Landscape and the Moving Image – The Shadow Narrative​

Catherine Elwes

A blurry video projection of a person in a red shirt against a green landscape reveals brush strokes on the surface of the screen
Guy Sherwin, Paper Landscape (1975-2015), performance, Tate Britain, 15 June 2015.
Reproduced with the kind permission of the artist. Photo: Catherine Elwes.


When writing a book, and a book about the moving image is no exception, an author is often engaged in a parallel narrative that tracks her journey through a quagmire of ethical issues – questions that the final text is designed to resolve, but often does not. Authors, academics in particular, do not like admitting to uncertainties and so the shadow narrative may be suppressed and survive only as an oblique strand in the published volume. I was constantly troubled by dilemmas when writing Landscape and the Moving Image (Intellect) and I found myself hamstrung by my cursed ability to see two if not three sides to every question. On bad days when I had tied myself up in knots of logic, politics and feeling I would leave my desk and head for the hills hoping to clear my head. It was on one of those walks that the parallel narrative crystallised around a local phenomenon in the landscape and the following account records how it sent me into a NIMBY spin, one that reflected problems I was trying to resolve in my writing. Here, I bring to light those hidden conundrums and show how I addressed them, not by espousing the eco-critical theory du jour, but by engaging viscerally with the diverse practices of the landscape film and video I was discovering in the course of my research. The shadow narrative of uncertainties is set out here and my conclusions remain speculative, provisional and, as ever, open to discussion.