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Strange Tides – Living Roots Micro Festival

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer and Director: Chaos Collective

The Living Roots Micro Festival is the offshoot of the successful Living Record online festival held earlier this year. The current festival is presenting more experimental works than the original one, which already had a broad remit. Expect poetry, surrealism and binaural experiences. Strange Tides is a mixture of all three, and while ambitious, may leave the viewer puzzled.

Chaos Collective are Rafael Diogo, Gemma Rogers and Cary Crankson, and together they have crafted a film depicting seascapes over which verse is recited examining the pull of the moon on the sea’s tide. Rogers and Crankson read the poetry well, but even though they dispense with haughty poetic voices, delivering the words in everyday tones, they can’t escape the abstract writing. What are you supposed to do with the lines: ‘I entwine myself in the tentacles of an octopus/ And I receive the blackest kiss from my memory’?

Strange Tides works best when the subject matter is easier to grasp. The sea cannot resist the moon’s gravitational tug and why should it when the moon ‘tastes of flapjacks and the first signs of spring’? But more often the words’ meanings are dense rather than deep, and while it is useful to see the words on screen, Strange Tides looks a lyric video you’d likely find on YouTube.

The film only lasts 25 minutes but there is quite a lot of repetition. Refrains can help bind a long poem, but here whole sections are repeated, and their reiteration brings little to the overall performance unless Chaos Collective are trying to replicate the tide’s two daily high waters. Perhaps.

The words are accompanied by a soundtrack of plinking piano and moody sax, but the noises of the seas are disappointingly sparse, and only the images of sea creatures ground the film in its subject. Oddly, for a film about the ocean, the section near the end talking about city streets and No 52 buses is the most effective in connecting with the audience. At last the voices speak of things that have definition, a world that we recognise.

Strange Tides would perhaps work better in a gallery, in a specially darkened room where the viewer could walk in and out as they pleased, and where the sounds would follow them to other parts of the gallery’s space. Like saltwater, Strange Tides should seep slowly: on the computer screen it seems too brash and, ultimately, too abstract.

The Living Roots Micro Festival runs here until 17 April 2021

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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