Retreating the Line


A film by Esther Johnson
Field Recordings/Audio Composition by Jez riley French

Year: 2017
Duration: 00:16:30
Country of Production: UK
Production Formats: HD and 4K
Picture: Colour
Sound: 4.0 surround

Supported by Arts Council England, Hull 2017 UK City of Culture and Film and Video Umbrella

Group Gallery Exhibitions

Somewhere Becoming Sea Humber Street Gallery, Hull 05.04.17–17.06.17

Film Festivals

Swedenborg Film Festival Swedenborg Society, London 18.11.17

Conference, Symposia and Seminars

Time and Tide Research Seminar, School of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Plymouth 01.11.17
Sounding The Sea Symposium Hull University, Middleton Hall, Hull 15.06.17–16.06.17


‘Particularly melancholy are sequences panning along the very edge of the eroding cliffs, where fence posts hang in thin air – the property that they once protected having fallen away.  Edges, borders, the delineation of territory are emphasized as arbitrary or at least temporary.’ Contemporary Art Society

“I reckon I’ve got fifteen years before [the sea] gets to my door”.
Charlie Mann (2002)

Retreating the Line is the sequel to Hinterland shot in Skipsea, on the cliff edge of Holderness, East Yorkshire, in 2002. Holderness is Europe’s fastest eroding coastline retreating at up to 2 metres a year. Hinterland explored, through the narratives of three Skipsea residents, how it felt to live in such a precarious situation, under constant threat from the elements. Charlie believed that he had fifteen years until the land on which his house stood fell into the sea; Saffron told of how she always had a backpack ready to make a swift escape; Peter recalled how far out the land reached in WWII, when he was a young man.

Retreating the Line is filmed at the fifteen-year deadline that Charlie feared. It documents the changes to the landscape, moving from the land to the sea edge and beyond. As predicted, the landscape of this ‘plotland’ has changed dramatically. Chalets first appeared in Skipsea in 1939, and the majority of the remaining resident-built structures that still stood in 2002, have since collapsed into the sea.