29 APRIL – 3 MAY

The Crumple Zone brings together nine recent moving-image works from a range of writers, poets, filmmakers, sound artists, photographers and visual artists in the Scottish Borders and South of Scotland. Named after a line in Jules Horne’s Unconformity, the programme presents a snapshot of tectonic movement, capturing the perceptible and imperceptible rhythms of geological time, meteorological shifts, graveyards, vocal expression, bodily gesture and rurality.

Listen to a conversation between each of this programme’s artists and one of Alchemy’s Directors, Michael Pattison.

A transcript of this conversation can also be read here.

by Alix Rothnie

A series of geopoetic contemplations embedded in the landscapes of Southern Scotland diverge and converge around myth, lost love, ancient worlds and elemental intimacy. In becoming with the violence, peace and lore of Scotland, each film in this programme presents a reconciliation of time, in its grand procession – the fault lines of history reverberating into contemporary consciousness. 

Up with the lark and in the silent reverie of a still morning, Sue ThomasMist is content too serve the slow rolling of mist in the valleys, and the soggy earthly haze hanging in the damp air. As landscapes dissolve past, fade and re-emerge, crows balance and bow in greeting to a new day – a tactile vision of comfort, fragility and the magic of the early hours. 

From a gaze towards hilltops that sink into distance, to the intense gaze of a cat: in Rue du Dernier Adieu, Dumfriesshire-based Mark Lyken observes the daily routines of Tokyo’s Yanaka Cemetery. As time unfolds for the cats and the crows, their narratives within the city are given limelight – creatures who slink, dart and hop instinctively through the nooks and around the corners of this concrete playground. They see when no one is looking. 

Fragments of Hebridean folksong are uttered at the ghostly lands of the Isle of Skye in Emerge Like Wraiths by Richard Skelton. In transit through this mighty landscape, the view is veiled, diffusive, shadowy and incoherent, shrouded inlayers of distorted image and water-strewn glass – a feeling of simultaneously being apart from a place and dwelling within it. 

Such longing also pervades Sukjin Kim’s Kashiri (가시리) 2020, as lovers depart and re-connect, look back and contemplate reunion. Trains of bridal white cloth extend from two bodies and become pathways ­– of past lives and future possibilities – painting symbols into the land as paths align, bind together or pass by. In a ritual of movement, the film presents the magnetic energy and inescapable pull of attraction. 

A dream of lang deid ancient sea creatures swimming in watery worlds permeates the Scots tongue of playwright Jules Horne’s Unconformity. Southern Scotland’s origins began at the ocean floor – of sedimentary rocks formed in the deep seas, thrust to the surface. In the film, elemental substances collide, components of image replicating processes of geological shift. Aerial shots of twists in the ‘tentacled’ Tweed basin speak to the influence of deep-time histories within contemporary landscape, the slow crumpling of rock and the eeriness of human-induced conformity. 

In contrasting serenity, Hawick-based photographer Douglas McBride presents Findhorn in glorious close-up and warming tones – the minute erosions of a piece of dried Marram grass gently brushing a line in the sand to the sounds of distant raging seas. The unrelenting elemental processes of the seas and winds and the perpetual motionof all things is reflected in amplified delicacy.

From earthly crusts to the ends of a wholemeal loaf: in Crusts, James Wyness fixates on leftover toastPresenting top-down close-ups of yellowy fat and bite-marks, the film’s repetition of daily routine crosses into a dizzying pattern as these remnants abstract into dancing shapes amongst flowery plates and tartan wipe-clean tablecloths – an obsessive spiral mirroring the mounting ambivalences of a frustrated parent. 

With haunting rumbling and ringing, Mooie Scott’s Overturn homes in on forest pools – water freezes the final motionless forms of leaves, as the bare branches of trees nearing winter interlace in a pool’s reflections and ripples. Overlapping patterns of the forest arcing overhead melt into dreamy illuminations and fluid motions, the water’s surface mirroring the sky, all the while concealing its depths. Ina crescendo of sound, the essence of the forest transfigures into an uneasy disquiet. 

Heightening the senses further, Whispers of Waiting by Jane Houston Green is a discovery of the ‘magic things’ – feet meet the damp earth as a bell tolls, textures and detail of raindrops on umbrellas and hair in the glowing sun, rock orbiting from the past and sculpted by the hand of the present. Figures rest in wait. To what end is less clear. 

Being in the borderlands and dwelling at the edges or peripheries, land becomes debatable and fraught with rivalry. Remnants of the past haunt these films, prevailing in the strata of today. As they each navigate through possibilities of time, perhaps the ground beneath our feet can whisper an answer to the uncertainty of the future. 

Alix Rothnie is an artist, curator and writer based in Scotland, graduate of MSc Modern and Contemporary Art: History, Curation and Criticism from the University of Edinburgh, and currently works as Engagement Coordinator with Alchemy Film & Arts. Recently, she has been artist in residence with Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre (Outer Hebrides) and Town Collection Curator with Deveron Projects (Aberdeenshire). Her moving-image work has shown at the Royal Scottish Academy (Edinburgh), Geumgang Nature Art Biennale (South Korea), LaValée (Brussels) and Tate Exchange (London). As a writer, she has been commissioned by the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (Devon), the Imago Mundi Project (Italy), the Society of Scottish Artists (Edinburgh) and has published online through Curating the Contemporary.


Mist – Sue Thomas – 6’40 – Scotland – 2020
Rue du Dernier Adieu – Mark Lyken – 3’54 – Scotland – 2020
Emerge Like Wraiths – Richard Skelton – 3’52 – Scotland – 2020
Kashiri 2020 – Sukjin Kim – 7’07 – Scotland – 2020
Unconformity – Jules Horne – 4’55 – Scotland – 2021
Findhorn – Douglas McBride – 6’26 – Scotland – 2019
– James Wyness – 3’09 – Scotland – 2021
Overturn – Mooie Scott – 4’42 – Scotland – 2020
Whispers of Waiting – Jane Houston Green – 6’02 – Scotland – 2020

Total runtime: 49′

Title image: Rue du Dernier Adieu, Mark Lyken, 2020; insert: Kashiri 2020, Sukjin Kim, 2020