British filmmaker Andrew Kötting started out by capturing his own performance art pieces on camera. You can sense those roots here, as he and writer Iain Sinclair journey from the Sussex coast to London in a swan-shaped pedalo that Kötting liberates from a Hastings seaside attraction.
He and Sinclair travel by sea, river and canal, ending with Kötting banging against the barriers of the Olympic site (Sinclair vanishes for the last few days). The voyage is linear, but there’s nothing straightforward about Kötting’s use of sound and image as he mixes visual formats, introduces fictional elements and crafts a soundscape of chat, found noises, ghost voices (some of them from his earlier odyssey, ‘Gallivant’) and Pogues founder Jem Finer’s music. Alan Moore and Stewart Lee are among those who guest in the swan, with Lee deadpanning to Moore: ‘So, have you done anything like this before?’ as we see them pedalling with a swan’s bill above their heads.
What’s it all about? Kötting has a strong sense of the ridiculousness, while Sinclair (more muted than one might expect) is more poetic, only occasionally letting loose his noted disdain for the Olympic project. But what’s most pleasing is Kötting’s reluctance to foist a single agenda on us, whether that’s the physical achievement of their trip, his sense of the absurd or Sinclair’s spiritual utterings. It’s a calm, resigned, mystical work that sits back and lets the world work its strange magic on us. Sinclair talks of him and Kötting becoming ‘flesh radios’ as they navigate the waterways and tune into the frequency of people and places. In spirit, however, this is resolutely more Resonance FM than Radio 1.