Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Margaret Tait Award Nomination

Margaret Tait Award nomination for Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian (The Bird And The Monkey / Avant Kinema)

Scottish Borders based artist-filmmakers, Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian (aka The Bird And The Monkey), are proud to announce that they have been nominated for the 2018/19 Margaret Tait Award. Established in 2010, the annual award - a Glasgow Film Festival commission supported by Creative Scotland and LUX Scotland - was named in honour of the experimental Orcadian filmmaker, Margaret Tait (1918-1999). It celebrates innovative Scottish artists working with the moving image. Each year, the winning nominee is awarded a £10,000 prize to create new work, with the opportunity to screen the finished film at the Glasgow Film Festival.

 Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian 

It’s so exciting to be nominated,” says Dunbar-raised artist/filmmaker/musician, Sarahjane Swan, a Fine Arts Sculpture graduate from Gray’s School of Art, who found her way to Roger Simian through a shared love of alternative music and 20th Century avant-garde art movements. “You could say that The Margaret Tait Award is the pinnacle that any experimental moving image artist in Scotland aspires towards. We really are honoured.

Writer/filmmaker/musician, Roger Simian, agrees. The one time guitarist with Dawn Of The Replicants, was brought up in Edinburgh and the Borders but has a strong family link with the Orkney Islands, where Margaret Tait herself was raised. “My Grandfather, Gerry Meyer, a journalist from London with Swiss-French parents, was stationed in Orkney during World War II. He helped to found one of the earliest forces newspaper,
The Orkney Blast, married a local Stromness lass, Norah Hancox, and settled on the Islands, becoming editor of the Orcadian newspaper for many decades. My Mum is from Stromness and older members of my family actually knew Margaret Tait, who was from Kirkwall, so we’ve been aware of her work right from the start of our first experiments with filmmaking.” 

Stromness by Moonlight
Digital stills shot during the
filming of the short film, Orkneyinga

We visited Orkney for a week in April,” says Sarahjane. “It’s so beautiful and with so much history: just gorgeous. We got the authentic Orkney experience this time as it was blowing a gale and it felt like we were in the middle of a hurricane, looking at all this mind-blowing scenery: the rugged landscape, severe cliff faces, raging sea. I did visit Orkney years ago, not long after I met Roger, but this is the first time we’ve brought our son along. He is autistic and he just loves extreme weather, so he was blown away.” 

Not literally,” quips Roger.

Sarahjane adds: “We were out there at the Ring of Brodgar with our Super 8 cameras and our Nikon, and we made a short experimental film, a mixture of analogue and digital filmmaking, which we’ve called Orkneyinga, after the Viking sagas.”

Orkney captured in home-processed Super 8

Being nominated for The Margaret Tait Award is the icing on the cake of an already exceptional year for Swan and Simian, whose eclectic mix of songs, film, art and writing have over the years earned them screenings throughout Scotland, London, Europe and North America, as well as radio play on BBC 6 Music from one time New Wave pop star, Tom Robinson. 

The pair, who now create their experimental visual works under the banner, Avant Kinema,
enjoyed a Creative Scotland funded trip to the London Short Film Festival in January; were invited by fellow filmmakers Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais to screen in Porto, Portugal in February; put on the Experimental Arts Event, Moon Moths, in collaboration with Fawcett and Pais in Galashiels; received a grant from the South of Scotland VACMA (Visual Artists and Craft Makers Awards); contributed Super 8 / analogue work to Scottish director Grant McPhee's feature film Far From The Apple Tree; collaborated with renowned fashion designer, Jacqui Burke from Dunbar, for an event at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh; screened films in Poland and Bulgaria with Iga Rita Stepien's Station to Station and London with The Exploding Cinema; joined Playwrights' Studio Scotland's Scottish Borders Playwriting Programme with Jules Horne; and had work broadcast across America through the cable access experimental film show, Here Comes Everybody

Previous winners of The Margaret Tait Award have included the Scottish video artist, Rachel MacLean, whose highly distinctive work with green screen, costumes / make up and meticulous lip-synching has led to her representing Scotland at this year’s Venice Biennale, as well as creating an iconic portrait of Billy Connolly for a recent BBC documentary. MacLean’s work for the Venice Biennale, Spite Your Face, was commissioned by Alchemy Film & Arts, an organization Swan and Simian have also worked with extensively. In 2016 this partnership led to their Super 8 filmmaking workshop in Burnfoot Community Hub in Hawick, with future workshops to follow in 2018. Since 2012, the pair have also created four full-scale video-art installations, commissioned by Alchemy director Richard Ashrowan, for the yearly experimental film festival in Hawick.

Still from Alphonso's Jaw installation, commissioned for
Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Hawick, 2016

"The Margaret Tait Award nomination brings 2017 to a fantastic end," says Sarahjane. "Now we can start properly looking to the future. In 2018 we plan to develop our work even further, expand our ideas and hopefully work on our own first feature-length film project."