Jesse: Does anyone know any jokes? How many performance artists does it take to change a light bulb?
Scott: Don't know, how many performance artists does it take to change a light bulb?
Jesse: I don't know, I left.
[Unidentified speaker]: So you guys are you doing like a road trip?
Jesse: Do you want to come and look at the camera? Do you know what, this is an actual film camera so this is digital but that's film like real film they have to roll it on. The old ones used to say that the camera steals your soul because nobody can die you know.
Oscar: Good job Jesse, yes
Jesse: The problem is everything's just so beautiful and interesting. The zombie apocalypse is now, this is it. It's the same kind of environment everywhere you know bins and s*** and big car parks and some nettles growing.
Jesse: Is that Smooth FM?
Jesse: It's not so smooth now is it
Rosie: [Laughter] Not so smooth now
[Radio] Definitely looks like a storm's coming
Rosie: What's this?
Jesse: Your room key
Oscar: Can we pull over maybe?
Jesse: Wow. It's the Emerald City. It's very quiet, very strange and sort of beautiful. Do you know what happens if you make juice out of these? It's exactly like blood
Joe: It looks more like a shipping container graveyard to me
[Unidentified official]: You know this is a working yard, right?
Jesse: Not really
[Unidentified official]: [distorted voice] It's a working yard, you can't just stand there taking pictures.
Jesse: What's in all these?
[Unidentified official]: [distorted voice] Nothing. Absolutely nothing. These shipping containers go all over the world and whoever decides to pick them up they'll put stuff in them. OK so you lot…During the pandemic we were sending out reefers to go and serve as temporary morgues
Jesse: Ok, I see.
[Unidentified official]: [distorted voice]: You are going to have to move.
Jesse: Yeah we’ll get out of your way. Thank you
Jesse: The apocalypse is already here, it's just unevenly distributed. The thing is, in a Hollywood movie the apocalypse looks like the sublime comes knocking and takes the whole thing down you know what I mean. It's also kind of the principle of nature itself, the oceanic. It's life, it's death, it's where we all came from and of course in this culture it's the end of the world.
[Unidentified official]: [distorted voice] You look like you're lost. We don't really allow filming on the port because it's a restricted area. It's restricted because it's a goods area an ISPS
Jesse: Oh it's goods.
[Unidentified official]: [distorted voice] You know everything like after the terrorist attacks most ports are a restricted area you can't get in there without a valid pass, can't film it. You get a good vantage point of the port.
Rosie: That would be good yeah
[Unidentified official]: [distorted voice] Of the ships on the quay. The Loreto's down that end, ain't it?
[Unidentified official]: [distorted voice] Yeah yeah
Jesse: The what?
[Unidentified official]: [distorted voice] The biggest ship, MSC Loreto. It's the biggest ship in the world
Rosie: Oh really?
[Unidentified official]: [distorted voice] At the moment yeah. They change all the time. The next one will come in next week. There will be one extra container on it
Jesse: Big Loreto
Rosie: Big Loreto
Scott: It is a bit brisk out here
Jesse: I started thinking at some point about my relationship with things and materials, I was a bit conflicted about it. There is a fact of something, a material fact, you know like all those boxes and they're huge and f****** heavy and made of steel and they're full of everything that we need and use. I've made a lot of sculpture and very often using ready-mades and things like that, they've got their own backstories, the story of their coming into being. But the story of the manufacture is a story about labour, but it's a story about materials, you know like where does all the plastic come from? Where does the iron ore come from? Perhaps there is a sort of life in that backstory from petrochemical substrate. The ancestors should have been left in the ground but instead turned into plastic, which is the zombie medium undead made to walk the earth forever to the very limited life of its let's say household use and that doesn't go back into the ground, it doesn't feed the cycle, it's just a cycle of never-ending mounting death. But even so, maybe there's still something to think about as life in those things
♪ Que sera seignera ♪
♪ Whatever will be will bleed ♪
Jesse: Why can't it just be bumpy and weird?
♪ To seek is to reach is to exceed ♪
♪ Que sera seignera ♪
Jesse: Everybody okay? Everybody feeling alright?
Oscar: Yeah I feel good
Oscar: Where are we?
Jesse: I actually won something on a scratch card that's real luck
Oscar: So we've got no lights. It's very odd for both headlights to have gone. F***'s sake, what the hell has gone on there?
Jesse: As filmmakers do you think this has been a successful day or not? I wouldn't know
Scott: I think so
Oscar: Yeah, definitely
♪ When I die Lord bury me deep ♪
♪ at the end of old Chestnut Street ♪
♪ Freight train, freight train, moving so fast ♪
Jesse: People say it's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. I think that the sort of visualisation of how nature continues no matter what it's growing wild and that in the end is really hopeful to me. It's like yeah it's awesome
♪ they won't know which way I've gone ♪
♪ when I'm dead and laid in my grave ♪
♪ no more good times will I crave ♪
Jesse: I tell you what I'll tell you a story
Joe: Yeah go on
Jesse: In 2012 I had something that the shrinks were later talking about as a psychotic episode. I knew that I wasn't well, but I was in some way lucid. I wasn't like running screaming down the road. I didn't think I was Jesus, but one of the things that I remember was that I went into a supermarket and I suddenly, without warning, pretty much saw, sensed, experienced the entire supply chain. Like I was stood in the vegetable aisle yeah it was like, the avocados, the peppers, the wrapped-in-plastic. I saw the containers, the vans, the pickers, the ships, the planes, the wrappers, the factory, the cashiers, the customers, the seeds, the pesticides, the workers, the land, the floods, the plastic, all at once. And I just stood there completely transfixed on the spot and I think I was just streaming with tears.
So yeah not very well, you can’t live like that. It was the whole thing, all of the things that had to be in place to make something like that possible and what I had in my head was this can't last. I had this overwhelming sense of how fragile and precarious and kind of wild like preposterous it was, utterly in excess of requirement and in excess of possibility really.
[Radio] My heart was literally leaping out of my body it was just so exciting to be somewhere.
Jesse: All this gypsum, resin, plastic in order to create a world that feels wild. Talk about petrocolonial modernity
So look right.
Oscar: Oh s***
Jesse: You can already see the dinosaurs over there. I would really like to bring you here one time. It's more entropy, more energy.
[TV] Murder weapons…stab wounds into the chest…
Jesse: Actually things are probably better, weirder, more interesting and complex than anyone thinks. That's the punch line, that's the cosmic punch line.
Jesse: I was talking to myself so I thought I better record it. I'm on the bridge looking at the very very bright rainbow, which is reflected in all the windows and all the cars. The rainbow's pixels are such that even the really good cameras don't quite get the likeness you know. That's what old Turner was trying to do the whole time in rendering the sky and you could say he failed. But he created something to represent what there was and then it was something else again and what I wanted to show to you is how complicated things are and how connected things are and how wonderful and how terrible and how we make it and how the world makes it and how all that hangs together somehow. Anyway that's all for now.
Where are we, Jesse? The answer is not clear.
In this video, artist Jesse Darling and a small film crew go on a road trip across the UK. Passing through seaside towns, container ports, service stations, retail parks and an abandoned airport, this is a journey that encounters at every turn the barriers and borders (both physical and invisible) of modern Britain.
It’s a journey without a final destination, but one that hints at just how complicated and connected, how wonderful and terrible everything is.
Jesse Darling is nominated for the 2023 Turner Prize, hosted by Towner Eastbourne. The winner will be announced on 5 December 2023.