Inside Out: Embodied Place in Margaret Tait’s Film and Poetry

Place of Work [screen shot]

Through a close reading of Margaret Tait's 1976 short film Place of Work this essay demonstrates how Tait offers a poetic and embodied interaction with place, and engages proprioception: our sense of position and movement. I align poetic and cinematic forms with those of perception by analysing Place of Work through theories of embodiment, and in this way, suggest that film and poetry are means of reinserting the body into an increasingly cerebral environment that devalues physicality through association with labour and femininity.

[...] Sensations recur in the film like poetic alliteration. Nathaniel Dorsky terms this ‘synaptic editing,’ synapses being cerebral regions where one nerve communicates with another (MacDonald 2006:87). ‘Synapse’ derives from the Greek, haptein ‘junction, join,’ as does ‘haptic’ (Stevenson 2012), etymologically connecting Dorsky’s idea to Marks’ visual hapticity. In Place of Work, the colour red relies on our chromatic memory to join one cluster of images – or stanza – to the next. Bridging between lines, red is a tool of alliteration, or in the sense of creating a flow, enjambment. Kirkwall’s pebbledash, complemented by the muted colour film stock, makes red stand out. Every few minutes, a red-coated neighbour, rubbish-lorry, poppy or nasturtium appears against a green-grey ground. Often in the upper left of the screen, red objects move left to right (by themselves or due to camera panning), and a few shots later, a different red object moves right to left, returning the colour to its former position in our memory, in a flow of chromatic correspondence. [...]

Extract from Becca Voelcker, 2012, 'Inside Out: Embodied Place in Margaret Tait’s Film and Poetry', an essay for MPhil Screen Media and Cultures, University of Cambridge.