Shades of Invisibility

  • Sally Pearce Wolverhampton University


Shades of Invisibility is an ongoing experimental artist’s documentation of my practice in making Chernobyl Journey, an activist film that I have been working on for twelve years. In Chernobyl Journey live action tells the story of my four trips to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone between 2009 and 2015 in search of rare Przewalski Horses, while animation is used to subversively unravel this apparently straightforward and chronological story backwards, tracing my fascination for the Exclusion Zone back to memories of an acute and life-changing illness in my own timeline from May to August 1986. In the film, animation is used not only to portray my inner private world of sensations, emotions and memories, but also to trace the slow process of arriving at self-knowledge through unravelling invisibilities of a very external and political nature. However, it is not the animation itself that makes the film experimental and subversive, but the way in which the animation is intimately woven into the live action footage. Through methods of compositing and blending, a counter historical narrative is inscribed into the fabric and the forbidden spaces of the two landscapes my auto-ethnographic story inhabits. As well as providing an outlet for my counter historical auto-ethnographic story, Chernobyl Journey also debunks the myth that nature will spring back like a lightly trodden on blade of grass, even after the worst excesses of human exploitation, extraction and environmental disaster. Shades of Invisibility is informed and inspired by my reading of New Materialist texts, in particular Jane Bennett’s ‘Vibrant Matter’.  In the text I attempt to explore the efficacy of agencies other than my own will upon my art, using invisibility as a linking theme to create a network of interlocking pathways into subject matter that is dense, multi-layered, interdisciplinary, complex and sometimes politically taboo. My approach to documentation is activist in itself, as it questions the hylomorphic and anthropocentric world view that underpins auteur theory. I argue that this model of creativity based on the unrestrained and unaccountable power of the human individual’s will mirrors the neo-liberal model of unrestrained extractive capitalism that is contributing so much to our present reality of climate crisis, loss of species diversity and global injustice.