As well as the BFI Player release, the film was screened on Fri 10 Sep and Sat 11 Sep 2021 at HOME, Manchester, with a live musical accompaniment – click here to find out more. The format of The Earth Asleep involved a projected screening of the original film with a live score consisting of piano (Chris Illingworth), synthesizers (Robin Richards, Brendan Williams), cello (Margit Van Der Zwan).
An artist film by visual artist Clara Casian about one of the most powerful earthquake and tsunami ever recorded, with music by composer Robin Richards, received its premiere on BFI Player to mark the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan disaster. The haunting travelogue addresses the ways in which our exposure to extreme live-trauma in the form of rolling news and citizen reportage has resulted in an inability to process grief at a manageable, human scale.
The Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 killed over 15,000 people and caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant – the worst such incident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. As the world attempts to digest similarly unimaginable loss during the Covid-19 pandemic, film, poetry and live music intertwine in this live rhythmic montage, conjuring a pathway by which the human soul might navigate unseen astral dimensions.
Clara Casian quote: “To go far with the tripod and the camera, with the plans of meticulous interviews, with the burning heart lit by the desire to discover distant realms, people and forgotten histories, it may seem a fearful or unusual thing. Mystical signs, symbols and incomprehensible rituals strike the memory of those who are no longer. The years pass, and the events enter into a shadow account, and only those who have suffered bear the memory of their dear ones. From their tears, to the light of the ritual fire, to the strange murmur of temple prayers, from the blinking of footsteps in the mud and the contorted forms of the water-swept vegetation, we recalled a time unprecedented, so that we never forget that the earth has delicate systems that must be taken care of.”
The Earth Asleep Trailer
Production stills (photo credit Atsushi Kuwayama)
Production still during the filming of Haga Mahasiko and volunteers at Kiri Kiri Koku, Otsuchi, Japan.
Production still during the filming of Keiko Iwama in Otsuchi, Japan.
Production still during the filming of Jotaro Urabe and Takeshi Yuhara, Sendai, Japan.
Sediments – Barrow Islands
Sediments – Barrow Islands
Single Channel Digital Video / 25 mins / 2019
Sound Mix: Aidan McCarthy
Poetic Text (‘Palimpsest’ Poem): Maria M Casian
Featured Interviews: Pete Burton, Iain McNicol, David Keenan, Neil Morrison
Archive Footage courtesy of Barrow Archives, North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University
Commissioned by Art Gene in association with The Islands and Bays of Barrow-In-Furness Coastal Team
Sediments – Barrow Islands explores the history of Barrow in Furness and the tensions between natural and man-made environment, strange earth’s metamorphosis caused by traces of ecological processes and environmental cleanup: Roosecote Power Station near Cavendish Dock, British Cellophane Factory in Sandscale Haws, and Askam slag bank. The film’s narrative arc follows first-hand experiences, personal records and testimonies interwoven with observations of strange sediments and biological traces in connection with the natural transformations in Barrow Islands due to industrialisation.
The archival material is layered with the contemporary footage of the area, juxtaposed and intertwined in a loose ‘assemblage’. The archival image is stripped from its original sound source to remove any traces of historicity. The sound of field recording simulates a drone humming noise, evoking an eerie feeling and pressurised industrial soundscape.
The film references research from Piel Fisheries Laboratory, Cumbria Archives and uses archival footage, courtesy of North West Film Archive, presenting research findings and biological investigations conducted in the 1960’s at the Roosecote Power Station. The material was identified through a series of trips which prepared the ground for an investigative filmmaking practice with fieldwork and cooperation with local residents holding the living memory of the place.
About the collaborators:
The film features collaborations with specialists from various fields of art and science, as well as local voices with lived experience of the place. ‘Palimpsest’ is a poignant poem inspired by Barrow Islands, written in English by the Romanian poet Maria M Casian, also writer of essays, historical literature and specialist in cultural heritage. Biologist and local resident Pete Burton, former National Trust site manager, has long studied new forms of life and transformations in the natural environment after industrialisation and gentrification.
Intentional Community – The art of living and the science of life (2017)
Nick Jordan & Clara Casian
Single Channel Digital Video
Intentional Community is a documentary portrait of Braziers Park School of Integrative Social Research (Braziers). Centred upon insights from current residents and members, the film layers together scenes of daily life with the natural features, architectural characteristics and diverse cultural history of the community.
Set in the wider context of intentional communities, sustainability, and the economics of post-capitalism, the film explores the ‘biosocial’ ideas of Braziers’ founders, psychiatrist Norman Glaister and educationalist Dorothy Glaister, who established the community in 1950 as a social experiment in collective living.
Structured in a collaged, interwoven manner, the film makes a correspondence between the past and present, combing interior and exterior spaces of the gothic manor house with material from Braziers’ archive of photographs, audio recordings and film; including scenes from a Situationist gathering in 1964, attended by writers Alexander Trocchi and Jeff Nuttall, artist John Latham and psychiatrist R.D. Laing. Intentional Community also explores Braziers’ connections to the Common Wealth political party, the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry/Kibbo Kift and Grith Fyrd peace camps, reflecting Braziers’ deep-rooted social values, ecologically-minded thinking and historic links to progressive ideas and the Counterculture.
