Island hopping

We’ve travelled from one very small island, Lots Ait, just 500m long in the River Thames in West London, to Visby, Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea some 160 km long, for our next episode of Difference Screen.

For centuries Gotland was a strategic trading and military position in the Baltic and made its wealth as one of the Hanseatic Ports – a trading post midstream of trade routes between Baltic ports, including Gdansk, Hamburg and Novgorod, and as far as the east coast of England. For us, a strategic point for ‘trading’ international artists’ films – and exchanging thoughts and experiences with people here.

medieval port 2
medieval port 1
Medieval port, Gotland

Visby is a walled medieval town, with very few cars, and serenely quiet after London. The sea creates an expansiveness and a special light which seems to illuminate the shadows and intensify colours here, making the red and yellow ochre houses resonate against the intense blue sky.

At the invitation of our host, Torbjörn Limé, Difference Screen has taken on a new dimension with a three-screen moving image installation at our venue, the Gotlands Konstmuseum (

Phil Dadson’s ECHO-LOGO invites you into the space with the clacking of stones and the calls and responses of the eight member science team – a sound-echo performance in the shadow of a 30m high glacier face in the Antarctic. Both sound and ice are physical states suspended in a moment – perhaps reflecting on the earth’s fragility – yet the effect is one of solid materiality.

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ECHO-LOGO film installation, Phil Dadson

Next door, in contrast, colour radiates in the darkened room from Gordana Andjelic-Galic’s film Washing – a performance in which the artist washes Bosnian flags soaked in blood in the river – a cleansing and search for reconciliation in ethnically divided Mostar, downstream from the reconstructed medieval bridge destroyed during the Balkan conflict from which unresolved Bosnia and Herzegovina emerged. It’s a reminder of the recent riots in Sarajevo, the tense backdrop to the presentation of Difference Screen in that city, and seemingly far from peaceful Visby.

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Washing  film installation, Gordana Andjelic-Galic

These two works stay in place for two and a half weeks, to be followed by Breda Beban’s Walking the Three Chairs and Adad Hannah’s Russian KAMA3 with a rolling programme of films in the third space throughout the exhibition which ends on 13 April.

I’m reminded of Phil Dadson’s installation on a trip to Fårö, a smaller island on the northern tip of Gotland, walking across bleak expanses of wind-strewn, pebbly beach and confronted by extraordinary pillars of limestone. Acclaimed filmmaker Ingmar Bergman made his home here in a house on the beach, where he made several films, including Persona, where camera tracks for one scene still remain, half hidden in the stones. A Bergman film week is held annually in small cinema he had built ( Andrei Tarkovsky was also attracted by Fårö’s strange isolation, but was not permitted to visit at the time because of a government military installation. (He did make his final film on Gotland, The Sacrifice, in 1986, shortly before he died). Military bases have been established in some of the many limestone quarries on Gotland, with its proximity to Russia, a reminder of the geo-political sensitivities of the Baltic, now intensified with recent developments in Crimea.
Limestone pillars, Fårö
Disused limestone quarryBack at Gotlands Konstmuseum, an exhibition of works by Torbjörn’s ex-students has been installed on the second floor. The art school runs a two-year foundation course, a system common in Sweden. But it is small: keeping students – and artists – in Gotland is a continuing pre-occupation as the magnetic drag of Stockholm and other cities is ever present. Johan Arrias has installed four speaker cones on the floor, containing small seeds which vibrate in animated motion by low frequency, inaudible sound generated by a software programme, which we stare at, mesmerised, for some time.

With the various contingents of students, artists, and friends – and a group from the internationally recognised Gotland School of Music Composition in Visby ( – there is a good crowd at the opening night on Friday. Discussions on developments in contemporary music with composer Simon Vincent and music student Conny Dahl Möller, and a dance performance by students from the dance school, demonstrate the rich potential of cross-artform interdisciplinarity and endorsement of a cultural policy which places these learning institutions in the same town.

I comment in our presentation that neither Bruce nor I have been to Gotland before so have to imagine what it is like when planning our programme for Difference Screen. With a core of 25 or so films, we select a different programme each time that seems appropriate for the location, adding films by artists from each country we visit.

Later, I’m asked why, when thinking about Gotland, we would include a film made in Guwahati, Assam (8 crossings, by Pauliina Salminen)? My answer that the creative potential of ‘difference’ that is behind the project only partly satisfies. Gareth Evans, in his essay From the Fabric of Things, describes Difference Screen as a ‘difference engine’ – not only a vessel, but a maker of difference, driven by the content and form of the films, their international sources and choice of unpredictable sites of projection (see Essay menu on this site – But difference for its own sake could be an indulgence – what we are seeking is more purposeful. The ‘difference engine’ has a momentum of necessity, through time and place from one venue to the next. It is an organic process in which we feel our way through responses to place with our growing collection of films.


Ben Eastop 28-3-14




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