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The Futurist

Paul Rooney

UK, 2008
25 minutes, Colour, Stereo
Available formats: DVD / Digibeta tape / SD Digital file

In a dark, apparently derelict cinema, Tony, an amateur Liverpool comedian, chats with other comics in the ticket queue and the bar. He talks of his recent visits to his past life regression therapist, and tells some of the jokes he has written about it. At various points the other male and female comics in the cinema relay messages to Tony from an unknown and unseen man who is trying to contact him. This man wants Tony to ‘stay out of other people’s business’ or he will ‘get hurt’. There is clearly something unpleasant that Tony has stumbled on at some time in his past, something that he is impelled to uncover further, despite the risks. Will Tony’s past catch up with him before he does?

This work presents fragments of various film-noir style scenarios and images which explore the deeply unsettling power of the past – in both a historical and a psychological sense – to undermine the comfort of the present. The stories the characters tell each other – misremembered film plots, accounts of past lives – never seem to fit together or resolve themselves, and involve Indonesian fishermen, dead Africans and magical ethnographic objects, hinting at Liverpool’s importance to the slave trade and Britain’s colonial project. The work explores the nature of the immersive cinema experience, and the possibilities for a somnambulistic kind of cinema viewing, one that is engaged but distant and dissipated at the same time, allowing the cinema’s cloistered ‘eternal present’ to be disrupted (not unlike the way our everyday present can be disrupted by the past). ‘The Futurist’ is both the name of the real derelict cinema where the piece was filmed and an ironic comment on the persistence of the past to dictate our ‘stumble backwards through life into the future’.

Commissioned by Tate Liverpool.