Scott Barley, Artist-Filmmaker — Official Site. Sleep Has Her House Limited Edition Blu-ray, Region Free — Now available

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© Scott Barley 2024. Sole copyright holder of all work featured herein (2010—present). All rights reserved.
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Darkness has always been a prerequisite to truly enter the world on the screen, and its importance in granting experiential resonance cannot be overstated. In the auditorium, the lights go down. We wait in a darkened room for a world of light to open up to us, and while our body may remain in our seat, the incorporeal essence in all of us wades toward the flickering light, haunting it, as it haunts us. Our souls invest, they search in curiosity and hunger in the images and sounds. Cinema is a symbiosis of haunts. We enter it as it enters us. To enter a film’s world is a very spectral thing. To truly submit to the cinema experience is like letting the waves of the ocean crash over you and not be afraid of drowning. To be in that darkness and let the film envelop and pervade us is the very definition of surrender. To give oneself up to the other.

The importance of darkness and the underexposed image also come from my desire to bring a tactility to vision – to go beyond figuration, beyond the object, and to feel the liminality between light and darkness itself as its own subject, to feel the weight of what is known and what is unknown. Cinema’s strength can also be its weakness. With so much of cinema’s power coming from its unique distinction in the arts as a bastardization of two arts—image and sound—creating vivid audio-visual scenarios, often there isn’t enough room for the spectator to dream, to imagine, to question. Darkness, obfuscation—both visual and metaphorical—can assist in creating an environment where one’s imagination can coexist and harmonize with the film’s body, and create an utterly unique, polysemic experience for each individual, fulfilling that symbiosis.

Darkness is a texture, a veil, mystical, an immaterial hinterland. It is the backwoods from which everything enters and leaves. We have all at one time or another felt like we have at least for a moment seen something passing through beyond that veil, where we have stared into deep darkness—true darkness—and felt our optical nerve pushed to its limits, seeing strange lights emanating, dancing, from seemingly nothing, beyond the boundary of our vision, never quite sure if it is our eye or something else that is part of us, within us, yet unknown to us, permitting us a witness to it.

Darkness allows the mind’s eye to open, for our imagination to wander. It recalibrates and nurtures our relationship with our body, our senses, and the landscape beyond us. I want to create a world that makes the known feel unknown again, allowing that fragile, profoundly intense pulse of childlike curiosity that beats inside us to take hold once more. Darkness allows us to surrender ourselves to that mystery, that wonder, and to swim in it, and reclaim our profound and even paroxysmal relationship with ourselves and what lies beyond ourselves; to fearlessly drown in its infinite pool.

Beyond trying to make films that can only be films (in the sense that they cannot be adapted to another medium and still retain their formal essence and language) I try to make images that can only be images. I am seeking a presence inherent to the form in and of those images. And these images have invisible tendrils that go beyond our idiomatic associations with perception, into the thing in itself. This presence, and in some cases ,noumenal presence casts its own spell. My hope is that when these diamonds unravel within the rough, this noumena of actuality, of reality cannot be instantly replaced, inferred and reduced with semiotics, language, associations, nor that a larger idea, outside of this presence, can be gleaned from it. These images are luminous but simultaneously, they remain opaque. I want to be as silent as possible, to let the silent things speak, in all their depth and richness, and not let them die in their song, by adulterating them, and in turn, abandoning them, risking them to being represented by words, or assessed as symbology for something larger—as there is nothing larger—and simply holding time for these presences to speak silently, for themselves, for what they are.

When you stop seeing the world in words, but in images, feeling the weight of their presence, and aligning yourself fully with the arc of your own awareness, experiencing this direct encounter with presence, it can become a visitation. Sometimes, if one is very lucky, very open, and utterly surrendering to the experience, that visitation loses any sense of distance. The distance between experience and the experiencer becomes limen, and from there, becomes union, becoming one. The visitation dissolves. It is a becoming, an unfolding, and nothing more. It is all. The Whole. And that experience, rather, what we could call non-experience can be revelatory—inside and outside of cinema. In that moment, you are no longer, but what was you, before, is now both witness and choir.

The reality of sensation comes first. The logic comes afterwards. In these moments of the camera becoming the body, we, the spectator assume the body of the protagonist. We harbour the screen. We haunt the image’s own ghost, we emblazon the avatar impregnated into the image. We continue ourselves outside of ourselves, and with it, we unmoor the image. It fractures. We become the very vibration of the image's reality; a spectral reality that is in agglutinated flux with our own.

As there becomes less and less distance between our own corporeality and technology, cinema will become more than a window into our deeper selves, not necessarily existentially, or soulfully, sadly, but certainly, sensorially. “Cinema” won’t resign itself to just the visual and aural potentialities. More senses will begin to appear applicable and manipulatable to the medium and of ourselves too; not just taste, smell, but our proprioception. This will continue to the point where cinema, particularly the “avant-garde“ will perhaps be rendered an illegal market by the state, similar to illicit drugs, as these avant-garde forms and works will replace our “reality” so fully; often unforgivingly.

