Plan for a Spell (2001)
Encoded to randomly combine the sound, image and subtitles.
Single screen projection.
5.1 surround sound
Commissioned by Film & Video Umbrella, in 2001, with the infinite randomised combinations of image, sound and subtitles programmed through experimental DVD authoring.
Remastered by Adam Chodzko, in 2023, to a streaming version, with coding by Isaac Clarke.
For reference: A 14 minute excerpt of a recording of Plan for a Spell’s random play, on Vimeo.
Plan for a Spell continues artist, Adam Chodzko’s fascination with how our imagination and beliefs operate socially. It shows a series of social spaces (some are real, some are possibilities) from the contemporary British landscape that Chodzko assembled so that when revealed in a particular configuration might create the formula for a spell. The spell is a form of magick, evolved for the viewer to experience a deep clarity, if they happen to coincide with its randomly generated ‘right sequence’ . Many of these ingredients are folk events; (eg: ‘Uppies and Downies’, and Ottery St Mary Tar Barreling* ) where communities assemble to create play within chaos. Other constituents of A Plan for a Spell show other forms of engagement with landscape and community, proposed, by Chodzko as possible future forms of folk ritual. Some are coincidences, movements (of a weaver’s hands and the blades of wind turbines), others show foot and mouth pyres, journeys from within a computer game, and a demolition derby, etc. All these spaces vacillate between disorder and order, collision and collapse, and a series of complex movements.
Authored originally as a DVD and then more recently as a streaming version, Plan for a Spell is encoded to randomly assemble the sound, vision and subtitles, so that every time it is played it will play differently, incessantly rearranging and evolving the narrative. If left to operate infinitely it may never play all the possible configurations and may never trigger the spell, or it may release it in the first few minutes. Because the process is random it is impossible to predict what it will play next. An audience experiencing it at one time might see a very different work from an audience seeing it at another.
A ‘voice-over’, (silently) communicated via subtitles, witnesses the configurations unfolding with a range of emotional responses, from anxiety and foreboding to delight. Sometimes this ‘voice’ seems to come from deep within the work itself. At others, it is apparently watching it, accompanying the viewer.
The power of the contemporary British landscape and the play of its communities is up for question here; Plan for a Spell is a proposal for a social space set in the immediate future that literally makes itself as you watch it. As with many of Chodzko’s works Plan for a Spell is a process, a form of image moderation; a viewer sees an artwork trying to become something, through apparently ‘looking for itself’, and through this consciousness the viewer becomes aware of their own act of looking, coinciding in the present moment with a live event of making.
*With thanks to folklorist, author and filmmaker Doc Rowe for generously sharing his video recordings.
Plan for a Spell was begun in early 2000 and finished in early 2001 ( first exhibited at Mappin Gallery, Sheffield as part of Sacred and Profane (2001)). Other works by British artists exploring notions of ‘folk’ include Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane’s Folk Archive, (2005).
From Plans and Spells, published in 2001 by Film and Video Umbrella.
“It’s tempting to see Plan for a Spell as a kind of requiem for an unmediated culture, for experiences that haven’t been defined to death by their own representation.”
“From the collisions of cars in the demolition derby footage, or the surging and scattering movements of the scrumming bodies it becomes clear that, as well as being documents, these images are also declarations of the work’s process. ……. they are the image and its analysis at the same time.”
Interview with Dave Barrett for Art Monthly:
DB: “It also seems that the works are trying for something that may not ever happen. The randomised video, Plan for a Spell (2001), seems to have the ingredients, and just keeps bashing them together until hopefully something is transformed.”
AC: “A lot of the works have this sense of deferral in the titles: ‘Plan for…’, ‘Pattern for…’, ‘Design for…’. They’re about to become. They’re all preparations, working towards some potential event. The idea of possibility is maintained. The question I’m exploring is whether the preparation is simply part of a process that leads to an event offstage or whether this groundwork is the event itself. I guess I’m intrigued by the intimate interactions that make up these explorations, because it seems to me that these exchanges describe and network societies far more than grandiose political plans or structures. We habituate a sense of normalcy in our perception of societal interactions, and yet these relationships are so precarious with the potential to spin off in a million different directions at once.
Plan for a Spell was first exhibited at Mappin Gallery, Sheffield as part of Sacred and Profane (2001). Later exhibitions of this work include Fabrica, Brighton and as part of Proxigean Tide, at Tate St Ives (2008).
Just as Plan for a Spell proposes that the artwork can generate a transformation for the viewer through its ingredients, structure and its use of chance in relation to the precise moment of our inherently unstable and dynamic encounter with it, Chodzko has explored related ideas through other works. For example, Ghost (2010 -), Night Shift (2004), Deep Above (2016) and O, you happy roots, branch and mediatrix (2020) all propose a capacity to generate in the viewer, through chance combinations, a heightened form of perception and a shift in consciousness.
O, you happy roots, branch and mediatrix (2020)
The Pickers (2009)