Country: UK
Duration: 15 mins
Colour: Colour
Available Format/s: HD Digital File
Original Format: 35mm Film
  • Capitalism
  • Human Condition
  • Landscape
  • Poetry
  • Politics and protest

CROWTRAP is a documentary fiction work by Callum Hill. Weaving together the lives of two men, this short film draws upon their individual dealings with fire to expand across themes such as pyromania, anarchy, radicalism and enlightenment.Since 1989, seventy-nine pieces of the original Berlin wall have formed the contained space of a coal yard in Prenzlauer Berg, East Berlin. Born in the GDR, the man who created and runs this charged site has a particularly haunted relationship to the fragments of history; the enclosure protects the pieces of coal like a dormant volcano. Through a fictionalised portrayal, Hill parallels this man’s story with that of a heather burner in North Yorkshire, who witnessed the Piper Alpha Disaster of 1988. The dissonance within what he does now is perhaps the crux of this visually-led psychological study of how we, as humans, engage with the past.Hill’s engagement with these two central characters is framed by the real-life narrative of Mary Richardson, the Canadian suffragette and serial arsonist. Richardson is notorious for entering London’s National Gallery in 1914 and slashing Velázquez’s painting, the Rokeby Venus, as a protest against the government’s ‘destruction’ of fellow suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Conflating the ‘artistic as well as moral and political humbug and hypocrisy’ that fuels state-led oppression, the contemporary resonance of this historical event is drawn upon by Hill in a gesture to the UK’s current political climate and its imminent withdrawal from the EU. Itself embedded with contradiction – Richardson later went on to head the women’s section of the British Union of Fascists – her story highlights the uncomfortable proximity of revolution and freedom to radicalism and authoritarianism.The ‘wall’ is a recurring motif within CROWTRAP: the fragments of the Berlin coal yard, the walls of fire cutting through the moors of heather, the slashed back of Venus, and the cage that houses the film’s eponymous bird. Hill shifts this image from one of containment, even entrapment, to a metaphor for the mind and an object with political agency. The energy of fire – its ability to destroy, seduce, control, galvanise and enlighten – becomes the counterpart tension to Hill’s narrative, the erratic movement of which is guided by the artist herself. Her presence as both a narrator and character within CROWTRAP is key to the film’s folding and unfolding across times and spaces that are both real and imagined.


More works by Callum Hill

, 2017
5 Minutes

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