Cinema will become an intravenous injection to a world not ours. Maybe a world more real than ours. A world of hyperbolic tessellations, not just visually, but in all the senses we possess. We will become a chrysanthemum of senses, experiences, and selves. Maybe even further senses will reveal themselves within us in the process; those that we don’t possess yet, or simply are unaware of... Until, there is no distinction between self and experience, cinema and consciousness.

To be real is to forge. To be real is to deceive. Cinema is real because it is forged of – and with – utter deception.

Like those apparitions that lurk, then dance with us, that disarm us, seduce us even, as we turn our necks, and stare back down the path we tread, and into the dark, beyond the trees, I too, want to disarm, and seduce through rendering the invisible visible. I want to seduce through obfuscation, true obfuscation, to suggest a beyond, a liminality suspiciously cloaked within the 'fuscus'. Darkness is where all the things are working. Where all the mouths and hands are dancing. The dark is always prepossessing. And the dark is always hungry. It wants its meal. And sometimes, it devours.

My aim is to make you - the viewer - become the protagonist of the film, to be the avatar itself, wherein you are emblazoning yourself upon the images, through and into them, exploring its worlds, through darkness and light, along with me. We wade through it together, and the moon in the night sky is always like seeing it for the first time. The aim too, is to make a film where each figure, each object, every landscape is as real and yet as spectral as the wind; utterly present but immaterial in itself – it can only be seen or felt through its manipulation on “others”. A film, where the incorporeal is the flesh of the film, the body and extremes of representation and of perception, that of the senses – a further place – because that is what is most strong and real, and I believe only cinema can get us to that point.

Less than 0.0036 percent of “reality”, or rather, “human perception” is visible to human beings, due to our extremely limited detection of wavelengths of light. Many animals are able to sense things beyond our own precipice, things that we cannot.

We also lack genuine proprioceptional insight into our bodily relation to everything that we consider to be “reality that exists outside of ourselves”.

Light and vibration are interconnected.

Geometry is both silent and sings at the same time. Everything is both mirror and reflection at the same time.

But we only bear witness to just 380—700 nanometers of the whole spectrum that we can already measure.

1 centimetre = 10000000 nanometers.

No one knows anything.

The phrase, "imitation is the most sincere form of flattery," or similar, has been thrown around as some vestige of truth for a long time. Imitation is easy. It is a path often neccessary for us to walk in order find ourselves in the beginning, but if one does not wish to find themselves, imitation can become one of most insincere things a creative act can be.

In accepting merely an ability to imitate what came before, we betray ourselves, and the potential for different vantage points; we prevent new fulcrums of possibility to emerge and flourish. We rebuff a change, that desires, innately, to reveal itself and reshape this world, however vast or intimately. Simply, it betrays our own singular journey to rediscover our own spirit, our unique way of seeing the world. Imitation is a betrayal of the inherent quality of life—the eternal, natural, spiralling desire for renewal. From ruins, flowers grow.

As artists utilise the bastardisation of image and sound to explore the architecture of film, the cracks, the liminality, where the light gets in to these worlds of darkness, we get closer to a cinema of the body. I wonder whether we will eventually live utterly inside ourselves. It is not hard to imagine, as we sit, immersed in the cyberspace of our smartphones. Perhaps we will ultimately become the body without organs. The body without organs that Artaud and Deleuze proposed. Our body will be emptied, rendered void, it will be nothing but a husk... and then cinema will take its place. It will assume us, and transcend us. A body without organs. Perhaps that is death. A body without organs is death. And death is cinema. We fly over a tear in the image, an ocean. We hear the wind singing. Then a perennial nothingness. A prisoner's cinema. The movie on our eyelids. The projector's flicker. A black screen of sonorous nothing. We are a nothing within nothing. A silent ring. We drift, held within it; the body's echo chamber, screaming and hearing nothing but our own silent, bone-shattering howls.

As Emil Cioran said, 'Write books only if you are going to say in them the things you would never dare confide to anyone.' The same applies to filmmaking. And I would add, you put into your work what you would never even dare to confide to oneself, or even wish to understand. It is not a reveal, or a "pouring" of logic, it is nothing but a deluge of pure, unadulterated feeling; feeling alone. And pure feeling cannot and should not be translated into rational thought.

As filmmakers, we must not be afraid to venture toward and into what is considered the inexpressible, that which cannot be said in words, but instead what surfaces only in dreams, to create a cinema that passes beyond figuration, beyond the object, and instead renders the liminality between light and darkness itself as its own subject, movement and stillness as its own subject, paroxysms of experience as its own subject, to express and experience the weight of what is known and what is unknown to us. The unknown should be our light, our lure, our guide to pursue new images, new sounds, new ideas, and to fear it; but we must submit to that fear. You are not making anything worth making if you do not feel fear.

