Squirrel window


In April this year while acquainting myself with the MAP online archive I stumbled on a couple of ‘Back Pages’. Dating from the magazine’s printed years when the back cover offered space for an image or a short piece, what caught my interest was this invitation:

‘Dear…. We would like to invite you to write about the view from a window and whatever associated thoughts are inspired by it.’

I found two examples online and in lieu of my own access to the print collection, I drew on Alice’s memory bank (as MAP’s founding Editorial Director) to see if there were more Back Pages like this that hadn’t yet been digitised. She got back to say that’s it; a short, sweet intervention of two window scenes:


Bombay based artist and pop duo DAWOOD / DEORA’s window shows a screamingly aspirational (at least for me in lockdown in Glasgow) November view with a swim-suited lower body cutting in front of a turquoise pool, concrete hotel-like accommodation, palm trees, a slither of grey rocky beach, and strips of neat green grass with sun loungers and umbrellas. A text follows with thoughts from the artists who share this view about post-colonial India’s relationship to the ongoing national aspirations apparent in the modernist project; a commission for the Olympic games, globalisation, olive branches, their mothers’ cooking. mapmagazine.co.uk/back…


The scene captured by painter Juliette Blightman who lives in Berlin—then if not now—shows a white curtain on which the shadows of a vase, of what looks to be pussy-willow, are visible. This covers a window beside a desk littered with notes and small objects, next to an open backdoor from which I can see a chair on a patio. It opens to a rural idyll: an old tree and long grass in fields on a sunny early Summer’s day. I read the writer’s streaming account of cyclists, walkers and cats passing by, the description of a view that extends out of the photograph to include a windmill, a pig house, and a barometer that hangs from the tree. mapmagazine.co.uk/back…


The two examples intrigued me—it felt an expansive concept: an interesting critical vantage from which to think about pace, locality, architecture, image production and domestic life.

In these two MAP Back Pages of 2008, the invite appears as a gesture of slowness, contemplation, and intimacy. The windows in the archive capture bustling life in an instant from the indoor space of a home: printed on the Back Page the window scene operates as a snapshot, a still moment in a fast-paced world, entangled with home lives. To me looking at my own window-vista now, if I think of the window as lens-based media, it is as a screen, a cinema. As myself and Rosie wrap up our time here at MAP, to close I revisit this gesture in the archive, offering some notes on a view from my own ‘Rear Window Cinema’ as a sort of Back Page to this extended issue and our residency.


The MAP archival commissioning invite, if imagined to an extreme of multiplicity and with the current online magazine format, might act somewhat like Gillian Wearing’s open submission project Your Views that began in 2013. [1] The project involves artists and anyone who might happen upon the webpage, with the stricture of filming your curtains or blinds pulling open the view from your window, like a cinema curtain going up, over and over.

The dizzying array of window coverings—shutters, blowsy curtains, roman and venetian blinds, ornate brocade curtains, office blinds, electric ones, a simple piece of gauzy cloth strung up—never mind the revealed view itself, show glimpses of socioeconomic circumstances, lifestyles, traditions and make differences in quality of life highly visible. There is a 2020 ‘pandemic version’[2] of this work where the exasperation of the gap in what ‘liveable’ material conditions might entail—for instance if you have a garden or a spare room or a car—feels at the surface, but clips of people banging pans for the NHS sit awkwardly now in ongoing lockdowns that lack the apparent cohesiveness of the first.

Taking a photograph from the window stops its cinema. Delaying it makes it the subject of close analysis: I think of Laura Mulvey’s video GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (remix remixed) [3]; an analysis of Marilyn Munroe’s dance routine in the titular film, where repetition and the slowing of the body are used to focus on the precision of her performed gestures, creating space to think about representation and gaze in such a concentrated, reconstrued time. Slowness is a methodology for analysis, and this work acts as a call for the body to halt, think about how it is moving, thinking, looking, being looked at. Recall Mulvey’s writing on Hitchcock’s Rear Window [4] where for the tired, disabled, mostly housebound body of James Stuart’s leading man (a journalistic photographer), his window becomes a screen. [5] The whole film becomes a metaphor for the voyeurism of the cinematic gaze, ‘the look’ itself being central to the plot. We share his unerring, uneasy gaze brought on by the character’s forced inactivity, in our own stalled time of watching in the cinema. [6]

For me as the tired, home-body voyeur of my slow, cinema window, the weather is the defining character, the object that fixes my gaze. The seasons serialise the scene: the trees block or reveal more windows opposite depending on their leaf coverage, puddles grow, and there’s a crow’s nest at my eye level. Providing (some) necessary sunlight; necessary ventilation. It’s a view that maybe had been only looked at with a glance—lately it has been shot with stares, watching things in motion. Looking out the tenement window, seeing neighbours looking out the window, keep looking but changing the angle of sight by a fraction, to instead focus on a wood pigeon. The scene shifts with more detail, more familiarity than I’ve noticed in previous years from the same viewpoint. My view is often sound-tracked by the rain lashing, wind crashing the trees against the panes, and the beeps, whirrs and groans of my household’s objects and subjects. I’ve been thinking of self-named ‘storm-squatter’ George Kuchar, the weather of his home-movies-cum-weather diaries being bodily, often foul, and leaching. [7] A slow disaster movie.

