Chwarel is a collaborative audio-visual installation by Ruth Jones and Andrea Williams and focuses on the disused Porthgain granite quarry in Pembrokeshire. Shot in 16mm from a fixed position the camera slowly rotates in a continual 360 degree panorama in which events take place that evoke both the present uses of the quarry, and recall its past. Traces of the history of the site are visible in the hewed rock and in the remains of the brick buildings that formed part of the working operation. Using sound-led film techniques, Chwarel explores the quarry as a series of present tense moments marked by encounters between the place and the people who interact with it as an industrial site, ecological site and as a place of leisure and curiosity. The film evokes this infusion of historical, cultural and geographical resonances. The installation draws on cinematic surround sound techniques as well as acoustic close ups. By paying attention to the minutiae of sounds, and our ability to construct meaning from acoustic events even when we don’t see their source, a sense of place is generated. The installation was first screened at Howard Gardens Gallery, Cardiff in February 2010 as a “work in progress”. Since then, Williams and Jones have re-edited the film and it was screened at the Nissen Hut, west Wales in August 2010, at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff as part of Experimentica 2010 and again at Chapter in May 2011 as a one day screening event.
In 2009 the artists put a call out in local papers for 80 men (or women dressed as men) to take part in the recreation of a photograph of quarry workers at Porthgain from 1908. This image appears as a scene in the film installation. Filming took place over the weekend of the 5th and 6th September, and nearly 70 people took part and truly entered into the spirit of the event. Not only did they look amazing standing against the quarry walls, but while they walked the half mile journey round the coast path to the quarry from Porthgain, it was easy to imagine the daily experiences of the quarry workers as they walked to work all those years ago. A number of unsuspecting walkers from the present day who encountered them probably thought they had slipped back in time!
As well as the moving image used in the film, still photographs were taken by photographer Chris Powell. There are around 50 digital images altogether (the sepia ones) with just a small selection presented here. If you would like to have a CD with all 50 images on (£5), or a professional print of the group photo from the medium format film shot 10 x 8 inch (£10) or a 16 x 12 inch (£15) please contact Chris on 01646 682919.
stills from the film:
Original Photograph from 1908
Recreation 2009 (medium format)