Mark Vernon

Mark Vernon is a sound artist and radio producer based in Glasgow. His arts practice encompasses live performance, soundtracks, installations and radio broadcasts – often blurring the boundaries between art, music and broadcasting. His key areas of interest are the human voice, field recording and soundscape composition, musique concrète and the radiophonic combination of these elements in works for broadcast and live performance.

Mark has produced programmes and features internationally for radio stations including WFMU, RADIA, Resonance FM, CKUT, VPRO and the BBC. He has also been instrumental in setting up a number of temporary RSL (Restricted Service License) art radio stations in the UK including Hair Waves, Radio Tuesday and Nowhere Island Radio.

Together with Monica Brown he runs the ‘Lights Out Listening Group’ – a monthly listening event focused on creative uses of sound and radio that takes place in complete darkness. He also records and performs solo and in a variety of collaborative music projects including Vernon & Burns and Hassle Hound with record releases on Staalplaat, Ultra Eczema, Entr’acte, Staubgold and Gagarin Records.

Currently he is approaching completion of a two year period as digital artist in residence at Forth Valley Royal Hospital where he has been developing new audio works for the context of hospital radio.

Sura Medura Winter Residency Artists for 2013 / 2014 Announced

UZ Arts are delighted to announce that the artists for the winter residencies have been selected.

The six artists who will be taking part in the international residency programme from October 2013 to January 2014 are:

Hannah Brackston
Jo Hodges and Robbie Coleman
Sita Pieraccini
Tom Pritchard
Lindsay Sekulowicz
Mark Vernon

Each of the artists will undertake a 6 week residency at the Sura Medura International Artist Residency Centre in Hikkaduwa. The centre was established in 2011 by UZ Arts and offers opportunities for all artists from all disciplines to create work that is enhanced by being developed in Sri Lanka.  The work developed and produced by artists during their residency will be exhibited at the Briggait in February 2014.

The Sura Medura residency programme is part of Creative Futures, a Creative Scotland talent development programme which aims to promote the professional development, capabilities, connectivity and ambitions of Scotland’s creative practitioners and organisations.

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The Other Kwai at the MCF 2013

Congratulations to Kit Mead, previous Sura Medura artist in residence, on the presentation of his film The Other Kwai at the Merchant City Festival 2013, Glasgowas part of the Pop Up Events programme by the Glasgow Film Theatre.

Mr & Mrs Perera
Mr & Mrs Perera – Samuel Perera was “Jungle boy” in “The Bridge on the River Kwai”

Kit’s film returns to the location of the 1957 film, The Bridge on the River Kwai in Kitulgala in Sri Lanka. He made this work as part of his residency in Sura Medura in early 2013. Kit ventured in to the Sri Lankan countryside to see what he could find and by sheer chance, serendipity, he found Samuel Perera, one of the many locals who were employed to work on the film either as actors or craftsmen, still living close to the the bridge site. Using found footage and relaxed interviewing Kit’s film gently tells the story of how the the “River Kwai” and its famous bridge came about.

Kit Mead – The Other Kwai – Merchant City Festival 2013

Kit Mead, our recent artist in residence at Sura Medura, will be showing his film  “The Other Kwai” at this year’s Merchant City Festival in Glasgow on the 26th July. It will be shown in South Block in the Merchant City in association with Glasgow Film Theatre and their Pop Up events programmers. More information about event can be found here.

You can also follow Kit’s progress in Sri Lanka making his film by reading his blog posts in the News section of the Sura Medura website.

Photo from the set of The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957
Photo from the set of The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957

Kit’s Blog – The Other Kwai Featurette

On Saturday the 23rd I presented ‘The Other Kwai’ a film I have developed during my time at the Sura Medura Art Centre. Set within the linearity of a single day with a narrative structure reflective of ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ (1957), broken by images from the Hollywood film and the weaving of chair caning, ‘The Other Kwai’ takes in the echoes of the impact when fiction collided with reality, creating a new history which continues to affect and reverberate through the rainforest canyons of the Kelani River at Kitulgala.  My previous film work has consistently been intended to be exhibited within installation spaces and I have found that while the focus of the audience is the projection of moving images, the space where it is presented can act as a crucial element to the work as a whole; helping to create an immersive environment for an audience, while also referencing components or the structure of the films presented, causing the spaces to become constituent components of the installations. This has continued with the presentation of my latest work in Sri Lanka. Using the grounds of Sunbeach Hotel in Hikkaduwa I set up an outdoor cinema for the audience to sit and experience the work. Previously many of my moving image installations have been structured in a non-linear way, in part due to the particular qualities and contexts of exhibiting in gallery spaces. This piece was presented in an unconventional art environment and needed certain criteria to be put in place to create an installation space that continued to feed information involved within the work to the audience.

