Shadow Codex

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” ― Fyodor Dostoevsky

Shadow Codex is a study on the emergence of symbols in a monitored and closed environment. The black-and-white 8mm film of the abandoned facilities of Turku County Prison (1835–2007), documents the layers of messages drawn, scratched and burned on the cell walls. The markings are pathways to the shadow world, to the darkness of an individual’s psyche, and expose a maladjusted underbelly which a society simultaneously both generates and hides. Each cell mirrors its inmate, and demonstrates the power of magic imagining, with which you can create either a dead end or an exit route on the concrete walls of the cramped cubicle: draw a demon or draw a door elsewhere. Encountering the confusing, disturbing and dreamlike images, feels as if deciphering a language you partially understand, but which does not belong to you. The film becomes the codex of a collapsed civilization and at the same time evidence of a forbidden zone in the centre of the city. On top of the inmates’ messages, a second layer of graffiti by building squatters has emerged. These traces overlap a series of psychedelic drawings and collages, which – according to the inmate who created them – are tools for detaching yourself from the confinements of your body and passing through walls into freedom.

The flow of images is punctuated by John Cage’s (1912–1992) composition “Perilous Night” (1964), described as a journey to the nocturnal side of the soul.

CREDITS: Director, cinematographer: Saara Ekström, editor: Eero Tammi, music: John Cage – licensed by Schott Music & Media/WERGO and Peters Edition Ltd, post production: GradeOne, film material and scanning: Artturi Mutanen/Mutascan, graphics: Sakari Männistö/Letterpress House. Supported by AVEK.

Filming format: B&W 8mm film, Release date: 21.04.2021, Length: 00:12:31, Aspect ratio: 4:3

World Premiere at CPH:DOX film festival, NEW:VISION competition