Forms of Circulation #1
Paul Stewart and Sarah Perks
Digital transfer from 16mm film, 13mins 12secs, 2023
Developed out of workshops with staff at the advanced biosciences research facility National Horizons Centre, Forms of Circulation explores the wider impact of routine machine processes on their human and non-human recipients. Captured on 16mm colour film, and also shot on location at Teesmouth National Nature Reserve, the film mediates on the labour involved including investigating deadly mouth rot in seal pups and fruit flies’ role in modelling for Parkinson’s disease cures.
Forms of Circulation #1 is also available in an installation and live event format.
With thanks to amazing DoP Christo Wallers.
This is an ongoing project by Paul Stewart and Sarah Perks that uses workshops and 16mm film to create moving image works that communicate specific environments and relationships in new ways. Projects can take place in a variety of locations and with different types of communities, our philosophy is to follow the lead of the people and places involved. Workshops use a variety of methods tailored to groups including creative writing, performance, collective action, creating artworks and karaoke. The series is designed as both a short film for theatrical / festival exhibition and as a multi-channel installation in a gallery with a live event called a ‘seal rave.’
Forms of Circulation takes its title from theorist Jacques Rancière’s Aisthesis(2011), about what we consider to be art and an anti-elitist approach to aesthetics that flattens hierarchies of life and art through the processes of production and reception.
This project continues Sarah’s extensive research into artist film (see Artist Moving Image in Britain since 1989 published by Paul Mellon Centre/Yale University Press), work on socio-economic relations, environmental collaborations (‘Natural Futures’), and her current practical research into filmmaking as a curatorial strategy. This project builds on Paul Stewart’s socially engaged practice using film, performance, and sound on how environments and histories are created and shared (Art, Critical Pedagogy and Capitalism, Routledge 2021, Educational Aesthetics, 2024), and how knowledge can be embodied when working with multiple voices and communities (‘Assemblies of Action’, ‘Gentle Gestures’).
Contact us to discuss commissioning a future Forms of Circulation!
Ten years after Fujifilm stopped making moving image stock, the format is returned to Teesside University’s National Horizons Centre to capture the new forms of machine labour at work across the bioscience labs that include Fujifilm new product development. The film captures the new cycles of advanced technology and visual motifs of tubes, bottles and cabinets, pressure gauges, pipettes and pipes alongside microscopes, freezers and 3D printers, merging 16mm colour static shots with footage from the machine cameras themselves.
This provides a framework to see the laboratory machines and the labour of those who operate and research as art. Analogue film has been implicit in cinematic depictions of work and labour since one of the most famous first films in 1895, Lumiere Brother’s Workers Leaving The Lumière Factory in Lyon, (France), through film cooperatives and science educational films of the 1970s, and into more recent artist-auteurs such as Harun Farocki continuing to document with a self-consciousness of the technology itself. This research-based film continues this tradition of drawing attention to what the technology of filmmaking itself does to labour through its repetitive representation, as well as the juxtaposition of human and non-human.
Alongside capturing the machines and lab scenes at the National Horizons Centre, we workshopped with staff to capture their words on their routines and experiences, and how these might be represented by film genres. Their words have been adapted by us into the poem that on occasion joins the images. In addition, diegetic sounds of these machines and actions were captured for the film’s soundtrack but are not intended to be synched. Staff do not appear in the film but will be able to recognise some of their experiences and presence in the documentary.
The Centre has conducted vital research into mouth rot that is seriously affecting seal pups in the Teesmouth National Natural Reserve, a population of Harbour and Grey seals that only returned to the industrial estuary in the 1980s, and whose numbers have been slowly raising since then. We think about how healthcare needs to cover not just people, but our whole natural environment, too often science is divided into work for people and work for everything and one else. Going forward the two are inseparable, as is the role of technology.
Recent research (Max Planck Society, 2022) has also indicated that seals have a sense of rhythm similar to that of humans - it has evolved and does not require training - with seal pups responding longer to faster or more rhythmically regular ‘beats.’ Hence our inclusion of the 90s dance track, and the extended installation version of the short film is also designed to turn into a 90s rave live event!
Paul Stewart and Sarah Perks are filmmakers and curators based in the North East of England. They regularly collaborate on workshop and film-based projects and work in collectives including The Ignorant Art Schools (both), Gentle Gestures (Paul) and Freedom Women Collective (Sarah). Sarah has worked extensively in artist film including as writer, producer, distributor and programmer, and is known for expanded and international exhibitions with artists from Rachel Maclean to David Lynch. Paul co-founded the Middlesbrough Art Weekender in 2017, and has developed works and community projects across the UK and Europe including commissions from the Hatton Gallery, The Newbridge Projects, Tate, BALTIC, ZdHk, Circa Projects, MHKA. Both have screened films at multiple festivals including Rotterdam International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival and Edinburgh International Film Festival. And they both are senior researchers at Teesside University and based at MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art).
Director of Photography
Cinelab Film and Digital, London
Kodak 16mm Vision3 500FT
National Horizons Centre
And all the staff and machines
School of Health and Life Sciences
School of Arts and Creative Industries
Technical equipment team
Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA)
And all the MIMA team
Tees Valley Nature Partnership
Natural England / TERN
Centre for Culture and Creativity
and the seals of Sealsands
© Paul Stewart and Sarah Perks 2023
Copyright © 2023 Forms of Circulation