An idyllic river flows through a forest, flashes
of light and colour threaten to erase the image, bursts of short
wave radio and static invade the tranquillity of the natural sound.
The camera searches amongst the craggy rocks and ruined buildings
of a bleak and windswept snowscape, a Geiger counter chatters
ominously in the background. The sky is overcast at first but
gradually clears to reveal a sky of unnatural cobalt blue....
This film is made in three sections, each leading
towards the final abstraction, and each resembling a search for
meaning and order amidst a plethora of electronic, chemical and
mechanistic information. Space in Sky Light is both highly
compressed and volatile; the film challenges the notion of its
own form, ending in a beautiful but violent abstraction in which
only nature and technology remain.
"The unseen is no longer playfully negotiated
but instead threatens cataclysm in Welsby's latest film, Sky
Light. Welsby, who is English, calls the film "post
Chernobyl"—it was shot 48 hours after the disaster was
announced. Echoing Adorno's dictum on the impossibility of
poetry after the Holocaust,
Welsby stated at his Millennium screening that "it is not
possible to look at landscapes in the same way after Chernobyl."
For Welsby, the accident means that his film project - which
he (mistakenly) labels a "cool and distant area of research"
- has become "emotional and keyed."
"Sky Light begins where his earlier
films leave off, with beautifully composed images of nature.
sense of urgency and immediacy, however, conveyed by the introduction
of sound and camera movement, soon indicates a profound shift
in Welsby's formalist project. As in Ernie Gehr's Signal—Germany
on the Air, the radio noise and voices speaking in several
make apparent the hidden danger masked by the benign imagery.
Sky Light ends, not with another English landscape, but
with pure white and the crackle of a Geiger counter. The visible
is longer a guarantee of absolute knowledge." Village
Voice April 25th 1989 NYC
Made with assistance from the Arts Council of Great Britain.
Sound Realization - Jolyon Forward.