Installation view of 'The Other Kwai' 2013

When confronted by moving image art in the cavernous spaces of contemporary visual art galleries and museums the work has regularly been place on a continuous loop, forcing the actions to repeat once completed and without break. This is a way of making the work viewable to as many people wondering around the building throughout the day as possible but (unless the films are incredibly short or focus on repetition) can destroy the narrative structure of many of these works, leaving the audience to be more concerned with wondering where in the film they have stumbled into (Beginning middle or end) then the actual content they are viewing. This has seen a rise in artists films either being non-linear where the audience participate within an environment where they edit their own film from the images and sequences projected or by having set times for the films to start, giving that control of accessing the work in the correct linear order the artists intended it to be viewed (This curatorial decision making was heavily visible in the exhibiting dynamics of last year’s Turner Prize). The outdoor cinema area I constructed acted as a formal space for viewing cinematic work and rather than be a space that was open to the coming and going of various people, was rigidly structured in reference to conventional cinema spaces by applying a start time for the film with a single showing to reinforce the linear composition of the work.

Still from Bridge on the River Kwai

In an earlier blog post I mentioned my fascination at watching and filming a local man fixing the caning on a chair. This footage has become an important part of my film and weaves throughout its duration, creating associations with the intricate design of the bridge, transient qualities of the material and laying of new histories within the story of the Kitulgala. These chair cane seats also seem part of the very fabric of Sri Lankan society, appearing in local villager’s homes, hotels, museums, as well as during the Sri Lankan scenes of ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ (1957) and I thought it was crucial that seats featuring chair caning where used for the outdoor cinema space. A subtle reference that made the images on the screen tangible and helped to create an immersive viewing environment.

Still from Bridge on The River Kwai (1957)

I thought I’d end this post with a link to mini featurette on the making of ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ made in 1957. An interesting but brief insight into the production of the set.

The Bridge on the River Kwai Mini Featurette 1957



Kit’s Blog – The Other Kwai

I’m into my final week of my residency here at the Sura Medura and wow has it gone by fast! These past few weeks particularly have been spent combing through all the footage I have recorded to produce a narrative that takes in the echo’s of the original Bridge on the River Kwai film which still resonate around Kitulagla and the whole of Sri Lanka 60 years after the film crew left.

The Other Kwai

This Saturday the 23rd of February I will be presenting my film ‘The Other Kwai’, 2013, in a purpose built outdoor cinema space at the Sunbeach Hotel in Hikkaduwa. ‘The Other Kwai’ will be presented at 9pm followed by a short Q&A discussion.

The Other Kwai Poster


If you happen to be in Hikkaduwa come on over!



Kit’s Blog – The Three Princes of Serendip


1. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.

2. The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.

3. An instance of making such a discovery.


The Three Princes of Serendip is an old Persian fairy tale dating back over a thousand years. Consisting of historical facts embellished by folklore and based upon the life of the Persian King Bahram V, who ruled the Sassanid Empire located predominantly in modern day Iran and its surrounding neighbours from 420-440AD. One key story within the story, centres on three sons of a King sent away from their Kingdom, Serendippo in the Far East, and into a new and unsheltered education away from privilege. Their collective wisdom soon finds them determining the precise meaning and causes of disruptions on the track they are wandering on the edge of a desert. They believed that a one eyed camel holding containers of butter on one side and honey on its other, is carrying a pregnant women across the dessert. When they happen across an individual and regale their observations, the man reacts in outrage and accuses them of stealing his camel. Taking them to a local Emperor to be punished, they go on to describe how they deciphered innocuous clues to discern such possible reasoning, and shortly after a traveller enters the scene informing the court he has just found such a camel wondering the desert. Rather than being punished, the Princes are handsomely rewarded and appointed advisors to the Emperor. And everyone lives happily ever after…

The story would wind its way to Italy around the 1500’s before being translated into French and finally reaching an English speaking audience, all the time influencing writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Voltaire, whose novel Zadig – almost a direct translation bar a change of animal – would in turn inspire the developing area of detective fiction (think of Sherlock revealing his reasoning to Watson) and help detail the empirical scientific method. That in my eyes is quite impressive for a simple fairy tale, but this was not its only lasting impact.

