The Lockdown has caused me to excavate the rushes I shot in 2008 for my documentary about Nick Papadimitriou, The London Perambulator. It almost feels like an act of ‘Deep Topography’, diving into what Nick describes as ‘storage vats of regional memory’. Here the storage vats are hard-drives of footage shot on a series of walks through Nick’s territory around West and Northwest London – Finchley, Stonebridge Park, Perivale, Feltham, Wormwood Scrubs.
It’s been a strangely comforting and therapeutic experience. It could be the memories of a simpler time, before ‘the virus’. Also a period when I was very much learning how to make a documentary (a process that never ends). There’s the nostalgic aesthetic of Standard Definition video tape as opposed to Ultra High Definition (4K) video clips recorded on a SD card, the camera running as it roves across the landscape looking for a subject to settle on. There’s some good stuff in those out-takes that didn’t make the final cut that premiered in the East End Film Festival at The Whitechapel Gallery in April 2009.
Even though I have more pressing concerns in these troubled times, I can’t help spooling through another clip when I sit down at my computer, finding gems I’d forgotten about, such as Nick talking about a planned prose sequence called ‘In Praise of Industrial Middlesex’. This was shot while we walked through a Wembley Industrial Estate, a place we’ve returned to at least twice since for subsequent projects.
And there’s the murky December day we went to the former site of Ashford Remand Centre, now HMP Bronzefield named after the Bronze Age settlement that was discovered during the building of the state of the art prison. Small references that got lost in the construction of a broader narrative.
I still don’t know what I’m going to make from these clips – I’m enjoying the process of rediscovery too much to impose a framework around it. The initial film was given form by three ‘expert’ interviews with Iain Sinclair, Will Self, and Russell Brand, talking about Nick and his practice. I’m tempted now to just let the footage speaks for itself without explanation.