Another psychogeographical jaunt with artists Andrew Kötting and author Iain Sinclair, which documents a pilgrimage in memory of Edith the Fair
It was Edith the Fair who found Harold Godwinson’s remains on the battlefield after Hastings; her husband’s body was so mutilated that only she could identify it. This tragic end to their handfast marriage is commemorated in an eerie sculpture on the seafront at Hastings, and now in this latest experimental documentary from artist-filmmaker Andrew Kötting.
Another bond will likewise echo down the ages – the one between Kötting the Fair and reigning king of psychogeography, author Iain Sinclair. Edith Walks is their third collaborative travelogue, and like the brilliant Swandown and By Our Selves, it sees them embark on a mad symbolic pilgrimage across the UK carrying totems in costume, drumming, performing rituals; the quest is at once piss-takingly absurd and profoundly resonant.
They journey south from Harold’s tomb at Waltham Abbey, 108 miles on foot to the coast, to that sculpture, accompanied by a troupe of ‘mummers’ including the peerless graphic novelist and actual wizard Alan Moore, a former Pogue, and Edith Swanneck herself (channeled by musician Claudia Barton). Building on the previous two films, this one benefits from its female subject and perspective, plus some impressive shots using large mechanical camera rigs and some mind-bending philosophising on the nature of time.
Like the quixotic journey itself, the style is willfully directionless, meandering ‘onwards and outwards’, embracing contingency and happenstance, alongside a bricolage of disparate material, from the script of La Jetée to the poems of Heinrich Heine and William Makepeace Thackeray, the music of Captain Beefheart, specially constructed musical instruments, archive footage of schoolchildren’s battle reenactments and James Joyce. There is something Joycean about all this gluttonous synthesizing too, and even when it feels scattershot it’s so literate and rich in myth one is inclined to go with the flow.
Edith and co seem to be having fun and not taking themselves too seriously, and the fool who persists in his folly becomes wise. There is something serious in what they’re doing, a defiant crusade against the routine notion that time is fixed and impermeable, and sometimes the ceremony works, a spell is cast and you break through.
Edith Walks will screen in cinemas alongside Eden Kötting’s short film Forgotten the Queen, also about Edith, which features frenetic animated paintings and a pleasing runtime of 10'66".