Observations of an Alien (2008)

The result of an artist’s residency at Galeri, Caernarfon, this film takes an irreverent look at the darker side of how Celtic identity, past and present is determined, perceived and presented in Wales.

Echoing the shamanic accidents of Dadeni and The Black Cauldron, a group of researchers (cultural and scientific) at the Institute for the Establishment of Celticity are conducting genetic tests on a small aquatic organism Gammarus Duebeni Celticus. Believing they have identified a pure ‘Celtic’ gene, they set about using the acquired science in identifying pure Celtic genes in humans.

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Unfortunately, this goes horribly wrong when it transpires that the first human ‘guinea-pig’ is not only of uncertain cultural origin – but also unexpectedly demonstrates cognitive traits in relation to the National Eisteddfod, the cultural festival of the Welsh language. The situation worsens as further cultural and historical wires are crossed via the introduction of Gorsedd of Bards’ plastic stone circle, sited at the Mold National Eisteddfod of 2007.

Unfathomable geo-plastic resonances precipitate the ‘awakening’ of a disgruntled group of local Bronze Age ancestors who, as they have done before, summon a familiar force of nature from the Other World. Subsequently, an appalling act of cultural vandalism takes place in which the destroyer of civilisations assaults the plastic icon, with truly cosmic results…

The ‘Celtic’ story of amphipod sub-species Gammarus duebeni celticus is true. Research undertaken at Bangor University School of Biological Sciences has shown similarities in the DNA of specimens found in Ireland, Wales, and the west of Scotland that are statistically beyond coincidence. The DNA of G. celticus is markedly different from the other G. Duebeni found in the British Isles (and indeed throughout the North Atlantic). They appear to have maintained separate populations since the last Ice Age (though ranges now seem to have overlapped – as is the case in the Menai Strait). This is not true of Homo sapiens in the British Isles who share the majority of their DNA regardless of cultural origin. Thus, if one wishes (as some do) to identify the one true Celt using genetic rather than cultural criteria, G. celticus, not H. sapiens, ticks all the right boxes.

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