Shadow Codex

Experimental documentary film, 2021

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

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 passages to the shadow of an individual’s psyche, and expose an underbelly which a society simultaneously both generates and hides. The film becomes a codex of a collapsed civilization and 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, trespassers and other participators has emerged, turning the walls into thickets of obscure visual information and indecipherable communication. 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.

Interview by Patrick Gamble in ALT/KINO: Finnish artist Saara Ekström talks about transformation, exploitation, violence and the act of collecting images in her new film Shadow Codex

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, nominated for NEW:VISION award