Tidelight is set on Cornwallis wharf near Auckland, New Zealand: a much favoured location for local fishermen. It is choreographed as an 'infinite' zoom along the wharf, exploring the changing light from dawn to midday and the observed activities of the fishermen. Each shot represents one progressive fragment of time, slowly leading the eye towards a vanishing point beyond the wharf. These shots are seamlessly layered to create intersecting time windows, which advance towards the camera as the eye is led forwards via the zooming lens. This creates the illusion of seeing forwards in time as one looks towards the horizon. At one moment several morning suns can be seen simultaneously, as they rise in the sky and the dawn light moves from shades of orange into blue.

The interwoven montage of time windows gradually increases in complexity, abstracting the imagery, creating visual echoes, repetitions and cadences as the journey progresses. Lines are cast, gulls wait for morsels of bait, and the gentle lapping of the waves pervades everything.

  • Martin Sercombe
  • Martin Sercombe
  • Martin Sercombe
  • none
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    16 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 22, 2015
  • Production Budget:
    100 NZD
  • Country of Origin:
    New Zealand
  • Country of Filming:
    New Zealand
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    XD Cam
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Martin Sercombe

Martin Sercombe began making artist's films on 16mm in the 1980s, and has made a series of moving image art works supported by Arts Council England and other funders. His single screen works have been screened at many international festivals in the USA, UK, Holland, Spain, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong.

His video production company, Media Projects NZ forms partnerships with community groups and institutions to produce educational resources exploring heritage, the arts and social issues.

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Director Statement

My work has been strongly influenced by the pro-filmic structuralist work of other artist film makers from the 1970s to the present day. My early films utilise formal aspects of the medium (such as multiple exposure, animation, time exposure and stylised camera movements) to choreograph journeys into visionary landscapes that draw more from the worlds of poetry, metaphor and dreams than any narrative based cinematic genre.

In the 1990s I began working closely with other artists, such as the composer Sianed Jones. Singing the Horizon (1997) is built from a continuous pan across a flat expanse of reed beds, grazing marshes and windmills in the Norfolk Broads. As it progresses, natural phenomena and encountered forms are transformed into an animated mandala of evolving motifs which Sianed then uses as a visual score for her musical response.

Sianed Jones and performance poet Cris Cheek worked with me to develop a live performance and multi screen work entitled Tongues Undone (1999), commissioned by the World Wide Video Festival in Amsterdam. The central theme of the work is the voice, and an exploration of how pure vocal statements can be choreographed into performed and animated movement and gesture. Throughout the piece, graphic symbols and graffiti are translated into vocal sounds, concrete poetry and body movements. Spoken words mutate into animated text on the screen creating a cyclic dialogue between the different linguistic forms.

This exploration of hybrid forms and the meeting points between spoken, written and visual poetic languages is further developed in Maud (2000). Maud quotes a few short fragments from the Alfred Tennyson poem of the same name, which charts a lovelorn protagonist's descent from joyful anticipation into abject misery at the loss of his heart's desire. This transition becomes a journey through intense emotion, manifest in formalised visual and aural readings of woodland settings in Norfolk and New Zealand. In the live presentation of the piece in Amsterdam, Sianed Jones embodied Maud and stood within a somber animated landscape as she sang her response to her lovelorn suitor.

A concern for the spirit of place is revisited again in Delirium, made during an artist’s residency in Brisbane in Spring 2006. It’s a heat-crazed, densely woven vision of the city. Tropical vegetation and the natural world collide with its towering cityscape and life is observed via the humid pulse of a slow infrared shutter and flickering, grainy camera style.

The film is a collaboration with Tasmanian sound artist Matt Warren, who composed the vocal and electronic underscore.