There is a nuanced but profound difference between one's ideology, and one's personal truth. A poetic, authentic, personal truth.

One's personal truth is very vulnerable, but far more fundamental. Its tendrils go far, far beyond personal belief, deep within our unknowable interior, that paradoxically mirrors, and extends out and into the impersonal, unknowable exterior, collectively, beyond us.

Holding onto an ideology too tightly can extinguish the candle that is one's personal truth from continuing to burn, in life, and in our work. Ideology is learned, material. Personal truth is a visitation. Boundless, immaterial. Its fulcrum, its music lies not in the artist's images themselves, nor in the sound. It is hidden. It is what is imbued, it is invisible, it is what is only met through truth's surrender to truth itself; that which is vulnerably, wordlessly, sensually reconciled with itself. It is presence.

Science has proven we are literally made of stardust. We can look upon - in awe - of the night sky. Because of how far the light has to travel, to gaze at the stars is to stare back into time itself. This infinite black pool is a cathedral full of ghosts; the ghosts of stars... stars that in some cases no longer exist - the very stars that we are now made of. It is like a fossil – but also, a reflection. Perhaps we have no purpose except to one day return, to pass through that mirror, and reunify with the stars that birthed us. To become the Whole – again.

Make films, make art that you will never release, but provide room. Room for yourself, room for love, room for despair, passion, mishaps, falsehoods... room for growth, room for rumination, visitations, room for selflessness, and room for others; even if they will never know it.

I am still obsessed with language, and I adore reading and writing so much - and it's that very reason why I don't like to use it in my films. They're different mediums. I see language as sacred. And I see images... the world as sacred. But we are facing a time where language is increasingly becoming an objectifier, an itemiser, an explainer of what we see before our eyes. When we use language to describe, or explain an image, we are in a sense, objectifying it, and in turn, we are killing it. We kill its mysteries and silent beauty through our inane objectification. Let's just bask in the sonorous silence of the sunset, of the moon, the stars, the lake, in the presence of the horses, the deer, the owls, in the mountains, and the forest. Let's not, through folly, attempt to claim the Unknown as known to us. Let us leave the unknowable to be what it is: unknowable. Beauty lies in the things that are not fully known to us. I would rather look upon the world with silent wonder and awe, rather than savage it with all the words in the world, that in this context are meaningless and hideous. Words conjure images. If the image already exists, there is nothing to be conjured. Instead, we are only using words to conquer the image. And I am not interested in conquering anything.

Cinema is us, staring into a shivered mirror. It is a life that dances, hidden behind the trees, beyond the horizon. The cinema is not our construction. Cinema is us – deconstructed.

I always begin a film almost like one would keep a diary. I have no idea, or agenda to make a film. I simply document. I shoot what attracts me, random things, animals, variances in light, the water, the stars; simply what draws me in on different days, different nights, in different places. Once I have built up a body of footage, I start to see connections. These pieces of footage could be taken months or even years apart – and miles apart too. Just like in Hunter (2015) there are sequences in Sleep Has Her House which are comprised of shots filmed in two separate countries that are then invisibly stitched together. But these connections between different pieces of footage all happen organically. I never force these connections. I never force a film when it doesn’t come. The films find me – not the other way round. When they come alive and start to writhe, I simply hold on. All my films have been made this way. Some happen quicker than others. Once these connections are established, a narrative - through images - begins to germinate.

For me, cinema's true essence is not simply to animate. It is to de-animate.

I think about the weight of the dark. Rather, I feel it. The heaviness. Sometimes you can feel the heaviness of the night. The dark - on different nights - has different colours. I feel its heaviness most when it is red or green. I do not mean that the colour of the night is red, or green, but I feel a colour around me. It absorbs me. It goes from the air into my core. Sometimes, the night has a hunger. It devours everything. In these moments, everything is unknown to me again. I listen. I hear. I feel the air. I feel the earth. The only thing I know is the earth under my feet. Everything is elsewhere. I am a child. I think about the same things that I try to show in my films. I think about all the things that are beyond me. I sense things dancing within the dark, out of reach. They disarm us. They seduce us. I remain quiet. I remain still. Sometimes, I close my eyes, and I try to dance with them.

Montage, like water.
In luminous bloom
And jewelled tendrils,
An eddy of scintillations
Reveals itself, through itself.
At the crest of its wave
We wade within
An openness
—It steals away.

Montage, like the eye.
The wind and the candle's flicker
Drifting and darting,
Conjuring and dissolving
The room of senses
Vaulted, illuminated
The Halls of Sleep
In confluence
—The dying dreamer recalls her child.

Montage, like song.
A chorus climbs the silence
A slow ascension
To the mountain's dawn
Of impersonal voices.
It penetrates us deeply,
To the heart of our intimacy.
This song is ours.
We soar
—Like birds.