Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness: Televisual Surrealism


Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness: Concrete Poetry is a two-part series presented by writer Jonathan Meades. Through the course of the two programmes, Meades presents a rationale for the artistic and architectural merit of 20th century concrete Brutalist architecture.

Meades’ narration throughout is continuous and the speed at which the information is given can be rather overwhelming for those not familiar with the history of this architectural movement. This combined with the somewhat monotonic nature of the Meades’ mode of address demands that the audience pay full attention to the words being spoken in order to make sense of the audio-visual essay presented throughout the programmes.


This notion of the audio-visual essay is reinforced by what could be described as ‘subheadings’ being displayed on the screen to introduce and group together each point of Meades’ argument.


The programme features the typical on location shots of the presenter standing in front of concrete buildings, and stock footage and images of Brutalist architecture. Black and white images of concrete structures also feature at various points throughout the programmes, a stylistic choice that mirrors the nature of the architecture being discussed.


However, interlaced between these more conventional shots is studio footage that takes a more bizarre stylistic approach.

 In many of the studio shots Meades is shrouded in darkness, standing next to images being projected on a screen. The use of shadow in such shots creates a somewhat film noir vibe.


Continuing with this cinematic theme, there are various dreamlike scenes throughout the programme similar in style to that of avant-garde and surrealist cinema. Indeed, a number of shots would not look too out of place within a David Lynch film.


Post-production editing is used to create scenes that disrupt the audiences’ perception of viewing ‘reality’ through the television. In one scene Meades stands in a room facing himself to illustrate a particular point about outward appearances.


A number of shots have also been edited in post-production to create scenes in which Meades is superimposed upon other images, creating compositions that are striking in their irregularity.


These superimposed images often feature Meades as semi-transparent, creating a ghost-like visual effect of not quite being there. Even more disconcerting is that Meades is often still and silent in these transparent images while his audio narration continues.


Even some of the on-location filming breaks the usual conventions of the pundit style. Shots of Meades stood still and silent are accompanied by his narration, creating a discrepancy between what we see on screen and what we hear.


Television’s mediation of reality is often something that is hidden from audiences. We do not usually see the cameras, studios, production crews and so on that construct what we view on screen. The surrealist approach to programming displayed by Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness demonstrates how arts programming can be experimental in regards to how reality is presented on screen. The dreamlike scenes juxtaposed between more conventional shots draw attention not only to the ways in which television mediates a view of the world, but also how our own senses construct our everyday lived experience of reality.


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