I think it’s something like watching a long, slow art film that moves almost imperceptibly, unblinkingly, and gradually passes through many colours and tones in one sitting—with the occasional surprise. Perhaps a rainbow will form. Particularly, it reminds me of the sort of materialist filmmaking that focuses on the everyday rhythm of the phenomenological world, that uses static framing, long takes, and forces an immersion in dilated duration. Like Ben River’s film now, at last! [8], seen in Berwick in 2019: sitting for ages waiting for—as the press release claimed—a slow sloth to turn into prismatic technicolour; if you can make it to that point. I didn’t, there was too much more to see at the time. Having fewer places to go and fewer options to leave one view for another, am I now more likely to wait for the surprise, for something to happen, or to notice something I hadn’t before? Art cinema can be profoundly tiring, but I’m already tired?

Elena Gorfinkel, in the essay Weariness, Waiting: Enduration and Art Cinema’s Tired Bodies—part of a wider project on ‘Cinemas of Exhaustion’—writes on fatigue as both a figure and an affect of art cinema:

‘Making things both possible and difficult, weariness delays, interrupts, arrests, and pauses us in time; weariness draws us out, to reflect, to feel, and to wait. Tiredness is not inaction but instead is a reflexive holding in abeyance, the body waiting for itself to recharge, reenergize, or waiting for a shifting desire, drive, event, or an approaching relation to the world. This event may never arrive. But it is the qualitative expectancy of waiting that infuses the banality of tiredness with its potentiality, a potentiality never shorn of struggle.’[9]

Recently this event came in the form of a squirrel at my window, perched on the sill. On the third floor, looking in at the houseplants, back at me, pleading to come in through the screen. I’d never seen one there before, a real one-off. So the pace of the cinema sped up, with this scrabbling presence, the focus brought to the foreground, a new protagonist! A companion for an hour or so before it decided it was safe to leave—and it was clear it didn’t need help—flinging its furry self at the glass and claws finding purchase on the rough sandstone, leaving the scene dull once more, and me waiting for something else to happen.


[1] Part 3 is available to watch on Youtube, part of Channel Four’s ‘Random Acts’, 2017. www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlJzz2ZJfzs&ab_channel=RandomActs

[2] This and the open submissions instructions can be found here: yourviewsfilm.com/

[3] Laura Mulvey, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (remix remixed), 2013. 4mins32secs, video. This work is available to watch at Cooper Gallery DJCAD’s online ‘A space in between’ iteration of the exhibition ‘A is for Avant-Garde, Z is for Zero’:


[4] Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window, 1954. 1hr 55mins, 35mm.

[5] Looking from my tenement in ‘forced inactivity’ and summoning Rear Window, leaving cinema, I could think of Edward Hopper’s Night Windows (1928), the painter looking in at a woman in her bay window. The proximity of dwellings in the city becomes a voyeuristic form of neighbourhood ‘community’ borne through inescapable proximity. Maybe I should be thinking about who can see me from here: draw on the archive in the form of the art historical (male) canon that represents women inside—looking out while at leisure or at work in the house. Often showing ‘women’s labour’: bound to the house for expected roles in childcare, housekeeping, in illness et al, or using the window to show inner and outer worlds, physiological spaces. Marcel Duchamp’s Fresh Widow shows a French Window with a view of nothing, darkness following the bereavement of WW1. Dutch painters’ women at windows serve as a play with perspective and framing; impressionists’ serial window paintings re-figure the same scenes again and again as they morph, grow, die off. Whereas Leonora Carrington’s Self Portrait (1937–38) inverts the gaze, using the window as a space for imagination, escape, or alternate plots to play out.

[6] Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema, first published in Screen, vol. 16, (Autumn 1975), pp 6-18 and accessed at LUX: www.luxonline.org.uk/ar…

[7] George Kuchar, Weather Diary 1, 1986. 1hr21mins, video. www.vdb.org/titles/weather-diary-1

[8] Ben Rivers, now, at last!, 2018. 40mins, transferred from 16mm. lux.org.uk/work/now-at-last

[9] Elena Gorfinkel, Weariness, Waiting: Enduration and Art Cinema’s Tired Bodies, Discourse, 34:2-3, 2012, Pg 341 www.academia.edu/54238…


Alison Scott is an artist and writer based in Glasgow, and in collaboration with Rosie Roberts has been Reviews and Projects Co-Editor at MAP in 2020. She is currently thinking about the weather as Associate Producer at Collective, Edinburgh. alison-scott.co.uk/