Sally Waterman

'Turn of the Screw' (2001)

Continuous black & white slide projection (Transferred to DVD 2007), 80 images in sequence, 9’20, silent”


‘The Turn of the Screw’ is a continuous black-and-white slide projection, or ‘still movie’ based on Henry James’ 1898 gothic novel of the same name. It explores the sexual and social repression of Victorian culture, in comparison with the artists’ contemporary autobiographical experience, through the ambiguous interplay between the existence of ghosts and the hallucinations of a neurotic governess played out by a surrogate self. Inspired by a short extract from the novel, we watch as the governess enters a room and suddenly catches a glimpse of the ghost of Peter Quint, who is representative of Waterman’s estranged father, peering through the window from outside. His intense stare forces her to impulsively bound for the door in a futile attempt to catch and confront him, by quickly running through the house to the outside terrace, only to be faced with a discomforting empty landscape.

As we continue to follow in her footsteps, the governess rushes to the window, mimicking his pose by pressing her face to the glass and peering into the empty room herself. A circular narrative is created by reiterating the earlier vision of the ghost, through a continuous series of still projected images that gradually builds up tension as they slowly dissolve from one into another; lingering on each shot to reveal the action in a deliberate fashion. The ethereal quality of the projection itself is heightened by the brief multi-layering effect as one image fades into the next. The silence of the nine-minute piece intensifies the quiet, eerie atmosphere experienced by the viewer, who is left to consider whether the ghost was in fact real or imagined.

Exhibition History
Hidden Within, Five Princelet Street Gallery, London (solo)
Haunt, Sherborne House, Dorset
Still-Moving , Viewfinder Photography Gallery, London (solo)
Moving Out, LOCATE Research group, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth
Nightmare conference, Senate House, Institute of English Studies, University of London
The Uncanny, Chapel Gallery, Ormskirk, Lancashire
GHost film screening: Turn of the Screw and The Innocents, St. Giles Church, Camberwell Free Film Festival, London