Cinematic Return to the Point of Trauma

MineCraft - Manvers twin headgear

My first experiments with digital drifting were solitary, escapist, acts of revenge. Stealing back time I was begrudgingly in the process of selling. Recent digital drifts have become collective, a form of research for a future Communism. The solitary drift encourages flights of fantasy or the internal embellishment of personal memories, a pro active form of nostalgia that allows us to rewrite our own history in the manner that our present predicament would prefer. The collective drift is, as Guy Debord noted, more objective. It develops a dynamic of its own. Directions and points of interest emerge from the varied interests of the group. Aspects that would be missed in a solo drift are brought into relief.

As I drift the former Manvers Main complex, I’m situated in Hackney, Google Street View projected on a large screen. Friends drinking green bottles of Stella Artois and chatting, Robin Bale is rolling a cigarette, Laura Oldfield Ford is time travelling back to Denman Road circa 1993, Richard Barnbrook, the advocate of cybernetic communism, has brought his son Arty who is currently being indoctrinated into the cult of Minecraft, a cybernetic cresh has been established as deep rumbles from Alistair McClymont’s home made bass cabs provide a soundtrack of vibrating glass window panes. We are in search of the Manvers Main complex. A complex of mines, linked underground that played a key role in the start of the 1984-5 strike. It was in Manvers’s offices that George Hayes, the South Yorkshire NCB director informed NUM officials of the plan to close Cortonwood Colliery, triggering Yorkshire miners to walk out.

Manvers dominated the landscape. Its presence was insistent, with its huge spoil heaps fed by iron skips suspended from elevated cableways, fires burning in blackened coke ovens, overhead gantries and walkways, huge brick and steel buildings, railway sidings lined with full and empty coal trucks, its signature twin headgears that supported the hoists used to transport workers and materials in and out of the underground mine shafts. The weight and scale of the place dominated your vision but also stained the sky with a constant stream of noxious smoke from the towering chimneystacks.

Recently there’s been a cinematic return to the point of trauma. Two recent films about the miners strike are currently in the cinema, Pride and Still the Enemy Within. Our collective imagination cannot move beyond the strike. We repetitively return to this frozen moment, a psychological fissure that compels us to return in search of a path to the future. But this path cannot be found through a return it must be formed through a REPEAT. Not a flaccid recreation, this remains a copy, further entrenching the trauma. A REPEAT enacts the intensities of the event in its present form, breaking the cycle of return forever.

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The Street View landscape being projected is at odds with the cinematic imagination. I do not know this place! It could be anywhere and nowhere. I track down the original location of one of Manvers twin headgears. One of the original pit wheels is half buried in manicured grass. The site of the mine itself has been drowned, flooded and rebranded as Manvers lake. Street View has its limitations, our view is restricted to the roads, I switch to satellite view and look down on the whole area. A tonsil like jetty of grass stretches into the deflated kidney shaped lake with a path leading to what on first appearances looks like a crop circle. On finer magnification this turns out to be some form of regeneration land art, a monument to the Town of Wath. From the surveilling eye of the satellite we can trace scars in the landscape. A spectral map of former Manvers buildings made visible through disturbance in the vegetation. We are tracing the oblong scares on the earth, but our conversation is tracing alternative possibilities, alter histories and future routes. Manvers lake includes a RSPB reserve and was originally intended to be developed into a country park but has since been sold off for development by TCN UK and is now branded as the Waterfront Development, a 285 acre private redevelopment that includes a boat club, Golf Course and is currently advertising plots for leisure, retail, residential and a range of office and industrial units. Conservation exploited as a method of increasing land values for private developers.

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John Wild

John Wild is a London based artist who works across photography, video, sculpture, code and performance to explore and reimaging the digitally expanded city.

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