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View (1970)

Courtesy of William Raban

Main image of View (1970)
16mm, 4 min, colour
DirectorWilliam Raban

Alternating real-time and speeded-up views of an English riverbank on a wet winter's day.

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View reflects William Raban's early and continuing interest in working with landscape and nature. In the time since producing these early works, Raban has acquired a reputation as one of the most singularly important artists to work in this area. View was followed by other landscape-based experimental works, including River Yar (1971-72, made with Chris Welsby), Colours of This Time (1972), Broadwalk (1972), Sunset Strips (1975), Canal Incidents (1975).

View explores how to document landscape and nature and draws attention to the processes that enable the recording to take place. It presents a muddy riverbank and a changing tide, but playback alternates between real time and a faster speed, exaggerating the river's motion and fluctuating the light levels to present it to us in a wholly new way. The erosion of the riverbank presents evidence of tide and time, and here we can see such things in a way only possible in film.

Further dynamics are revealed with the inclusion of discernable speech in the real time sections. Now the 'timelessness' of nature - the static, unchanging landscape - is located within the specific moment that the film was made. Changes in the air and atmosphere when the speed changes sound like a chord progression which, combined with the dappling of the water, creates something approaching a melody.

The camera maintains a fixed position in its presentation of the landscape, as if mimicking the view from a birdwatcher's hide - another manmade structure which enables us to get closer to nature but also creates a barrier. In this instance, however, the changes in speed undermine any illusions that we are witnessing an unmediated image: it is a filmic experience and not a simple re-presentation of a landscape.

The title, View, both draws our attention to the experience of watching the film and makes us think about the pleasure of the countryside. A 'view' is normally thought of in terms of a 'good view', but this sight is flat, muddy and foggy. Raban has said that he is not interested in the romance of the image but instead what it is to record it - he was engaged with deconstructing images and took an almost scientific approach to his work at this time - and these notions are reflected here.

William Fowler

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Video Clips
Complete film (4:12)
Raban, William (1948-)