Close and Remote (Simon Poulter and Sophie Mellor) have been working with a series of invited and publicly solicited groups of people at Bidston Moss in the Wirral. The new work ‘Zone’ develops on Andrei Tarkovsky’s seminal film ‘Stalker’ (1979). In Stalker the central character guides two men (writer and professor) to the centre of the Zone, in order to connect with their innermost desires. The journey is dangerous, indirect and above all resonant of post-industrial and military locations. Abandoned tanks, disused railways and evocative ruins create an intense landscape for the three men to navigate. At the end their desires seem unfulfilled and the viewer is left with the magical realism of Monkey (Stalker’s daughter) mind controlling a glass across a table.

Close and Remote have developed a series of moving film sets for participants to rove within, guided by ‘Visitor’ (Sophie Mellor). Like Stalker, the participants are known and identified by their professional names as they wander around the Zone. The location, Bidston Moss, has a fabulous array of marshland, road underpasses, disused railway track and nature trail (landscaped from the refuse dump below). The artwork is deliberately open ended – witnessed as a performance by participants, seen as an installation with film episodes at FACT and as scraps of online film. The artists have worked with four different groups shooting the same scenes and iterating set piece actions – a cassette player is found abandoned with the voice of Bill Shankley by the walking group, a mobile phone is dredged from the lake and an ice cream van appears while the participants lie in the mud.

In Close and Remote’s Zone, Liverpool’s social and political history inform the messages that appear in the work. It is as if the refuse dump contains all of Liverpool and Merseyside’s history (which it does) and aberrations begin to come to the surface. Tarkovsky’s Stalker can be seen as a commentary on the decay and decline of late Seventies Soviet Union and in some cases has been aligned as a premonitory film on Chernobyl (1986). A commentary in common is that of landscapes that not only resonate their political surroundings but are in fact made from them. In the case of the Wirral huge tracts of land await the next industrial or service industry project, while ‘the Moss’ remains under-utilised as a social or leisure space.

Live data feed of visitors to the Zone:


Part of Science Fiction: New Death (28 March – 22 June 2014) at FACT, Liverpool.  

ZONE is a new Close and Remote commission for FACT, developed with the support of The Mersey Forest.

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