My latest series of multiscreen digital films, known collectively as Palimpsest, was commissioned by British artist Sarah Kogan for Changing the Landscape, a multimedia visual arts project supported by public funding from The National Lottery through Arts Council England, currently exhibiting in the reading rooms at The National Archives to commemorate the centenary year of The Battle of the Somme.
The films document a journey from Hackney in east London to the battlefields of northern France, tracing the footsteps of Koganâs great uncle, mapmaker Rifleman Barney Griew, of 56th Division, London Rifle Brigade, in an endeavor to represent past events alongside contemporary evidence.
In preparation for making the film I spent a number of weeks studying Barneyâs letters, the content offering a powerful insight into the life of a young First World War private. His thoughts, stories, and testimonies form a cohesive narrative providing a vision of an extraordinary personal odyssey, which began in England and ended in a muddy field in Gommecourt, where Barney Griew was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1Â July 1916).Â Â As well as the rich content, I was drawn to the physical qualities of the correspondence and began filming the letters using a macro lens to get in close to the folds of the paper, the turned up corners and the textures of the pencil line, enhancing the visual elements. The letters became objects in themselves, and when in close up, landscapes in their own right.