Phillip Warnell, UK, 2009, 35mm on digital, 20mins

The film has been written on widely, including contributions in various guises by Maeve Connolly, Filipa Ramos, Carrie Giunta, Georgina Evans, Jessica Barnfeld, Jean-Pierre Rehm, Mihnea Mircan and Erik Morse.

'a dance of language, mute animal and philosopher's body'
Jean-Pierre Rehm

frieze review

Outlandish was in exhibition at the Art Encounters Biennial, Romania, part of ‘Landscape in a Convex Mirror’ curated by Mihnea Mircan, during October 2021
'strange foreign bodies' exhibition in glasgow

Phillip Warnell’s video Outlandish: Strange Foreign Bodies (2009), for example, featured a performance by Jean-Luc Nancy, who read from his essay ‘L’Intrus’ (‘The Intruder’), reflecting on his own heart-transplant, his subsequent treatment for cancer, and philosophical concepts of the foreign. The other main performer was an octopus that pushed against the walls of a glass tank half-filled with water, carried upon the open deck of an otherwise deserted small boat at sea. Interweaving close-ups of Nancy in his office, manipulating a Moebius strip made from paper, with scenes of a living organ being manipulated by surgeons, and shots of the boat at sea, Outlandish offered a haptic, vivid exploration of boundaries - as a more-than-human protagonist, the octopus-organ occupied the physical heart of the gallery space...

Maeve Connolly, Exhibiting the End: Curatorial Scenarios of Burial, Contagion and Extinction. Review of Breathcrystal exhibition, Project Art Space, Dublin, 2017.

‘Now the camera plunges into the water and captures the translucent spume and the ripples of light dancing on the surface – the world has become an aquacade, the eye a prancing squid. The skiff lumbers across the frame on its directionless journey. Is this being-in-the world, or possibly being- in-the-sea? Is this the ‘outside’? Nancy sums up the mystery beautifully: ‘It is east and west, zenith and nadir, sharing and crossing, regions of air, a stranger to end in the world whose secret it takes with it – each body coiled up, deployed in world secret.’ Despite its heavy intertextuality, Outlandish remains a fundamentally sensorial experience, attuned to the in nitesimal modulations in atmosphere, which the body, infnitely turned toward the outside – and thus being – encounters infnitely. It is, simultaneously, a loving portrait of France’s most perceptive, most sensitive philosopher, whose world, or worlding – used in the Heideggerian sense – is a torrent of creativity, ecstasy and Étranges. That Warnell is able to descend artfully into both corpuses makes him one of the fearless divers of the deep.’ Frieze, 2011

‘In a sense, Outlandish functions as a filmic treatise on the body of the philosopher, as performing and speaking subject, assemblage of organs and corpus of thought. Significantly, both the film and accompanying text ‘Strange Foreign Bodies’ bear the philosopher’s signature, so constituting part of his authorised output. But rather than reiterating established authorial boundaries, Outlandish draws attention to the indeterminacy of any such corpus, since the written text is wholly entangled with the film as both by-product and script’ - Maeve Connolly.

the intimate urgency of an encounter between filmmaker Phillip Warnell and philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, whose experience of a heart transplant breached his sense of an interior space, of anything that could be held as “one’s own" - Mihnea Mircan

The presentation of screen substitutes for aquariums indicates an apparently tenuous realism accorded to aquatic animal lives in the popular imagination, for it does not seem to matter very much whether these animals could be believed to be present, or indeed ever to have existed, so long as they are visible and moving. This chimes with Warnell’s observation that the occupants of an aquarium ‘hover somewhere between play, death and the image’, for the aquarium ‘functions without mortality, which does not take place here, its occupants named specimens, as such incapable of death’.
Georgina Evans, Framing Acquatic Life, Screen Journal 2020

“One highlight is certainly Phillip Warnell’s short film Outlandish: Strange Foreign Bodies, inspired by philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy’s essay The Intruder, a reflection on his drastic experiences as a heart-transplant recipient and a cancer patient. Nancy features in the film, reading from a jointly written script that muses on the nature and integrity of the body, which he’s exceptionally well qualified to discuss.”
Irish Times, May 2015

Philosopher and heart transplant recipient Jean-Luc Nancy meditates on the history and integrity of bodies. A number of visual and literary passages explore the correlate between a textual narrative specially written for the film, étranges corps etrangers, his on screen presence, a surgical organ in search of a body and an unaccounted for, displaced invertebrate at sea. The eight episodes form am odyssey featuring a cephalopod on an otherwise uninhabited ship. A harvested organ, procured, sutured and in preparation for grafting evokes the more extensive, elusive search for the soul. Outlandish is a journey between shores and environments, the touching of and proximity between bodies, the vanishing and appearance of crew, permutations and dimensions of form and above all, our relations with strange foreign bodies.

Outlandish has been purchased for the permanent collection of the Hunterian Contemporary Art collection at Glasgow University in 2019.