Microclimate - short film & installation

The short film was used as part of an installation re-creating a microcosm of the trapped-in-time political impasse of Mugabe's oppressive and insular regime. I used an old black and white tv from 1978 to play the film on; in the period cabinet upon which it sat, there was a hidden DVD player, routed into an old VHS player to send the signal into the TV via the old connector on the rear. 


This work explores passive reactions to political plight and social unrest as illustrated by the tumultuous regime of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. The piece explores the way that political domination can lead to the isolation of dictatorial figures, leading to the creation of a self-sustained "microclimate" of existence, wherein the surrounding climate of turmoil and unhappiness is willfully dismissed. In this case the extent of the denial leads to the main protagonist and staunch supporters becoming mired in the past; the leader is still the liberator from oppression decades before, a perpetual, omnipresent hero.

The film comprises multiple video timelines; alternate realities co-exist: the leader, happy, smiling, whilst onto and around his central image is projected the ongoing situation in Zimbabwe, including atrocities such as "Operation Clear Out the Trash". We watch as the disparity continues and the central figure is presented with a watered down version of events: the version which is presented with lessening success to the rest of the world; as we in turn create our own shelters of well-being and lack of concern for such far-removed crises.

In the film, I wanted to created a wall which gradually builds around the increasingly isolated leader as the timeline progresses. Planning to do this with liquid freezing into solid blocks to form the enclosure, I decided that rather than software compositing footage of ice melting in reverse, it would look much more organic and convincing to actually film the ice under a projection of the film, hence the step-ladder and stacked table combo I made, shown here, to simultaneously project and film the video.

So, I needed to work out how long a constructed wall of ice cubes would take to melt on the heated floor. On the second run-through, with the aid of fan heater and hair dryer, it took 25 minutes – about 5 times the length of the film. So, to get the ice to melt to liquid over the length of the film, I needed to make the film last 25 minutes. The frame rate of the film is 30 per second, so I needed to save a new version of the film, slowed down to 6 frames per second and reversed so that the ice appears to freeze. I edited the film accordingly, burned this to a new DVD, then hooked that up to the projector, which was then mounted between the tables and the step-ladders rig to project directly down onto and around the ice enclosure, creating a frame-space within the film. The film then plays in backward, slowed down version, onto the melting ice for the next 25 minutes, being simultaneously film with the HD camera mounted on the step-ladders.

So, after the film reached its slow-mo start and the floor was very wet, I took the footage back to my computer to see whether my head had worked it out right, and if it looked right. I streamed the 25 minutes of footage back onto the hard drive. I reversed the frames, then increased the frame rate to the original 30fps and waiting for the processors to crunch it. And it came out right! The water can be seen moving and forming into a barrier along the timeline of the film. I love it when a plan comes together.