Journal And Remarks

Journal And Remarks


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Journal And Remarks is 700 shots, each apparently of 29 frames, cutting between footage of the Galapagos and pages of Darwin's 1839 version of the text that became A Voyage Of The Beagle, the autobiographical auxiliary to On The Origin Of Species. Journal And Remarks is also remarkably tedious for a 15 minute run-time.

The Galapagos sections have an aged air to them, like cine footage from the Apollo era. The text itself is clear enough, slowly panning across the printed page, the diagrams and discoveries. The wildlife, landscape, fascinating; the words intriguing, revolutionary; the film maddening, frustrating.

Copy picture

The film is at least pretty, aging paper and possibly aged film, some of the footage seemingly identical to that seen in What Part Of The Earth Is Inhabited (After Pliny The Elder). That may be because it's both difficult and expensive to get there, and there's plenty of stock footage to mine, or it may be because as distinct as The Galapagos are they do very much look like themselves.

It's not actually tedious. That's retroactive petulance. In truth, the peril of encountering a work deprived of essential context is that it can't receive a fair hearing. What one expects from a work is that it will be self-contained, but Journal And Remarks (perhaps ironically) seems to require notes and explanation aplenty. What grates is that the film cannot stand alone, but more so that even with support it falters.

Shown as part of the Black Box programme at EIFF 2010, this is, according to the notes, Da Vinci inspired, but that is incomplete; not an inaccuracy, but a detail that sheds no real light. The fact that it has no credits suggests it is intended as a video installation, kept company by explicatory printed material in a perspex menu-holder, or at least with a plaque affixed to its vitrine.

Director David Gatten's website does provide some information, however. In Da Vinci's notebooks are instructions 916-918, which concern themselves with the division of time, ending with "Divide an hour into 3000 equal parts."

That Gatten's work is 15 minutes long would suggest 750 equal parts, but we get 700. It's a tiny thing, probably inconsequential, but it can't be noticed without these ancillary instructions, without more information. That's one of the perils, of course, of exhibition, of a work released into the wilds. There might be something in that about the misunderstanding of Darwin's seminal work, the misconstruing and anthropomorphisms and justification of prejudices attendant, but it would be charitable to suggest that that aspect was intentional.

What is intended, it seems, from the repetitive aspects, the switches from penned depictions of flora, fowl, and fauna to their ferned, feathered, and furred inspirations is something about patterns, about processes, about perception. What can't be shaken, indeed, is highlighted as much by the repeated focus on the real as by the degree of artifice. Film is ever something constructed, but Journal And Remarks is so studied, even sophisticated, that it becomes territory one would not seek to map.

Reviewed on: 22 Sep 2010
Share this with others on...
Images from the Galapagos intermingle with pages from Darwin's book A Voyage Of The Beagle.
Amazon link

Director: David Gatten

Year: 2009

Runtime: 15 minutes

Country: US


EIFF 2010

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Trees Of Syntax, Leaves Of Axis