This film unpacks the absurdity of big city life and its big ego residents, premiering on Dazed as part of C4’s new series of Random Acts
The modern city is a fascinating place: monster skyscrapers in their infancy, a mangle of the super rich and poor living inches apart, the clash of metallic surfaces on what was once green sloping landscapes. Tyrrau Mawr, a film by Bedwyr Williams, unpacks the strange lifestyle of these self-constructed cities, in the third episode of the six-part weekly Random Acts series, premiering exclusively on Dazed.
The film won the artist The Derek Williams Trust Purchase Prize at Artes Mundi 7 this year, and its message is eerily relevant as widespread gentrification courses through London, New York and elsewhere, and the tragedy of Grenfell Tower is still very much raw.
In the most surreal way, animation depicts a dark futuristic city that has been built on Cadair Idris near Dolgellau. We are presented with an abstract portrayal of a fantasy, dystopian city. Williams narrates the story of locals, incoming workers and a ‘self-confident land developer’ and their tragic fate, where a very familiar and incomprehensible world is presented all at once
“When I’m in cities I’m drawn to funny or comic occurrences, a well dressed man picking up his tiny dogs' turds in New York, posh squatters fighting in east London,” Williams explains. “People in big cities can be so pleased with themselves it’s fun for me to point out their failings and shortcomings and tease out the banality in their ‘lifestyles’.”
As the cityscape changes from night to day, the experiences of residents are narrated from an unseen, God-like figure. “‘I have fillings in my teeth that are older than this city’ – a prominent music writer wrote,” Williams says in the spoken word piece. “The song writer might have been better off writing a ballad about this self confident land developer, because from 18 months from saying ‘I will build a city here’, he was killed by a sudden jet of wet concrete.”
“I was interested in how the world shifts forward inconsistently. Big cities pop up in rural places,” says Williams. “The contrasts between progress and that which already exists, like seeing some kid in those daft Nike meringue type pumps and low crotch joggers sitting next to an old woman in her Sunday best. It’s progress and it’s evolution but it’s also sort of absurd. I like it when our enthusiasm for change hits the buffers. So whilst we may have smartphones we also have Trump.”
Williams tears down the big egos associated with city dwellers, who forget their place in the big scheme of things, in other words: a good career and a designer outfit doesn’t make you invincible. The film explores the fragility of human nature along with our self-destructive tendencies that have forced this new reality, which serves no one, not even the people who think they’re in charge.
Tyrrau Maw by Bedwyr Williams airs tonight (September 11) at midnight as part of Random Acts on Channel 4