a film by Tom Dawson


Sat. 23rd / Sun. 24th / Sat. 30th / Sun.31st October
Open: 3-6pm
Admission is free.

Valley, a film by Tom Dawson, transports us to the monumental and cavernous brick and stone-built arch of a Victorian railway bridge with a busy road passing beneath. The bridge is the only real indication of the valley, seen almost as an inversion, through the span of its arch. As the film moves along it traces the exterior and interior structure of the bridge and arch, asserting its architectural presence and scale. At the same time, throughout the film there is a fairly relentless stream of traffic passing under the bridge, waves of sound echoing within the arch, punctuated by gaps in the flow and intermittent glimpses of figures, trees and wildlife. The action within the film appears to be circumscribed by notional boundaries which the camera/film-maker (and viewer) is unable to cross. The activity is contained within the confines of this demarcation although we may frequently sense or catch a glimpse of ‘beyond’ in the sky, nearby buildings, or as a vehicle or figure is seen or heard to enter or leave ‘the frame’.
The filming of Valley appears to fall into two periods of the day indicated by afternoon or evening light. The shift from ‘earlier’ to ‘later’ is signalled by the illumination of street lighting somewhere near the middle. The film seems to condense a time span which is unspecified but appears to be not much greater than that seen by the viewer. The sense of time, linked to a feeling of linearity suggesting continuity, is perforated by the operation of the camera and by dislocation, fragmentation and sporadic repetition of movement over the course of the film’s actual duration of 21 minutes and 52 seconds.

The film’s chief protagonist is the film-maker. The viewer appears to be seeing ‘directly’ through the camera lens and occupying the position, as it were, of the film-maker as he moves around the location. We see only what the camera sees and, by inference, what the film-maker wants us to see.

The screen is filled with constant movement, at times erratic and at other times smoother; a duality of movement which simultaneously captures circumstantial events and actions whilst mirroring the experience of seeing. This duality appears to vacillate between interconnection and disassociation, as do the visual and the aural. The instinct to make a kinaesthetic association between these elements is involuntary, but we also start to question this urge. In the opening frames, for example, we see the bridge from some distance with reflected light flickering on the interior (roof) of the arch and can hear rather indistinct ambient sound. Unconsciously, we make rapid associations to interpret these visual and aural clues. The instinctive tendency to interpret or construct what we see gives rise to a tension of which we become increasingly aware as the film unfolds. This tension arises from the dialectic of the experience we bring to bear and that of watching the film. The latter, which is determined by the wandering eye of the film maker and ambient sounds filtered through the camera lens and microphone respectively, cannot really correspond to actuality.

The visual aspect of Valley takes on lyrical and formal qualities which are increasingly apparent through near repetition of certain movements and viewpoints. The strong diagonal accent to the composition of the frame where ground and bridge meet, as the camera tracks the movement through the arch, is a passage which is re-enacted at intervals and seems pivotal to the film’s momentum. At other times we see the brick or stone of the arch in near-static intimate detail as flat, almost painterly, colour abstraction. At its most extreme the flatness of the screen asserts itself as a near black or a bleached out white of under or over exposure. The intensity of close scrutiny, colour or light saturation, is relieved by a whimsicality when for example the film maker playfully follows a random chalk line of unknown authorship. The intimacy of close-up contrasts with more distant and detached viewpoints which rarely (if ever) incorporate any great sense of depth within the field of vision.

If Valley relates to a tradition of lyrical film-making, that lyricism is occasionally broken by the intrusion of voices or the glimpse of a foot. Such momentary breaches in the disembodied sensorial flow serve to reassert the duality of the viewer’s position of involvement/detachment in the intense and sensual experience of the film.

Stuart Cameron
October 2010

Schools visits:

Crescent Arts and the artist welcome enquiries from schools and groups who wish to visit the exhibition at normal opening times, or at other times by prior arrangement. Please contact Stuart Cameron at Crescent Arts by phone or email to make arrangements. Tel: 01723 351461 (please indicate for attention of Stuart Cameron)


Crescent Artspace at Queen Street is a fully accessible location including easy wheelchair access from the street.

The Meanwhile Project

Crescent Artspace at Queen Street is financially assisted by the Development Trust Association and The Meanwhile Project, in partnership with Scarborough Borough Council’s Civic Pride ‘Windows to the Borough’ and Town Centre Management. It is part of Scarborough’s art and regeneration initiative.