Geological filmmaking: seeing geology through film and film through geology
Peer-reviewed article in Transformations no. 32, special issue on ‘Ecological Thinking of the Moving Image’, eds. Warwick Mules and John Charles Ryan, 2018
In this article I consider the aesthetic dimension of cinema in conversation with the material dimension of the geology that subtends it, in order to propose the concept and the practice of ‘geological filmmaking’ as a strategy for tackling the perceptual challenges posed by the ecological crisis and the Anthropocene. Geological filmmaking emerges from the understanding that the form and content of any film, and thus the perceptual and durational experience it engenders, are rooted in geological materiality. Geology concerns itself with matter as much as process, dealing with mountains and molecules as much as with sedimentation and erosion and, thus, with time itself. In this way we can already think of geology as a film in slow motion, and of land formations as films of their own making: what they are in the current moment also includes the trace of their making. Expanding the material side of this metaphor we can triangulate geology as being constituted simultaneously by land formations as they are in the current moment, the mineralogical materials that they are formed of, and the ongoing processes that have formed them and are forming them. A film can itself be triangulated as being constituted by all the images and sounds that it consists of, the material support it is stored upon (be it analogue or digital), and the temporal experience it engenders when watched. Both geology and film are thus contained in the contingency of form, materiality and temporality. With geological filmmaking the imperative becomes to think all three aspects of geology through all three aspects of film, an imperative that shapes the structure of this article, which progresses by an analysis of two of my own practice-research film projects: one on sinkholes and one on asbestos.
Previous iterations of this text were presented as:
Geological Filmmaking: Agential Matter and Evidential Fiction
Invited lecture as part of Object! Documentary as Art, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK, 2017
Geological Filmmaking and Missing Land
Conference paper at Space and Cinema conference, University of Lisbon, Portugal, 2016