a portrait of ga – margaret tait




Margaret Tait’s poetic films testify her sheer wonder and astonishment at how much can be seen in any place that you choose… if you really look. Like Simon Denison, who scrutinises and photographs the concrete bases of telegraph poles until they ‘speak’, Tait coaxes everyday things into visual verses. 

In Aerial (1974) the four elements are set to a chiming clock, birdsong and piano notes. Grass ripples golden, a motif also used in Portrait of Ga, Tait’s 1952 portrait of her mother in rural Scotland. Snow is swept, raindrops drip and drop from silent, forgiving trees, and a dead bird lies next to an earthworm. This is the simple life, free from urban speed, moving with its own, eternal momentum.
In Tailpiece (1976), a house is cleared. Its furniture, which tells its story, is separated from its palimpsest-walls. Shadows glide and scenes fade into each other to the accompaniment of jazz and children’s voices chanting rhymes. The house is an archaeological site of memories.

Tait is interesting because her films’ locations range from urban to rural, the latter a setting often neglected from the arena of the everyday in favour of urban wanderings like Perec,  Benjamin and de Certeau’s. Although perhaps the city has a greater concentration of human history, rural areas are rich with stories too, and invite the type of scrutiny, appreciation and patience that Tait has perfected.