On 23rd March, 2020, the Conservative Prime Minister for the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, announced to the people of the nation that we were required to “Stay at Home” as an emergency measure to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The people of the United Kingdom largely obeyed this command. Thus began an event of mass social isolation that is unprecedented in modern history.
Phil Harris filmed the recorded statement by the Prime Minister in close-up from the screen of a computer, using a 16mm cine camera. The utterance of the instruction “Stay at Home” has been repeated to emphasise the extent to which the lives of UK citizens have, of recent, been defined by the ceaseless chant of a three word political mantra. The film was then projected onto the side of his home to represent the authority of this announcement upon the dwelling in which he was ordered to remain.
The presentation of the film is played out like a work of theatre, opening in pitch black followed by a sequential illumination of the house lights. The cine projector is switched on and the looming presence of the Prime Minister appears high upon the wall of the building and proceeds to silently chant his instruction.
The silence of the 16mm film medium emphasises the act of speech. The sound of the projector rattles in the background. When it stops it is followed by the suppressed atmosphere of a locked down community. The film closes with the switching off of the house lights, and then the return to darkness.
And we all stayed at home (mostly).
Stay at Home by Phil Harris – Digital video of 16mm cine footage was selected by FORMAT 21 Open Call Juror – Gemma Marmalade, artist and senior academic in photography.