One+One Newsletter #2: January 21st, 2014January 21, 2014
Derek Jarman’s SketchbooksFebruary 7, 2014
LET’S DO IT ALL NIGHT
Neil Bartlett reflects on paying homage to Derek Jarman
For a queer boy from a small town, coming of age in eighties London, cinema was as much about the room as the screen. I remember the chilly grandeur of the Scala (Fassbinder all-nighters – with a trip to the gents with a demanding stranger half way through if you were lucky); the alien, over-upholstered luxury of the Mayfair Curzon (In the Empire of the Senses); a dingy Berwick Street backroom with six sticky seats (the never-to-be-forgotten beauty of porn star Al Parker); the would-be-intellectual black box of the ICA (blurred by tears of terror and grief during the almost unedurable beauties and terrors of Salò). The Odeon multiplex, they weren’t.
I’ve tried to remember this time of images flickering in unlikely and often disorientating spaces as I’ve worked to respond to a commission from King’s College London to create a memorial to their ex-student Derek Jarman on the twentieth anniversary of his death. Derek was a grand master of queering space – the country house ruin of The Tempest; Westminster Cathedral-as-queer-disco in Jubilee – and in homage to that talent I’ve chosen to make my memorial in the most outrageous space the college has, the gilt-and-glitter chapel built by Gilbert Scott and hidden away right in the heart of the campus. I’m taking over the chapel for a whole night – THE NIGHT OF January 31st, Derek’s birthday – and filling it with a continuous twenty-four hour projection of his 1985 ode to love lost and found, The Angelic Conversation. I’m doing it with the simplest of means – a sheet, a wire, a projector, and the night and day are, importantly, free. I want some young queer boy who has never seen a Jarman movie to feel free to wander in in the dead of night on his way home from a bar – or a still-closeted office worker to be able to divert for half an hour on his way into work. I want people who know and love Derek’s work to remember its roots in the cheap, the provisional and the outrageous. I want to remind myself of all the other things that going to see a film can mean beside booking online for a multiplex or ordering in from Lovefilm. I want to respond to that great line in Frank O’Hara’s poem “Mothers of America, send your children to the movies!”; What of the soul that grows in darkness, embossed by silver images?