12 Stone 4 (16mm film, sound, 24 mins, 1989)
12 Stone 4 made in collaboration with Brendan Byrne revises our masculinized British social history and collective amnesia by a retelling of his-story from the industrial revolution to the present (1989).
Using ‘film as film’ processed imagery, in-camera montage, live special effects, archive footage and parodies of British social film history 12 Stone 4 makes connections with the tradition of revolutionary and counter –revolutionary impulses that repeat across time from the Luddite rebellions, the 50s ‘You have never had it’ Welfare state, the Swinging 60s ‘Blow Up’ London to the new Victorianism of the 80s and the corporate fears of the mob.
12 Stone 4 film production stills
12 Stone 4 is a film that intuitively responded to the establishment’s engineered populist regression to a form of 19 Century authoritarianism that characterised the backward drift to the right in the Eighties. 12 Stone 4 sets out to play up the historical traditions behind this depressive ‘new’ moral climate fostering a bleak individualism, social atomization and a culture of market forces and martial laws.
Referencing the stilted black and white elegance of Gainsborough films’ 1940s British historical dramas the film parodies the birth of the Industrial revolution and the story of Arkwright, a barber turned entrepreneur who is famed for developing the water frame and the factory system and the subsequent social trauma and resistance.
With the exuberant Luddite and Swing revolts we see the collective anima rising through the waters to take a breath – smiling and beautiful. But, this breakthrough is soon contained and drained. The revolutions lose their force -the revolutionary slogan ‘Swing forever’ becoming a doomed prophecy for the gallows on a prison ship.
The Swinging theme links with the 60s London’s myth of social change. The end point of this His story comes with the rise of the de-regulated City- the secret state’s behind the new conservatism and its joyless greed and, in particular, Finance Capital’s mean predilection for the political and psychic privatisation of public life.