As the final exhibition at CIRCA Screen, CIRCA Projects presented the regional premiere of The Ocelli by The ARKA Group. The ARKA group is a fluid collective of collaborators; including artists, writers and scientists – principally led by Ben Jeans Houghton (1984, lives and works in Newcastle upon Tyne) and Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau (1985, lives and works in London). From the outset, the premise of the ARKA group has been to make philosophical and scientific ideas tangible through the use of poetic narrative, moving image and unseen archival materials. Human relations to the natural world are an on-going concern in their films. The Ocelli tells of a man who becomes infested by the spores of Armillaria, a three-mile wide mushroom composed of a web of rhizomatic white fibres. Based on the cordycep mushroom that penetrates the skin of insects and sprouts through their skull, Armillaria bewitches and consumes the body of the unnamed male protagonist, enveloping human flesh with her fungal form. Her level of agency in this process is difficult to read, for we are made to understand through the film’s narration, that Armillaria is slowly becoming sentient.*
The Ocelli (meaning ‘little eye’) is a film in 25 parts, which began as an investigation into the formative period of childhood – where perception can still be tangibly affected by your imagination. What started as research seeded in the anatomy of the eye and the philosophy of perception branched out into a sprawling self-reflexive process – leading to the creation of a myth charting the development of a 2000 year-old mushroom from dormant state to conscious being. Combining archive 16mm footage from the British Museum of Optometry with acted film, specific visual effects, music and narration – the ARKA Group’s The Ocelli creates a complex web of ideas and visual materials.
On 20 June 2012 The ARKA Group discussed their practice with Rebecca Shatwell, Director of AV Festival. A video of this conversation can be viewed in the channel section of CIRCA Projects’ website.
* from Vanessa Bartlett’s essay ‘From biophilia to bibliophilia… and then back again’.