Satellite Contact

Uriel Orlow and Ruth Maclennan

Satellite Contact is a two-screen video portrait of the British National Archives (formerly known as the Public Records Office). Satellite Contact never touches the ground: it takes the viewer on an hour-long roller-coaster ride through the guts of one of the most extensive national archives in the world. The digital ‘eyes’ of two cameras facing forward and backward, move to the rhythm of a mechanised system, the indoor ‘train’ used for circulating and delivering documents. These are trailed from strongrooms, along corridors, above ceilings, behind walls and out into the hubbub of the public reading rooms. Creating a mise-en-scène of the materiality of the archive, Satellite Contact touches the very fabric of the architecture which houses a vast historical resource. The two synchronous images of Satellite Contact reveal surprising patterns and forms that cannot be seen normally, and make connections between the material, functional, ontological and poetic qualities of the archive, as well as evoking networks of communication, digital data-flow and neo-Fordist production lines.