The hours of darkness

Flamingos in a shed in the dead of winter, counterposed with a found poem made from inflight announcements and magazines: a dystopian fairy tale for the Anthropocene.

  • Janet Lees
  • Janet Lees
  • Janet Lees
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Other
  • Runtime:
    2 minutes 15 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    April 18, 2014
  • Country of Origin:
    Isle of Man
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Poets with a Video Camera: Videopoetry 1980-2020
    September 17, 2022
    Contemporary art exhibition, official selection
Director Biography - Janet Lees

Janet Lees is a lens-based artist and poet. Her films have been selected for many festivals and screenings, including the Aesthetica Art Prize, the International Vidoepoetry Festival, and the Zebra Poetry Film Festival. In 2021 she won the Ó Bhéal Poetry-Film competition. Her art photography has been exhibited around the world and her poetry is widely published and anthologised. She has had two books published: 'House of water', a collection of her poems and art photographs, and 'A bag of sky', the winning collection in the Frosted Fire Firsts prize hosted by the UK's Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

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Director Statement

In various ways I’m chronicling what it feels like to be human at a time when human activity is having a devastating effect on life on earth. I use the camera as a storytelling machine rather than a documenting device. I think film, photography and poetry are among the most important means of creative expression in our times.

In the case of 'The hours of darkness', I stumbled across what felt like a vast, momentous story at a bird sanctuary in the dead of winter. The sight and sound of the flamingos in their feeding shed was electrifying; shades of JG Ballard’s 'The Drowned World'. I had to film them, to let these seeming Anthropocene prophets tell their part of the story.

The other part of the story was already playing in my head; a poem I’d made by combining words from inflight safety announcements and magazines. Two phrases in particular had stayed with me: ‘the hours of darkness’ and ‘may we remind you’. The poem had grown out of this coupling, and the videopoem grew out of another coupling: the post-apocalyptic feel of the footage and the Orwellian tone of the words. At the time of filming, when the poem jumped into my head, this pairing was instinctive. Later, I realised that one leads into the other: our collective journey is sleepwalking, under anodyne instruction, towards apocalypse. In one way or another this journey flows through all my work, the making of which helps me to live alongside the journey’s unfolding without turning away.