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Current Projects

Wakeful: an exploration of ‘hidden history’, intergenerational memory and maritime borders using film and sound.

Researcher: Anne Robinson


Wakeful was a W class destroyer, built at John Brown's on the Clyde in 1917  and had the motto: 'If I Sleep, I May be Caught'. This ship was part of the Baltic Cruise of 1918-19, a small squadron sent off from Rosyth immediately following the Armistice to engage with the Red Navy in the Gulf of Finland and my father was on board as leading cook.

The project Wakeful is a film/art work focused on intergenerational memory, remembered songs, the experiences of individual sailors caught up in history, and the implications of commemorating a complex peace. This work is timely in light of the hundred year anniversary. It also explores the concept of impossible borders in the sea. To date, I have gathered archive footage, begun recording and am now ready to work with performers from Russia, Estonia, Germany and UK; on board ship, in the Estonian landscape and in studios, exploring the soundscape of the ship, the percussive shipbuilding noise and the effects of cold and trauma on the voice. The filming methodology exploits frame rate and exposure techniques developed in the course of previous practice-led researches and will extend these researches into temporality and affect in film drawing on phenomenology.


Following a two-year period of research and development, including travel to Estonia, use of archives at PRO, Scottish Screen, Mitchell Library and other various locations, I have established a range of relevant contacts including colleagues from the Imperial War Museum, National Maritime Museum, 1914-18 NOW, Hidden Histories, Baltic Film School and academics working with the Estonian Maritime Museum as well as artistic collaborators.

The work’s direct sources are two uncatalogued 1918 journals in the IWM and RMG libraries giving accounts of a Christmas day concert on Wakeful and the capture of a Soviet ship and leading Bolshevik Admiral Raskolnikov. Although my father, in common with so many others of his generation, spoke very little about his war experiences and his memory of the Russian sailors in icy seas was an isolated one, some of my strongest memories are of him singing songs from that era including some from of the handwritten concert programme.

Aims and objectives

This application is made specifically to support a pilot of the work as a single screen short video and a website in order to provide a platform for further discussion with relevant research communities, museums and art venues concerned with community participation. This pilot would raise the profile of the project in relevant artistic and research communities, thereby assisting the lead artist in making progress towards funding the final production phases and the dissemination of the work in the public domain. The funds sought from MPA at Middlesex will enable the following:

  • travel to Naissaar Island in Estonia for filming
  • travel to Bavaria for recording
  • studio workshops with UK and Russian performers in London
  • technical assistance for an effective website
  • enable the lead artist to travel by invitation to PSI, Hamburg to present the work in progress to an international group of artist-researchers.

Research context

This application for funds is made to enable existing PhD and postdoctoral work by the lead artist to be augmented and extended into a major practice-led research project. The completed work and contributing research will be of interest to a number of research communities including, contemporary artists working experimentally with audio and moving image, researchers engaged with identity and borders, academics investigating cultural histories, e.g. music and song in WWI, historians working on the Baltic Cruise, researchers on memory and trauma, museologists investigating alternative methods of presenting historical information for enhanced public engagement. The work is also highly relevant for art venues and museum audiences with respect to public engagement in light of its connection with personal/family history. In AHRC WWI Engagement Centres, there are several projects ongoing which examine WWI histories away from the trenches and in the aftermath of war. The lead artist has engaged with academics in these fields during the R&D phase.

Research methods

This work employs practice-led research methods employing a range of digital and analogue film, audio and digital post-production techniques developed in the context of exploring perceptions of temporality and affect in art and film. This has included juxtapositions of altered frame rates, long exposures, dissonant and polyrhythmic sound in order to unsettle the spectator and raise questions about their perceptions of temporality. For example the 2014 film Thrashing in the Static, which also dealt with wartime memories, engaged with memories of song as a way of exploring memory and perception.

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