“As a filmmaker, a photographer and writer – indeed, as a person – I am riddled with doubt. On the one hand, doubt often leads to, at times, a paralysing lack of confidence and scepticism; on the other, it is the foundation of my faith and creativity. An inner drive, an inner calling, moves me uncertainly forward. As I create work, I am acutely aware that any work needs to speak to someone. Otherwise, why create it? And in the midst of abundant voices – particularly in the era in which I am surrounded by consumerism and technology that encourages many voices to speak – who is going to listen to me? Why should they listen to me? Will I be heard? Who am I to speak? Why are there no clear signs that I am saying the right things? Why am I being ignored? Am I on the right path?
In 2016, it will be 25 years since my first feature length film was publicly screened: One Day Tafo, Channel Four Television, 1991, UK. Yet doubt plays a bigger part in my life than it has ever done. It is an integral part of my creative processes and my spiritual search. Over the years I have learned to see it, recognise it, and embrace it.
This seems an appropriate moment to pause and reflect on my creative journey. Such a creative journey is, of course, also linked to my personal and inner journey. With this in mind, the Doubt Project has been constructed out of my recent photographs, my entire body of films and some reflexive writing related to this theme of doubt from the past 25 years of writing notebooks. I have created a new reflexive film out of my previous films, whose original purpose and destiny was elsewhere. Some of the poems in the book have found their way into the narration of the film, as have some of the photographs. The structure of the film mirrors that of the narrative of the book. Out of this integrated recreation, I have sought to create a new experiential narrative that seeks to evoke a transcendent relationship to the theme of doubt.
I discovered that the history of philosophical and mystical thought is riddled with expressions of doubt. In the Judaeo Christian tradition, of course, the Bible is full of examples of expressions of doubt, from Job to Jeremiah to the Psalms. Such laments calling into the wilderness for signs and proof of God, for meaning and purpose in the midst of a cruel and unfair world are common in such laments, poetry and songs, but there are very few examples of audio visual works being used in this way. Doubt has been inspired by these laments; in particular Psalm 22 from the Bible, which has helped provide a tradition and structural bedrock from which to explore.
The Doubt Project – book and film – has paradoxical aims. First, by taking you through my own personal journey of doubt, I aim to create a universally accessible mirror in which I hope you may see reflections of yourself and your own journey. Second, as I wrote in one of my own notebooks:
‘To hell with them. To hell with them all. This work is a prayer to my God’.”
An early exploration of the photographic component of this project formed part of Erik Knudsen’s contribution to the group show The Fielden Project at the Unitarian Church, Todmorden, UK between the 5 and 18 May 2014. We are currently aiming for Doubt to be published as a book with accompanying film during 2016.