Portait of Horace Walpole

Horace Walpole the Earl of Orford, son of the first British Prime minister and cousin of Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson, was a very well educated chap know for being an art historian, antiquarian, politician, revivalist of the Gothic style in architecture and man of letters. These letters –over 3000 in total– on which his literary reputation primarily rests, would be the source where the word ‘serendipity’ would be coined and first appeared in a letter dated the 28th of January, 1754;

“this discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word.”  And was formed from “a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of….” (1)

And that is the etymology of the word Serendipity bar one very important fact, the location of this mythical land of Serendip/Serendippo. As I mentioned earlier, the tale of three Princes while highly embellished, stemmed from historical facts such as the name of an island. The Sanskrit word Suvarnadweepa translated into English means Golden Island. Far back in time it was absorbed into the Tamil language, changed to Seren Deevu and adopted by Persians and Urdu and defined as Serendip. This Golden Island still exists today and is now known as Sri Lanka and from my experience Serendipity still resonates in this land.

The River Kelani

So now you find me in Kitulgala the location of a Hollywood behemoth that won 7 Oscars, “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, which for a brief point in the 50’s took over the Rest Houses, mansions, countryside and river of this small, central-highlands Sri Lankan town. I had arranged and stayed in the Kithulgala Rest House which held claim to being the place where most of the crew stayed and had raucous parties long into the night during the production. It’s an old colonial building originally built for travelling administrators of the British Empire and housed the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh during a trip in 1954. There are many references here such as the ‘Bridge Restaurant’ and posters adorning the walls but it’s once I started venturing outside of this setting, that unexpected moments began to descend on me in surprising ways.

On the first day I arrived I decided to have a wonder around the town and get a feel for the place I would be spending my time in. Having reached the other side of the town, and after refusing numerous offers for Tuk Tuk lifts, from the last politely declined offer, a conversation ensued. From this I learnt the Kelani River is now famed as a fantastic white water rafting location in Sri Lanka with many native and foreign tourists descending upon it for such adventurous fun. This Tuk Tuk driver also runs an adventure sports company and asked if I would like to do some rafting. Again I politely declined his offer and in a sudden on the cuff decision making moment, asked instead if he could take me to the location of the Bridge from the film. I just couldn’t wait to see it for real any longer. It was late in the afternoon and time was creeping into early evening at this point and the Tuk Tuk driver pointed out that he in fact lives just a short walk from that very place and was happy to take me there for free as he had finished his days work and was at this point heading home. I jumped in, the 2 km drive commenced, and the conversation continued.

KitulgalaTimber Yard

I asked if he knew the film and he responded in glowing terms and knowledge and informed me that his father was actually an extra in the film! The off chance of deciding to accept his ride, and the fact he only revealed this information after he was driving me to the location was, for me, rather surprising, a little skeptical but very exciting. I asked if it would be possible to meet his father and if it would be possible to film him. His father a Mr. Samuel Perera, he notified me, had recently had a stroke and a major operation so couldn’t speak as clearly as he used to but he said he was happy to introduce him. After winding our way around hills populated by jungle and tea plantations we pulled up and wandered down to his family’s home. I was introduced and Mr. Perera was more than happy for me to interview him the next day. And so for the next few days I spent a fascinating period of time interviewing and wandering the set location with a man who claimed to be a ‘9 year old Jungle Boy’ in the film, re-enacting –on his own accord– crucial moments from the film on and around the Bridge on the River Kwai location.

Mr & Mrs Perera

Mr. Perera and his wife Mrs. Perera have archived copious amounts of magazines that reveal stories and histories of David Lean’s film, including one article which talks of a Samuel Perera who was a young extra in the film and how that moment in his life “a far cry from his real life” was now just a “fading dream” (2) for Mr. Perera. But having watched him and the enthusiasm that revitalizes and spurs him on, this is no fading dream but a performative moment that has very much seeped into his life and become an active element of who he is.

“All the other actors from this film have died except me… This is my job, I am Jungle Boy”. (3)

I was aware of locals having been used in the film but with no clear contact or possible way of communicating with any of them I thought it would take a serendipitous moment for such an opportunity to be presented to me and fortuitously it did. This wonderful character appeared and existed wanting to tell his story, keeping his performance alive and the existence of the fictitious action firmly in reality as the jungle slowly consumed any visible evidence of a bridge save a few concrete foundations on rocks beside the Kelani River. This was just one such aspect of the film still echoing in the Sri Lankan rainforest.

To cross the Kelani River you have to catch a local boat and these boats also feature in the “The Bridge on the River Kwai” as a Burmese boat used by William Holden’s character to escape the jungle prison, out to the sea and left to drift the ocean until he is picked up by the British Navy and taken to a command post in Sri Lanka. To see these boats in such a place makes sense with the ease and close proximity of the filming and could act very easily as a form of South East Asian transportation but when I went to film the river crossings of these vessels something very unpredicted caught my attention. Down on the river bank a short walk from the Rest House, where the locals bathe and you catch your crossing, a pile of back stage lighting equipment sat including the lights and reflector boards. An hour earlier or an hour later this pile of production equipment would have gone to their port of call and I would never had witnessed it but for this moment the memory of cinematic craft surfaced, presented itself and echoed like the thunder that reverberated the hills as if the explosion when the bridge was blown up, still rumbles on.

