Neil Jackson - conversations with Chris Petit and Iain Sinclair

Film Without Film: Chris Petit in Conversation with Neil Jackson, Post-Nearly Press, 2015.

Chris Petit in conversation. Compelling insight into Petit’s work, methods and creative outlook; engaging content on his collaborations and history with Iain Sinclair.

An extract from the forthcoming Film Without Film; Chris is discussing some of the ideas behind his cult 1979 road movie Radio On.
NJ: Radio On has this ostensible plot which seems to dissolve. And this leads on to the concept of drift: abandoning the car and taking a train to nowhere; The Hard Shoulder with O’Grady in his car heading for a tunnel – yet we don’t really know where he’s going; characters end up in this state of drift. Cookie in Robinson is an opportunistic drifter. Incidentally is he partially based on Derek Raymond/Robin Cook?
CP: I thought of Raymond, or Cook – and I had cousins who were a bit like him – as a kind of upper class ne’er do well. There’s normally some short-service commission involved.
There’s always charm, however. The ability to carry it off; to win you over. I believe Raymond was a very charming man.
Extremely charming. But of course charm can be used as an offensive. The drift in Radio On came about, in a way, by default. The problem I had with English drama and cinema was that it was so structured around class. I didn’t want to make a film about English class. I wanted to make a film about space and movement and weather and music; and not about class.
It still comes through very strongly in British TV and cinema.
That whole area of English sit-com is completely structured around class. So I thought that if the film was going to look ahead at all, it would have to be different to that. One of the things that make it different is that it’s about technology. Radio On is partly about that whole Kraftwerk thing. It clarified what the film was about. Airwaves; communication. It’s not about what Mike Leigh makes films about. And also I thought – which has both happened and not happened – I thought that the class system would flatten out. It has done, but at the same time everything has become much more entrenched. You only have to look at the Daily Mail to see that. As part of a Museum of Loneliness project I said that I would cover the World Cup, and I would read the Daily Mail for as long as the World Cup went on. And it was unbelievable.
You’re a Norwich City fan, I’m informed.
In as much as I lived there when they were in the third division and got to the semi-final of the FA Cup. I’ve been stuck supporting them ever since. In Radio On I took the football results from a particular weekend at the time, but I reversed the score line for Norwich. So
it says Norwich 1 Chelsea 0. In reality, however, it was Chelsea 1 Norwich 0.

Improving the Image of Destruction: Iain Sinclair in Conversation with Neil Jackson, Post-Nearly Press, 2014.

The writer, poet and film-maker Iain Sinclair in conversation. 26 pages

Extract :
Walking itself, if you have the time to walk for a period of hours, does engender a fugue-like state, which is an interesting thing to achieve. You get into a natural rhythm, establish a dialogue with the landscape, and it brings with it a receptive state of mind for creating fiction or gathering documentary evidence, whatever you might be doing. So in that sense it’s a useful tactic. In another sense it has almost become a radical political act just to walk. The whole political bias in London is moving towards getting people onto bicycles; so you have these rows of blue Barclays-sponsored cycles, and you’re supposed to ride about advertising a disgraced bank that isn’t even putting money into the scheme anymore. Bicycles are taking over the pavements, the canal banks, everything – and of course walking, as a life style, goes to the bottom of the pile, because there’s no way you can exploit the walker. There’s nothing to buy into, nothing can be done with pedestrianism, unless you can get walkers dressed up in sponsored T-shirts advertising some conspicuous charity. Making a designer boast about ecological credentials. The walker is the last anarchist of the city.
There’s a sense that everything, particularly with London, is now scoped out as a branding opportunity.
There’s always a slogan. Improving the image of construction. Working for a better Hackney. People come with their own advert. Even myself: to carry on being published, it only works if I have a brand – and that brand is to do with walking. I find that a little bit depressing. I’m stuck with it, but really that’s only an element of what I’m interested in.
One development with city walking is the way so many people are wired in to electronic devices. Physically they’re moving; mentally they’re not. At Liverpool Street station you can be swept aside by them, coming at you, heads down. Gabbling. Shouting. Jabbing at screens. So all those benefits I’ve been mentioning are no longer part of it. You’re logged in to the supernova digital cloud, speeding away from the sense of a physical locality. It’s eroding the present tense of the act of walking. When you do that, you’re taking everything away.
Devices are powerful in the way they end up changing mass behaviour.
I feel that what I do is already redundant. It’s from another age. There are still a lot of people doing exactly what I do, but it’s not the way the world is configured. The ability to navigate a passage through a large book, or to negotiate a complex structure, is vanishing fast. You want what you want before you know what that is. You want it now. Students who might be looking into the things I do, for an essay or a doctorate, wouldn’t dream of reading the books. They send an email and ask if they can come round, so that I can tell them what I’m on about. Bullet points. Make a recording. Transcribe. Print. Edit.
Just like this, our conversation. I think JG Ballard was the person for whom the interview form, or the transatlantic phone conversation, became as visible as the books. The publication of the Re/Search collection of interviews in 1984 was a significant moment in Ballard’s career. Personality, attitude, archive were as important now as text.