Andrew Kötting discusses 'Ivul'

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One of Britain's most interesting and idiosyncratic directors, Andrew Kötting, talks to Dave Calhoun about his new film, 'Ivul'

Andrew Kötting , whose ‘Ivul’ opens this week, is a British artist who moves between the gallery and the cinema. Dave Calhoun caught up with the 51 year old last week in Farnham in Surrey where he was hanging a new art piece based on a collaboration with the writer Iain Sinclair which will soon lead to the pair navigating various waterways in a swan-shaped pedalo from Kötting’s home in Kent to east London. For now, Kötting has a new film in cinemas: he shot ‘Ivul’, a drama about a boy who abandons his family to live in the trees, near his home in the Pyrenees in 2008.

So why are we here in Farnham with five, life-size plastic swans at our side?
‘My new project, “Swan Down”, is breeding as we speak. Next year I’d like to pedal a giant, fibreglass swan-shaped pedalo to Hackney. Iain Sinclair will join me. It’s a kind of Dada-esque performance, not that different from what I did with “Gallivant” in 1997, when I went round the coast of Britain with my grandmother and my daughter Eden. There’s a good chance that Eden will accompany me. It will take six to eight weeks, and I’ll live with the swan. It’s an ambitious, wayward project, a waterbound, pedalo marathon, and I’ll invite fellow pedalees, possibly yourself, people like Will Self and Sean Lock, to come and pedal for the day.’

So today’s show is an advance party before the real thing?
‘Yes, what we’ve done already is walk the route, and the artwork is a reaction to that. So we know now that when we get to Ashford we’ll have to winch the swan out, “Fitzcarraldo”-style.’

Your films always spark off in various directions. They’re never just films. ‘Ivul’ has inspired three art shows.
‘It’s a very easy way for me to work. It’s spillage. One thing leads to another. There’s no closure, no full stops, always semicolons and commas.’

You rarely leave a film behind. You don’t ‘lock off’ and be done with it.
‘It’s anathema to me. I navigate between the art world and the world of film. I’m amazed more people don’t . It’s a natural place to be. Look at someone like Matthew Barney. Or Derek Jarman, that’s how he used to work. I’d feel frustrated if, when I finished “Ivul”, that was it and I had to disappear for three years and get a script together and go looking for money. What happens in those three years?’

Ivul’ is in French, but originally you were going to make it in the UK.
‘Yes, it was to be called “Off Ground He” and we were going to locate it on an island like Jura, an isolated community, where we could create a poetic reality. The film came from my love of the forest, climbing trees, the landscape. I wanted it to be visceral. It’s based on my experiences as a kid running away from a difficult home and hiding in trees.’

But the money fell through and you ended up shooting it near your bolthole in the Pyrenees?
‘Yes, forests abound there, and when a producer said we could do it in French, I thought: This is exciting. I knew we could film there and I could use my house as a base. I’ve spent 20 years living there, I know that bit of the world. It’s very sauvage. It felt like a breath of fresh air, a brilliant way of doing it. I had help translating the script. Then I jettisoned so much stuff from it and made enough room for all the other tomfoolery and shenanigans I wanted, especially all the archive and sound design. There are these other languages at work.’

But visually ‘Ivul’ is more restrained than ‘Gallivant’ or ‘This Filthy Earth’.
‘It was intentional, I wanted to be a bit more in control. I wanted to be a bit more conventional in the framing – to focus on the drama a bit more.’

What’s the next one?
‘I want to complete the trilogy. The third part will be set underground. “This Filthy Earth” was on the ground. “Ivul” was off the ground. The third part should be under it.’

Ivul’ opens on July 23.

Author: Interview: Dave Calhoun



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