by Milo Clenshaw

Cultivate! was an exhibition resulting from a series of analogue filmmaking workshops designed and delivered by Alchemy’s 2022 artist in residence Julia Parks as part of The Teviot, the Flag and the Rich, Rich Soil – Alchemy’s programme of artist residencies, film commissions and community engagement exploring the borders, boundaries and lines of Hawick. 

Alchemy invited ten participants aged 16-30 to take part in every stage of the filmmaking process, from using a Bolex camera to hand-developing film in eco-friendly solutions to presenting the footage that they had shot and edited by operating a combination of three 16mm projectors and two digital projectors. Filming in Hawick’s Wilton Lodge Park, while also documenting their own process in Alchemy’s workshop space, participants learned analogue techniques such as direct animation, and experimented with gauze, bubble wrap, and other materials to create new textures and optical effects for the film to screen through.  

Participants manually moved the digital projectors to play with distance and angles, and reversed and recut the analogue film loops until they found a configuration that worked. The exhibition comprises a mixture of archive nature documentary, footage taken by participants around Hawick’s urban and natural landscapes, and documentation of the workshops. As such, the presentation that concluded the workshops was a living, moving mural. Reproduced in the same space in which the workshops took place, this moving-image exhibition invites audiences to experiment with different screens and materials to create their own interpretation. 

In both workshop and exhibition form, Cultivate! exemplifies the values Alchemy embraces and upholds through Film Town, our year-round community engagement and creative learning programme that places inclusion, equity and social justice at its centre through collaboration, partnerships and critical practice. Collaboration is the catalyst of this work, which itself emerged from themes of growing, ecology and climate justice, themes which are reflected in the work created by the participants. Archive film and analogue technology is brought to life in new ways, sustainable materials and filmmaking practices are embedded, and the natural world takes centre stage. 

Thank you to all those who participated in the making of this piece of work and to Jacoba Paulus and Walt Holland who installed the exhibition for The Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival 2023. Photographs by Sanna Gault.