‘Spit That Out’: North West artist film programme captures joy of experimentation

HOME Manchester’s annual PUSH Festival pulls in established and emerging creative talent from all over the North West, promoting an ethos of  experimenting within an environment where audiences are primed for the unexpected. In upholding such spirit came  Spit That Out, an evening of five short films from artists with strong ties to the North West.

The title implies unpalatability, but as the lights in HOME’s Marina cinema ushered the evening’s closure, what I had seen was anything but hard to swallow. Whether curator Bren O’Callaghan’s intent or not, each film offered an entirely distinct and refreshing meditation on the possibilities of film as an artistic tool. As a collective entity, the works exuded a resistance against an industry which can appear technically intimidating and financially unworkable, underlying the potential for film to be as flexible and as DIY as theatre and visual art. For the audience, the films offered a welcome departure from cinema imbued with a formulaic dosage of the predictable and ‘satisfying’, in turn stretching imaginations.

Notable mention goes to Northern Lights by Chris Paul Daniels which beckoned the room to engross in an eerie, hypnotic collection of grainy film footage from Blackpool Pleasure Beach. The images were layered with the ghostly narration of a commentator from a future reality. The voice presented the visuals as integral clues towards a scientific discourse on the state of the world in our current climate, equating what we know as fun and frivolous to something sacred and essential. The poetic speech from the voice combined clever wordplay to subtly mention Brexit’s devise politics without labouring the point about the fixture of turbulent chaos. The film’s synthesis of nostalgic imagery and a creeping soundtrack accumulated to create an unsettling dreamworld full of dark and light.

Screen Grab was created as an extension of Darren Nixon’s eight week exhibition which took place in HOME’s gallery space. His paintings and sculptures consist of playful colours and geometric shapes, manipulated into an animation and performance combined with a lively soundtrack. As I watched the work flicker from frame to frame, admittedly I initially found myself longing for a sense of narrative, before easing into an appreciation of the simple aesthetic principles of Nixon’s work. Shots of Nixon performing amongst his art and the movement of his paintings provided a vibrant alternative to a gallery space dominated by the stipulation of being untouched.

Overwhelmingly different was Sois de Traca’s Spines: a charming yet dark exploration of doubt and isolation told through the viewpoint of a hedgehog. The central character is lost in a confusing mish-mashed world of colour, projection, lashes of paint and cut outs, which switch between quirky and imperfect to finely detailed. One could watch it over and over and unearth new meaning within – a true testament to the creative potential animation offers.

The stunning cinematography and soaring, ethereal score of Christopher Tym’s Sod-Mushroom Trip stood out as an account of the creation of an episode of Kristinn Guðmundsson’s cooking show. Tym tries to haphazardly re-work a collection of bizarre footage of the TV chef’s trip to Malta, kneading an originally surreal and trippy mess of concepts into something much more introspective. The result? A highly original, comical and strangely dreamy piece of documentary film.

Last but certainly not least was Katie Usher’s piece of documentary film/visual diary The Photo Album. The film includes Usher’s painstaking research into the history of the photographs she found in an antiques shop. Usher’s discovery of the handsome, smiling men in the grainy black and white images reveals a much darker portrait of colonialism in South Africa. Via poetic narration, it speaks great truths about our romanticisation of the past and the perils of misinterpreting an image without sufficient information.

It was fantastic to see a collection of films which weren’t acting competitively, but could be appreciated in their own right. It would be impossible and frankly reductive to compare works so diverse in form and content. None seemed particularly big budget, hence evoking a particularly unifying, almost utopian feeling that anything is possible. Spit that Out created a platform to share and discover unique and important voices within art and film making. I hope for creativity’s sake that this will not be a one-off affair.

Make sure to visit HOME’s website for upcoming events