Where You Had Been Films by Nick Collins, Peter Todd and Margaret Tait

This programme at MK Gallery originally screened in Norwich in May 2012.

A quest for the core of things, these six films circle the phenomenal and essential.

Framed by two luminous works by the Orcadian poet Margaret Tait which summon the wild and elemental, films by Peter Todd and Nick Collins by contrast tackle the resolutely quotidian, bounded spaces of the domestic interior and the garden, yet in doing so reveal the wonder within; a world of enchantment.

Margaret Tait
UK, 1974, 4’, colour, sound, 16mm

“Touches on elemental images. Air, water (and snow), earth, fire (and smoke), all come into it. For sound there’s a drawn out musical sound, single piano notes and some neutral sounds.” — M.T.

Where You Had Been
Peter Todd
UK, 2005, 3’, colour, silent, 16mm

“Images of the interior of a house and three short handwritten messages.” — P.T.

Three Short Films

Nick Collins
UK, 2006, 7’, colour, silent, 16mm

Early Morning, Bathroom Mirror and Cat & Flyscreen were filmed between 2000 and 2004, and printed at the end of 2005. The three films, grouped for screening together, document – and at times develop further – small-scale events within my domestic surroundings; all three are dependent on low-angle winter light and its ability to transfigure surfaces and spaces.” — N.C.

Dark Garden
Nick Collins
UK, 2011, 8’30, b/w, silent, 16mm

The filmmaker’s garden in winter: skeletal and silvery plants and their supports appear out of the black of screen in a series of filmic epiphanies.

Dark Garden was filmed in winter 2009/10 and completed towards the end of 2011. The film is eight-and-a-half minutes long and silent, shot in 16mm for screening on film only.” – N.C.

We Saw
Peter Todd
UK, 2009, 4’, colour, silent, 16mm

At home, we saw, through the windows, and snow, and wind, and sun, and the garden, and flowers in a vase…
We Saw continues Peter Todd’s enquiry into domestic spaces – the garden, in particular – and the revelatory power of seeing the known world afresh. As though a search for the essence of things, the film is a gradual clearing, in shy and understated form, of the mundane or quotidian to reveal the wonder within—even within this house, this garden.

The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo
Margaret Tait
UK, 1955, 7, colour, sound, 16mm

“An entracing ‘translation’ into film of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo. The theme is a common one in this most difficult and yet most transparently simple of all poets: all things lovely and young are doomed inevitably to decay and death – nothing can keep them away. Yet (comes back the golden echo from the grayness of the lamentation) having once existed they can never pass away: beauty is gathered and stored in granaries beyond corruption. Every film artist who attempts to interpret such a poem will do it in her own different way. I found Margaret Tait’s choice of individual images extraordinarily moving and evocative: the flowers, the children, the wrinkles in the mirror…” —George Mackay Brown, The Orcadian, 13 December 1979


‘A writer whose openness of mind, voice and structure all come from the Beats maybe, and Whitman crossed with MacDiarmid, but then cut their own original (and crucially female) path. A remarkable critical forerunner, a unique and underrated filmmaker, there’s nobody like her.’ – Ali Smith on Margaret Tait

“The kind of cinema I care about is at the level of poetry – in fact, it has been in a way my life’s work making film poems.” – Margaret Tait

See here for biographies of the artists, and here for the accompanying essay.

Co-curated by the artists, with Adam Pugh. Many thanks to both Peter Todd, Nick Collins and to Simon Wright, MK Gallery.