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Celestial Navigation

John Smith

UK, 1980
10 minutes, Colour, mag stripe
Available formats: 16mm

Celestial Navigation could be seen to work in the tradition of British landscape film in that it incorporates a natural element (the Earths rotation) into the structure of the film. Filmed in the course of one day on a beach the film uses pan and tilt movements to follow the shadow of a spade and retain its vertical position in the frame. As in other of John Smiths films. there are elements which can be intellectually measured as variances and towards a deciphering of the construction of the film, but these are not keys to the viewing of the work and the films are in no way puzzles to be reconstructed in the mind after viewing. Many peripheral elements come into the film adding humour to an otherwise near scientific exercise. The tide comes in, a sandcastle is built and washed away, a cyclist crosses the scene, which all works to incorporate human presence without denying the original strategy. The changes of colour , light and sound signify also different sets of variances and give the film an aesthetic pleasure in conjunction with the reading of the system. – Michael Maziere , John Smiths Films: Reading the Visible, Undercut 10/11.