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Week #27/52: Sapphire & Steel, various ghosts in the machine and a revisiting of broken circuits…

Sapphire and Steel-ghosts in the machine-A Year In The Country-1
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

Loss or non-loss within past/future media seems to be something that I return to around these parts…

Along which lines…

I’ve recently(ish) been watching/rewatching Sapphire & Steel (while fairly constantly thinking “What a fine program this is”)…

One of the things that struck me was that despite it being on shiny modern(ish) day discs full of zeros and ones, it is particularly not brushed, scrubbed up and remastered – there are glitches, banding, small transmission-breaking-through crackles of interference at the edges of the screen, light trails and so on.

Often I appreciate a good brush and scrub up on say certain opulent celluloid delights but I think with Sapphire & Steel it would be particularly inappropriate; these marks and infractions feel like an inherent part of the series, its spirit and aesthetic. In these days of exact duplicatory ease, there is something intriguing about these particular “faults” (?), particularly in the context of the never-never world of Ms Sapphire and Mr Steel and a commercial, official release.

Sapphire and Steel-ghosts in the machine-A Year In The Country-2

They are the ghosts in the machine, as it were…

Which brings me to Ghosts In The Machine.

This was a mid-to-later 1980s late night program on the UK’s Channel 4 television station (one of but four at the time indeed) that was dedicated to showing experimental/avant-garde video work; things you would be more likely to see in a gallery setting than via the mainstream television broadcast infrastructure.

Non-populist television within a populist framework.

Sapphire and Steel-ghosts in the machine-A Year In The Country-3

I (hazily) remember that at times there would be advert breaks with no adverts.

I assume this was because of a mixture of the late hour, Channel 4’s still then minority output remit and well, quite frankly people probably couldn’t see the marketing potential for say fizzy sugared water after a 10 minute almost still framed broadcast of a pond which showed reflections of people who weren’t there diving in.

(I’m having to, I expect, loosely paraphrase or guestimate there as such things are but fractions and fractures of memory today).

It was all quite thrilling seeming at the time, a glimpse into obscured culture that I just can’t imagine being seen in amongst the transmissions of one of the big broadcasters today, no matter how late the hour.

Sapphire and Steel-ghosts in the machine-A Year In The Country-4

It puts me in mind of (that gent who is mentioned around these parts from time to time – or more) Mark Fisher’s comments about about “the breaking of the circuit between the avant-garde, the experimental and the popular” (to quote myself quoting him) – this was a brief moment when there was a spark generated by a few hair thin strands of connection in that circuit.

Ah, we can but dream…

Non-transuranic escapades around these parts here. Other consideration of loss and ghosts in other mechanisms here. Broken cultural circuits at the cliff edge here and amongst unearthly gardens of delight here.

Elsewhere in the ether: the pleasantly dated introductory passages for Ghosts In The Machine
(I and II) at the ever reliable TV Ark here.


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