In 1989 there was revolution in the air: from the crumbling wall in Berlin and acts of civil resistance throughout the Eastern bloc right down to protest in Tiananmen Square. Although this last act didn’t manage to affect any real and durable change in China, it did produce iconic images of civil disobedience which inspired other revolts and revolutions.
The Romanian Revolution of December 1989 took place under a spell of violence, ending with a short two-hour televised trial and execution of their dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu. The major components that history has placed at the root of these events were: 1. The suffocating and ever-present secret police (Securitate) bent on annihilating any subversive element. 2. A rigid austerity program which caused frequent power outages and shortages of food, clothes and electricity, primarily because the government would exchange these goods for foreign currency. 3. Grand projects of self-glorification set up by Ceauşescu, which only fueled resentment among his people.
During the upcoming festival, Impakt will screen Videogramme einer Revolution by Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica, from 1992, featuring among other footage, images of demonstrators occupying and broadcasting from the television station in Bucharest.
The act of occupying the television station and broadcasting continuously for 120 hours stands in stark contrast to what was the norm during the Ceauşescu regime, which would only broadcast for two hours a day on the country’s only channel. It is an image that speaks to the fantasy of a nation starved for attention and desiring a voice in the world. On a first viewing it might look a lot like what might occur when a camera crew is filming on a street and a random passerby jumps and gesticulates in the background hoping for his ’15 minutes.’ However, the events were far more dire. It is the record of a country crying out for bread and television.
Videogramme einer Revolution shows the metamorphoses of a peoples moving from the realm of the oppressed mute masses to the joyous anarchy of a broadcasted revolution, however short-lived the revolution may be. There seems to be a similar mood currently, on a live stream, going on around the world of revolution and civil disobedience.
The most notable parallel are the recent events in Libya. The parallels between Ceauşescu and Gaddafi are rather overwhelming; not only did both turn violently against their own people, both were received and lauded by the major players on the world stage before their people turned against them. And finally both received a quick end, shrouded in a mist of injustice and possible conspiracy. So much so that there are still stories written about the possibility of the peoples revolution in Romania actually being a coupe orchestrated by power hungry political rivals of Ceauşescu. Only time will tell if the same abundance of conspiracy will be directed toward Gaddafi, but what is already clear is that conflicting stories exist regarding his death.
Come and see if you can find these parallels and others between Romania 1989 and Libya 2011 in these Videograms, going to be screened on November 6th. Or just come to see this testament of history.