The Waste Land was the culmination of two years’ work and a collaboration between artist filmmaker Chris Hall and poet and writer Ian Harker. It was conceived as a response to the current crisis as a live ‘expanded cinema’ performance that incorporated a live reading of T.S. Eliot’s poem with simultaneous multiple projections, effects and sustained musical pieces.
Performed in its entirety once only on 1st May 2010, The Waste Land was read to a captive audience (literally-the shutters were down!) in an empty former retail unit in the commercial centre of Leeds (former Leeds Shopping Plaza).
The event was part of Oko’s CINEMA POVERA weekend of experimental cinema in association with Art in Unusual Spaces.
Documentation of the performance and related photos can be found here:
CINEMA POVERA: ‘The Waste Land’ – Live expanded cinema performance
Saturday 1st May 2010
Old TK Maxx Unit, Plaza Shopping Centre, Leeds
Written over a number of years and in the aftermath of the armistice that brought about the end of the First World War, T.S. Eliot’s epic ‘long poem’ still divides opinion, remaining as mysterious today as when it was first published in October 1922 in the first edition of literary magazine The Criterion.
Revised by and dedicated to Eliot’s close friend Ezra Pound, is undoubtedly a difficult work, yet for all its complex literary structure, exotic esotericism and rich allegorical motifs, there lies at its heart some of the most intense and beautiful lines ever written in English.
Against the backdrop of a devastated Europe with the portentous rise of nationalism, social fragmentation and growing economic turmoil, the peoples of Europe had seen the unparalleled horror of the First World War with death on an unimaginable scale and the seeds of fascism were firmly planted in the ruins. In Britain, two million were unemployed after economic collapse, and there were fears amongst the literary Establishment and intelligentsia that the traditional social order was falling apart. It is a paradox that this was a time of great hardship, economic turmoil and desperation for most; yet for some it was also a time of unparalleled wealth, leisure and great technological advance.
The Waste Land was written in an atmosphere of uncertainty and creative experimentation and, although in later years Eliot distanced himself from interpretations of the poem as social commentary, it is undeniable that the genesis of the poem came from a profound sense of unease and deep personal malaise. It can be seen as a desperate search for the affirmative and a refusal of a barren society.
Chris Hall and Ian Harker present a striking new interpretation of the poem finding an extraordinary resonance in today’s confused and turbulent age of flickering images, financial crises, and permanent war.