MARK AERIAL WALLER; GLOW BOYS
16mm 14min, with Mark E Smith as The Caterer
 16mm film to video
14m colour sound
To be shown alongside Interview with a Nuclear Contract Worker
A study of the psychological state of the contemporary British nuclear industry. The film dramatises original research undertook over the course of a year. The script is developed from the pitch black humour of nuclear contract workers Waller met whilst travelling across the UK, from Wylfa in Anglesey, to Sizewell in Suffolk. This is a survey of a strange marriage between the maintained decrepitude of post war science and a highly sophisticated, but undermined PR campaign. Nothing had changed since Lindsay Anderson surveyed Britain in O'Lucky Man or Britannia Hospital, 25 years earlier.
One PR campaign declared:
BNFL- Where Science Never Sleeps
hilariously suggesting itself to be prone to anxious insomnia.
The text is fused with sibilant alliteration, its literary origins in Homer's Aeneid, describing sea snakes approaching the fall of Troy as 'sanguineae superant undas, pars cetera pontum pone legit sinuatque immensa volumine terga.fit sonitus spumante salo; ',
'their necks held high amidst the waves and their bloody crests tower over the waves, the other part skims the sea behind and arches its huge back in a coil'.
- its sibilance foretelling the fall of Troy. Next to the reactor, in the surrounding designated nature trail, a sign commands:
Take Nothing But Your Time
And Leave Nothing But Your Footprints!
as if they were evaporated in proximity to an atom splitting blast, on the way to entering some para Newtonian temporality. Inside this chaos work Glow Boys or Jumpers; contract workers who borrow friends' ID's in order to clock hours beyond the limits of designated radiation dosage. These workers travel from reactor to reactor to carry out radioactively 'dirty' jobs, such as welding ducts and loosening valves in tight spaces.
The reactor is situated in its own temporal realm, a 24 hour operation where shift workers retire each morning to eat oversized breakfasts and drink with local witches, where days and nights are substituted for hours and money.
For more information on the subject visit : http://www.metafilter.com/102084/glow-boys-nuclear-janitors-dying-for-a-living
CAST: Douglas Park, E.J. Waller, Grahame Fox, Kealan Doyle, Bernd Bucker, Mark E. Smith, Michael Howarth, Joolia Cappleman, Paul Rattee.
Produced by Tom Sheahan and Red Star Films
Funded by British Film Institute, Southern Arts, The Arts Catalyst
Text by Jonathan P. Watts
to accompany END TIMES at South London Gallery,September 2012.
British filmmaker Mark Aerial Waller imaginatively personalises the nuclear energy contract worker in Glow Boys (1998). Typically, Waller's works are genre-hopping fantasy-documentaries that take particular objects, artefacts or motifs and explore their cultural resonances. His film The Sons of Temperance (2000) begins with the conceit that with the correct playback device ancient pottery can be played like a record, releasing the ambient room sound in which it was made; Superpower-Dakar Chapter (2004) develops a scientific-fictional narrative set in West Africa, where stars from the astronomical belt of Orion come to earth as characters.
Glow boys, sometimes called jumpers or radiation sponges, are unskilled workers in the nuclear industry hired to do manual jobs such as welding ducts and loosening valves in spaces around the reactor. Irrespective of protective clothing, only a few minutes of this "radioactively dirty work" places workers at the upper limits of legal radiation exposure set by the Health and Safety Executive. Glow boys borrow friends' IDs in order to work hours beyond the legal limits of radiation dosage undetected. Financial benefits offset the health risks.
Waller's film is an imaginative portrait of contractor worker 508 who exceeds his maximum dosage. In 508's place of work, radiation exposure has produced, in spite of appearances, a new kind of human. Workers wear t-shirts adorned with superheroes. 508 wears the image of founding member of the Fantastic Four "Mr Fantastic", a Marvel comics superhero with genius-level intellect, extreme superhuman elasticity, shape-shifting ability and endurance. Another wears the Hulk.
"The reactor," writes Waller, "is situated in its own temporal realm, a 24 hour operation where shift workers retire each morning to eat oversized breakfasts and drink with local witches, where days and nights are substituted for hours and money." Working in this canteen, an inspired piece of casting, is Mark E. Smith - the first of many cameo for the frontman of post-punk band The Fall.
Mark Aerial Waller Glowboys (1998)
This is not a specific nuclear plant; this is any nuclear plant. Time-lapsed shots of the building's exterior show it, like (William) Raban's Millennium Dome, pulsating with strange vitality. Inside, the architecture - its form follows function - reaches Cathedral proportions, and again is not entirely different to the Millennium Dome. In the bowels of the plant, Waller's Glow boys inhabit a strange netherworld where it's always lunchtime. Even if they are abstracted from the outside world, they are necessarily connected to it, however delusionally: "I'm a fucking creator - father of power. Hub of power." 508 insists.
Out in the surrounding landscape, in the shadow of the station, local pub The Butchers Arms no longer offers rooms to shift workers - presumably because they are always working. Besides, the food they serve is contaminated by airborne fallout.
Waller describes this film as a study of the psychological state of the contemporary British nuclear industry. "This is a survey of a strange marriage between the maintained decrepitude of post war science and a highly sophisticated, but undermined PR campaign. Nothing had changed since Lindsay Anderson surveyed Britain in O'Lucky Man or Britannia Hospital, 25 years earlier."
Between (Chris) Welsby and Waller we move from the wider environment to the individual, and back again. Waller's man works so he can afford a holiday in Bangkok. "If you don't take chances what is the point of living?" 508, a number not a man, is willing to sacrifice himself, with little recognition of further reaching implications. But when 508 dies so too does mains electricity and the film itself.