Carl Giffney: I really don’t feel them

Carl Giffney: I really don’t feel them

I really don’t feel them, is a feature length documentary in HD + stereo made by Carl Giffney across 2014 and 2015 in Finland, Scotland and The Netherlands. It spans three residencies at: HIAP, Suomenlinna (FI), The Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Aberdeenshire, (UK) + Mustarinda, Hyrynsalmi, (FI).  These residencies form part of a broader project entitled, Frontiers In Retreat. 

Here Carl Giffney tells us about his time at HIAP, his work and its connection to Finland:

The work that was completed at HIAP in 2015, I really don’t feel them, is the fourth leg of a four legged project that begins in The Netherlands, before moving to Scotland and then to Finland. The first three legs involved making active research, shooting video, making props, editing, performing and scripting. At HIAP, the results of this nine month period (video, sound and stills) were edited and produced to make I really don’t feel them.

The film is centered around a very special pair of shoes. 

The film opens in The Netherlands. That’s where the shoes are from- Holland. They are clogs you see, but not just any clogs. We move to Scotland, where the shoes are being made.  They are made of bronze. They are being cast at a foundry. There is a full moon rising. As the bronze and molds are being prepared, the furnace is lit. At the same time in Scotland there is a vote going on about National Independence from Britain. We see the votes being counted and the results collated on live TV. A small crowd watches the results. The bronze is poured. The vote turns out to be a ‘No to Independence’. The shoes are cast. The full moon retreats. The crowd disperses.  

So that’s how these shoes become so special. They come to embody an event of collective dependence, as apposed to independence, through means usually associated with mythology or witchcraft, a theme that runs through the video. The dependence that the bronze shoes embody through their sheer physical make up is also quickly clear. They weigh in at 27 KG, so are difficult to lift, let alone to wear. They are polished to a golden mirror finish and reflect everything. They are cold and slippery and beautiful. We move to Finland, where we see them being worn by me on a winter journey North into the Arctic in search of the Saami people. I am hitch hiking, bussing and driving over 850 kilometers. My aim here is to ask these people, who I imagine have very specific opinions of independence, what they think of the shoes that I am wearing. 

That’s essentially the experiment of the film- to make a pair of ‘dependence shoes’, travel up Finland in them, and ask the Saami what they think of them. Its central concern is in how we place ourselves, or lack to place ourselves, within traditional and new social contexts to do with independence.  How do things happen around us? Things that are much larger than us and we have little connection to. It’s a documentary film that follows a series of performances that all probe those issues within a European framework. 

In many different ways it asks, how does dependency work in a collective sense? It asks these questions, as questions that are broad, but are also ones that are essential to understanding climate change- things to do with dependency and big scenarios happening that involve so many people. I feel an impeding motion through the film- one of huge things happening in front of us -as if we watch. This inability to place ones self within a social capital is at the core, but it’s a positive film too. We see young people taking up old and new pursuits. Musically, it features some Saami rap, psychedelic house and rune singing. A sense of generational shift is strong, one that does continue tradition but only some parts. 

Suomenlinna was a place of production for me, and a great one. The island, in particular its many stone fortifications and cannons, feature heavily in the film and many of the wind sound tracks were recorded there too. I spent much time walking the island and exploring Helsinki by day and by night meeting many people from many different countries and backgrounds- talking to many of them about dependency and the climate. 

I returned to HIAP Suomenlinna for a second residency in 2016 to plan making a new work based wholly in the locale. I think that, significantly, in 2016 The Republic of Ireland marks its 100 year anniversary of independence from Britain, and in 2017 Finland marks its 100 year anniversary of independence from Russia. I say ‘marks’ as Ireland currently tries to figure out how, or if, to celebrate, commemorate or parade. I wonder what parallels can be drawn across Finland and Irelands upcoming anniversaries?

Closer to the micro-system, of course, Suomenlinna is an independence of its own. I think this independence affects my work in two ways. As it is separate from Helsinki, geographically, the island becomes like one big studio- full of animals, plants and buildings. In this context I feel that it is also a home base from which to explore and investigate the city of Helsinki from a remote position. The short boat trip to and from Suomenlinna island becomes a time for thinking and gathering thought for me- a little like the car drive from my studio to my home in Ireland. 

I hear that in winter, when the sea is a frozen solid, some animals can make it to the island- they walk out across the ice.“


- Carl Giffney, 2015. Edited by Jasmin Islamovic.