Intentional Community – The art of living and the science of life
Intentional Community – The art of living and the science of life (excerpt)
House on the Borderland
House on the Borderland (2017)
Single channel digital video
Featuring Michael Butterworth
Text by Fay Ballard
Sound Mix by Simon Connor
Archive Material courtesy of Savoy Books and North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University
Commissioned by HOME Manchester as part of LA MOVIDA 14th Apr – 17 Jul 2017, HOME Manchester
House on the Borderland explores alternative publishing and censorship in Manchester via the history of Savoy Books, a Manchester based publishing house that published a wide array of material from comics and books to small press fiction and alternative paperbacks. Heavily persecuted in the 1970s and 80s, their bookshops were raided and their published content seized by police commissioner James Anderton. The film connects Butterworth’s recollections of The Savoy Wars – a twenty-five year battle with the Manchester police, overlaid with Fay Ballard’s narrative of her father JG Ballard’s creation of an artwork.
House on the Borderland, William Hope Hodgson’s novel of cosmic terror, is the name given to Savoy’s first retail bookshop, opened in Manchester in 1972 and inspired by Derek ‘Bram’ Stokes’ London-based shop, Dark They Were and Golden Eyed. The bookshop set the formula on which others were based, reminiscent of the effervescent world of fanzines and bootleg records populating the streets of 1970s Manchester.
House on the Borderland film stills:
Installation view of House on the Borderland, LA MOVIDA, 14 Apr 2017 – 17 Jul 2017, HOME Manchester
Produced by Katie Popperwell
Camera by Ricardo Vilela from Sagitta Media and Clara Casian
Edited by Clara Casian
Based on testimonies by Valentina Kuprienko, Mykola Dubas, Olha Savotivna, Mrs Volodymyr Kachan, Alexander Sirota, John Roberts
Poetry by Maria Casian
Archival footage sourced from Dovzhenko Centre Kiev, Volodymyr Kuznietsov and North West Film Archive UK
Supported by Arts Council England, HOME Artist Film, University of Salford, Old Granada Studios and Low Four
Birdsong – Stories from Pripyat is a film directed by Clara Casian with original score by Robin Richards. The film is underpinned by nuclear research and incorporates found and previously unseen archival footage with original material filmed on location in Ukraine, while Robin Richards’ original score for piano, strings and synthesisers is based on first hand testimonies of Pripyat residents, liquidators of the Chernobyl plant and evacuees to his hometown of Stockport and nearby Glossop from Ukraine and Belarus. The project combines the immediacy and energy of live music with the magic of cinema, revisiting a dramatic and devastating historical event using personal and scientific narratives to draw out the tensions and truths at play in our collective cultural memory of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Friday 30th September 2016, HOME, 2 Anthony Wilson Place
Friday 7th October 2016, Salford University, Peel Hall
Friday 6th October 2016, Stockport Plaza
Sunday, 9th April 2017, Flatpack Festival, Lyttelton Theatre
Birdsong – Stories from Pripyat: ‘Liquidators’ Chapter
Drawings for Ideas
Drawings for Ideas (2016)
Single Channel Digital Video
Drawings for Ideas is a film produced as part of a group residency in Preston aimed to further investigate and critically respond to the collection of Christopher Joseph Holme (1952 – 2010). Holme was an unknown painter who produced a large body of work throughout his life. Holme studied Fine Art under Professor Kenneth Rowntree at Newcastle University and it was in his second year of study that he first became seriously ill and was diagnosed with and treated for Schizophrenia, a disability that would go on to influence the course of the rest of his life.
As part of the residency I have been invited alongside four creative practitioners such as Lauren Velvick, Alyiah Hussain, Michael Redmond and David Wilkinson to respond to Holme’s remarkable archive comprising of paintings, sketchbooks, diaries and newspaper clippings. The residency culminated in an exhibition at ‘In Certain Places” in Preston and a print publication produced in collaboration with Lisa Lorenz, as a special edition of Nous Magazine.
The project is delivered by Lauren Velvick in partnership with In Certain Places and funded by Arts Council England.
Becoming particularly interested in a series of charcoal drawing that had been labelled as ‘Staff and Patients at Sharoe Green’, Casian has sought an analysis of these works, both from Christopher J Holme’s siblings and a medical professional specialising in psychosis. Casian’s work draws attention to the ways in which such analyses are inevitably inflected with personal bias, and the eagerness of observers to find rational meanings where there may be none. (Text by Lauren Velvick)
A Savoyard’s First Brush with Censorship looks at the context behind the publishing work of M. Butterworth and the early signs of censorship in the 1970’s Manchester, through personal stories, records and archive footage. The film is structured in a ‘cut-up’ fashion as found in the works of William S. Burroughs and the layout options to the likes of Corridor 2, 1971.
Commissioned by The Exhibition Centre for the Life and Use of Books (Robert Carter, Daniel Fogarty, Lauren Velvick,) as a response to the ‘Corridors’, a collection of zines edited and published by Michael Butterworth, more specifically Corridor 2 which saw he first signs of censorship after its publish in 1971.
// OTHER SAVOY COMMISSIONS
Michael Butterworth in Conversation (2015)
Single Channel Digital Video
Michael Butterworth talks with broadcaster and art critic Bob Dickinson about his early childhood and his connections to the speculative sci-fi magazine New Worlds and how his friendship with JG Ballard affected his later writing and publishing career. The film was exhibited at Bury Art Gallery as part of Modern History VOL III, a series of three exhibitions curated by Lynda Morris and supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Commissioned by Contemporary Visual Arts Network North West
Kris Guidio in Conversation (2015)
Single Channel Digital Video
Comics artist Kris Guidio talks with academic Jonathan Barlow about his illustration career for OZ and other underground magazines in the 70’s and his associations with Savoy as the principal artist for La Squab, Lord Horror and Meng & Ecker graphic series.