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Meta Incognita: Missive II

Alia Syed

UK, 2019
53 minutes, Colour, Stereo, 16:9
Original format: HD video
Available formats: HD Digital file
Meta Incognita: Missive II

Meta Incognita: Missive II is the second in a triptych of films that utilise different histories along and within the River Thames: from Milbank Prison, to Foulness Island, to an Indian sword looted during the early days of British colonial expansion. Each ‘Missive’ responds to a different history. 

Set in the near future, Meta Incognita: Missive II is built around the audio log of a renegade female captain of a ship smuggling an illegal commodity from the Artic to England via the North West Passage.

Recorded in real time, each 20 minute shot documents tidal currents, wind patterns and the setting and rising of the sun, within the backdrop of public information bulletins derived from the Twitter account of the international arms manufacturer QinetiQ. 

The island is one of the most rigidly controlled and regulated zones in the country, this refusal to allow access or development also means it remains a very open and wild space. In the film this dichotomy has evolved to form the basis of a dystopian future; namely that the only open (wild) spaces that we will have in the future will be those controlled by privatised military companies.  

The land, its politics, and the way in which the communities living on and around the island have normalised this surreal situation is very compelling, and a large portion of the narration is derived from the language and phrases recorded during interviews carried out with local inhabitants.  The formal device of a ships log is culled in part from the actual log of The MV Nunavik, which in 2014 successfully completed a round trip from Canada’s Deception Bay through the North West Passage without an escort from icebreakers, to the port of Bayuquan in China. 

The natural rhythms of the location serve as a nexus for observations in sound and writing bringing together the traces of wind, water, and light; stories excavated from strata of lands plundered, now gasping for respite.