On the banks of the Kelani

Sri Lanka is the birthplace of serendipity and while a key ingredient of serendipity is the need to be in the right place with the right frame of mind, with the viewer needing to be ‘sagacious’ enough to link two apparent things together to come to a valuable conclusion, and similarly as an artist you apply a particular perspective and knowledge stream to connect materials, concepts, histories, moments and information together in unexpected but fascinating ways, putting yourself into situations where coincidences can happen. Sometimes the uncanny can rear its head and give you some truly astonishing interrelated repetitions of actions and events unforeseen, and truly serendipitous.

(1)    The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright, 2000, Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009

(2)    Anton jayasuriya, Hotel by the Bridge on the River Kwai, Plantation Bungalow – Kitulagla and River Resort Eduraella, 1997

(3)    Mr. Samuel Perera, Kitulgala, Sri Lanka, 2013

Kit’s Blog – Locomotive Happenings

Kitulgala is a small town located in the central highlands of Sri Lanka and as the crow flies, is 94km east of Colombo. Once directly accessible by rail, times have since changed and the development of the infrastructure in Sri Lanka with broad rail tracks replacing narrow lines, has meant this town in the jungle can only be accessed by road. Travelling by car, tuk tuk or van would be relatively expensive and a local bus would be a long and arduous experience of claustrophobic overcrowding with passengers, while all the time having the enjoyment of watching your life in the hands of the driver as he races other bus’s to pick up customers and get to the next stop. Train-while long and not direct- would be a relatively peaceful affair and with two places to choose from Hatton and Avissawella I selected the latter as it seemed quicker to reach and appeared closer to Kitulgala on the map. I set off for my destination from Colombo early in the morning, carrying my life on my back, from clothes and insect repellent to computer and digital camera, with the knowledge of a certain time a train should arrive that would get me as close to my final destination as I could get by locomotion.

Train from Colombo to Avissawella
Train from Colombo to Avissawella

Colombo Fort Railway Station is the main hub for all trains from Colombo and is akin to Kings Cross in London or Central Station in Glasgow, with a similar Victorian iron wrought architecture –on a less grander scale- but the similarities disappear relatively quickly when as a solitary foreigner, with little understanding of Sinhalese in spoken or written form and a lack of information for departures visible makes trying to find the correct train on time quite a daunting but non-the-less exciting proposition. An experience anyone travelling to and around Sri Lanka should not be missed! After being informed that my train would depart from platform 9 at 8:30 (instead of the 8:45 as the internet had informed me) I reached the platform with trains lying empty on either side. After asking some people milling around if one of these were the train to Avissawella and told “no” 8:30 came and the trains went. I knew if I missed this train I would have to wait over 6 hours for the next one and with my reservation booked for a finite time in Kitulgala I was determined to make it there on schedule. Adrenaline rushing, a train pulled up at 10b and asking more people around me they pointed at this very one so I headed for it. What I was not prepared for at this point was the sea of people pouring out of this commuter train for their days work in the capital. There was nothing to do but stand firm and wait for this surge to pass. Getting on the train I asked again if this was the train to Avissawella which people confirmed and after half an hour of waiting the train set off with me on. Hoping that this indeed was the
correct train…

Hills getting higher and higher as the Tuk Tuk takes me further into the Jungle
Hills getting higher and higher as the Tuk Tuk takes me further into the Jungle

After 3 and a half hours where I gradually passed homes built from an assemblage of materials which barely missed the train’s sides and through the middle of a golf course, I began to break out of Colombo’s sprawling suburbs and into the rice fields. Slowly the country side got more lush and tropical and gentle hills started to turn into ever larger peaks. The train travelled through a variety of places unknown to me such as Kottowa, Godagama, and Padukka but when it pulled into the large town of Waga (a name I recognised from prior investigations of maps) I finally felt assured I was heading in the right direction.

From Avissawella to Kitulagla
From Avissawella to Kitulagla

Leaving Avissawella train station I caught a Tuk Tuk and headed to Kitulgala. The three wheeled transportation -reminiscent of a drivable lawnmower with a back seat and soft-top roof- wormed its way along the side of the Kelani River overtaking vans, mopeds, cyclists and cows. After 40 minutes of stunningly beautiful cliff side driving I finally pulled up into the Kithulgala Rest House. My home for the next week and base to discover the memories of the ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ set location.

The Kelani River
The Kelani River

The fun could now really commence…