Jessica Warboys' film Pageant Roll (2012) is a beautifully shot exploration into art history and artistic heritage. It evokes the energy of both ancient mysticism and 20th century modernism, exploring the influences over modern art and the history it owes a debt to. The film plays on a loop, forwards and backwards, with the images flipped vertically each time it plays through.

The film focuses on Cornish standing stones, similar to Stonehenge, with alien objects inserted into their crevices or blown around the area. A red square – a nod to Kazimir Malevic – falls out of a circular stone to the crescendo of the electronic music in the background, and begins the sequence. The energy and power of the prehistoric stone formation is constantly juxtaposed with man-made objects that, amongst the natural landscape and paganistic atmosphere, seem jarring and surreal. These are objects that resemble works of fine art, such as a shard of stained glass referencing the cubism of Picasso and Braque, or the green umbrella travelling sideways across a field that, for what I suppose is an inexplicable reason, evoked the impressionists.

These are, however, functional and – in cases – somewhat juvenile objects also. The aforementioned red square comes to resemble a photo frame after you have seen it a few times, the impressionist umbrella becomes a tacky retro fashion item, the fluorescent hula hoops balancing precariously on the stones reference a nostalgia for the 1990s, and the frequent shots of painted eggs a reminder of childhood joviality.

Watch it again and they are redefined once more. The colourful eggs become a signifier for misplaced traditions, and the adoption of pagan practices within Christian history; the egg is whole one moment, before gradually cracking, and then smashed in the palms of someone's hand as little shards of pastel-coloured eggshell. The square falls ungracefully from its stone pedestal in the Cornish fields, in a manner that comes to appear rather pathetic in comparison to its bold colouring and proud manner. The umbrella, with its flyaway tassels, is unruly and uncontrollable, blowing away in the wind, unable to be caught. The objects – signifiers of geometry, modern art, tradition – are inherently fragile, balancing precariously on the peripheries of history.

At first, the way these alien objects are placed in the scene of outstanding natural beauty seems absurd; but as you watch closer, your experience of the texture and materiality of these objects is heightened against the backdrop of the green fields and grey sky. The shots evoke a national, as well as artistic, heritage that is delicately and harmoniously balanced, with the fall of modern fashions being all the more conspicuous against the backdrop of a sturdy history, unfailing and completely immovable. Watch it through again, and these objects start to bear resemblance to animals – crawling along the floor, running across a field, flying, performing actions that only sentient beings could.

Then, the scenes are flipped and the sequence is played through backwards, without any signs of having been otherwise. Pageant Roll is a piece of contemporary art as deeply embedded in artistic heritage as the works Warboys references in the film, has been digitally altered, so that how the original was shot remains ambivalent. Is this film, as well as its contents, inauthentic because it has been so conspicuously manipulated?

What is shown here, ultimately, is the image of a constructed history, made up from the human manipulation of nature for artistic purposes. Beginning with the ancient stones that have been arranged in a circle, the course of art history has relied upon a level of aesthetic interference with nature, like the painting of an egg, until such time as the artwork comes to resemble nature itself. This is a film that relies upon repetition, and I strongly recommend watching it for as long as you possibly can in order to really experience it.

Artists Film International: Jessica Warboys: Pageant Roll, at Whitechapel GalleryAshitha Nagesh reviews Artists Film International Jessica Warboys Pageant Roll4