have an 8mm single-take walk along the Waste stretch to the junction (if I can locate it). And other film references would include: 1. Patrick Keiller’s London. Geoffrye Museum to Defoe’s Stoke Newington. (Cue: Poe. Cue: Corman. Cue: various Robinsons, including Bunuel’s.) 2. Petit & Sinclair: The Cardinal & The Corpse: the Alexander Baron drive. 3. John Smith’s famous short (pre-Keiller), The Girl Chewing Gum: narrative imposed on static shots. 4. Tony Grisoni. Kingsland: Ridley Road… night driving… Kurdish kill. 5. Robert Petit. CCTV footage from Stoke Newington monitors. (Great photo printouts of Kingsland Road.) While he is panning around, he misses shooting incident in barbershop.

“The road is marked out by ghost bicycles. Three of them. (One by Fox pub.) Road deaths. Last one on Stamford Hill. Filming needs to be discreet. High levels of chemical and atmospheric paranoia. Junkyard illegal threatened to shoot Culture Show director when he suspected that any filming had to be a documen- tary exposé. Language problems. Containers. Loose tracksuit pants: like your carpet dealers in Archway. With guns. Baron’s nocturnal Hackney reverie (Cardinal & The Corpse). Lambrianou’s death tour (ditto). Jayne Mansfield: Too Hot to Handle. This is also Babs Windsor’s road… born Shoreditch, marries Ronnie Knight from Stoke Newington. Criminous connections with Fox pub. Brinks’ Mat bullion. Turkish clubs all watching 24-hour football, soaps, news.”

If James Stewart finds himself hijacked from Vertigo and dropped into Kingsland Road, his vertiginous obsession becomes doubly absurd. What is he looking for? No Madeleine, for sure. A place to park? He becomes questless, stranded, deprived of content or obsession. He becomes disconnected. Driving becomes the movie projected in one’s head. Iain emails: “Didn’t girls dance on wingtips, in Flying Down to Rio, with cityscape beneath? (Mix to memories of Belmondo creeping around balco- nies overlooking Copacabana in That Man from Rio, mix to the sadistic melancholy of Ingrid Bergman’s drugged performance, staircases and cellars, in Notorious, with subtext on Hitchcock’s Nazis, as being too high- cultured to trust.) So, no vertical element, no lift off, for this road flight… The enviable quality of the project is the amelioration of noise, fuss, argument, exchange, business on the elongated epic of this spinal route. Bad stuff migrates down it, unchallenged. The horrors of Dalston Junction (and you should check out Gillett Square) are a function of the failure by planners to accept Kingsland Road as a river flowing through (as recognised by Izaak Walton on his expedition to the sweet Lea). The technique has one thing in common with Major Jules Pipe’s legacy vision, it wipes history. And teaches us to swim miles on a single breath. We can take the tributaries – wig shops, nail-extension parlours, Kurdish café caves – on trust. The true detour is straight ahead, keep rolling.”

The Museum of Loneliness was founded in Berlin, June 2010, as an anti-institution, working in the gaps, operating in the slipstream of discontent, on mostly decommissioned and informal collaborations. Among its areas of inquiry is the realm of Post-Cinema. – Chris Petit, 2011

“The MoL operation is like a detective agency for erasing cultural memory: reverse archaeology. Inventing narra- tives for broken artefacts, before returning them to the earth. Freelance curators replace the private eye of film noir myth. Replace artists. A pointless accumula- tion of lists, documents, deleted DVDs, deservedly lost books: the anti-pantheon where the fault lines of history are revealed.”

– Iain Sinclair

“Post-Cinema is what happens when the individual filmmaker reaches that interesting and increasingly tenable state of being unable to make or not wishing to make films anymore. Then we move into other forms and spaces. We move into strange rooms and “locations”. We move into different kinds of fabrication. We move into forms of retrieval and archeology, where the ideal is a projection, or a piece of music, playing in an empty space.” – Chris Petit


Andrew Kotting and Iain Sinclair will give a perambulation and performance around “Olympia”.

Please see the flyer below giving information regarding an exhibition of work by UCA staff and students at the Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury. The exhibition is open from 3 December 2010 to 14 January 2011, closed from 18 December to 9 January.

On Friday, 14 January at 2 p.m., Andrew Kotting and Iain Sinclair will give a perambulation and performance around “Olympia”.

More info click here.

Chris Petit and the invisible pamphlets.

Chris Petit, through his Museum of Loneliness imprint, has just published a booklet of our e-mail exchanges made in relation to Christian Marclay’s THE CLOCK at the White Cube Gallery.

Chris is now producing and issuing a number of these invisible pamphlets, as a way of getting work out, instantly, immediately, when it suits him. And stepping back from the commissioning process. Let’s hope that some of the backlog of film-essays, unseen fragments, and lost features, also begin to emerge from the bunker.


Wickcentrics, by Leigh Niland

I am sorry this info got lost in my email. Now it’s long overdue, however I thought it was well worth mentioning. My apologies to Leigh Niland and Iain for this mishap.


March 2010

“Wickcentrics was a portrait project about a certain place at a certain time- Hackney Wick and it’s community on the verge of disappearance. The portrait sitters came to sit for one three hour sitting in a building (The Eton Mission) slated for demolition.  The subjects were a sampling of who’s who in Hackney Wick: Those set to be displaced by land development, a Wick Ward councillor, and artists, musicians and writers living in or making work about the area.  The resultant body of work was a collection of photographic, painted and drawn portraits exhibited on the walls of the Eton Mission.”

Leigh Niland

“[…] a  painting which I painted of him [Iain Sinclair] when he came for a portrait sitting last May. […]”

Painting by Leigh Niland, reproduced with kind permission by the Author