Conundrum – Vaughan Pilikian

Conundrum - Vaughan Pilikian

Triple Harvest is a collection of new online video work by Ikran Abdille, Martha Cattell, Amy Cutler, Marie-Chantal Hamrock, Sapphire Goss, Amanda Loomes and Vaughan Pilikian.

As part of our In Steps of Sundew programme, exploring the push and pull between nature and human presence and the effect that extracting resources from the landscape has upon those living within it, the artists were invited to remix four Corby heritage films to create new narratives through the extraction of archival film material. 

Vaughan Pilikian’s Conundrum, named after the Corby-made steel cable reels used in a secret WW2 operation, reworks footage from PLUTO: Corby’s role in making the Pipeline Under The Ocean, The Great Jib, and Iron Ore in Britain.

Vaughan writes “What strikes me most about all of these films is the way they bring back to life an industry of huge and primal forces that contrasts completely with the Britain of today. Steel workers, it seems, were in touch with vast energies”.

On viewing the footage, Vaughan was struck by a scene of a resin-coated girder being stress-tested for the strength of its weld. As the girder is pulled apart in the machine, fine particles of resin fly from its surface, resembling a cloud of moths around a flame at night, before being violently wrenched apart.

Conundrum - Vaughan Pilikian

Conundrum composes a selection of similar scenes which “looked like bits chipped off from the cosmos itself”, evoking the primal forces that link industrial workers to nature’s most destructive and creative forces: heat, pressure, and the making and breaking of fundamental structure.

By magnifying, cropping, mirroring, inverting, decelerating and otherwise reworking these scenes, Vaughan increases the sense of time and scale to “imbue them with a nonhuman energy and power, to endow them with the immensity of geological time … a kind of cosmological narrative: a story of the universe itself.”

Taking snippets from the archive, Vaughan remixes and retreats them to create a soundtrack that conveys a sense of something immersive and numinous.

A spectacle which generates a sense of awe, or perhaps of dread. Vaughan alludes to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as a reference point. Similarly one might substitute Corby and think of the opening credits of Twin Peaks, the factory scenes simmering amongst a small, strange town.

All seven of the Triple Harvest commissions can be viewed here, with a focus on each film published weekly.