Week End – Thomas Galler

Footage taken from youtube, originally recorded by U. S. Soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Text excerpt from IMAGINE, THERE IS A WAR AND NOBODY TAKES ANY NOTICE , Ostentatious gestures and the circulation of images in the collective imagination by Margrit Tröhler published in Walking through Baghdad with a Buster Keaton Face by edition fink, Zurich, 2009

“Week End
 is shows the breaks in the fighting as experienced by (very) young American soldiers; for them these moments mean recreation, free time spent on dares, brawls, vandalism, karaoke performances, or hip-hop interludes and practising the necessary dance steps. It is striking that all these games that are played to while away the time are performed as self-productions, alone or for a group of other soldiers (and a handful of female soldiers), and are always captured on camera; the postures and gestures put manliness on display, in which potency as a show of power, the propensity to violence, and pent-up sexuality find expression in an uncontrolled and uncontrollable mix. Here we see patterns of social and military group dynamics that shape the bodies and the behaviour of individuals, while transcending the individual who realises these patterns of behaviour. Between imitation and self-discovery there is also the rap music scene in which two black soldiers re-enact the ritual before a boxing match, just like the one with the young white soldier at the beginning who performs a rap song (by Eminem) about war, danger, valour and death, for which he poses directly in front of his (mobile phone – !?) camera. Like all soldiers’ songs (an example being the Beresinalied), this gesture – one that also adopts the rap pose of the political and cultural minority – oscillates between the lament about the song, the oath of solidarity or collective identity, and the over-glorification of the chosen one himself as the saviour of the nation.”

Interview with Thomas Galler

Tell us something about yourself and your artistic background.

My work is about forms of representation. An important question – which I keep working on in my films – is how war and conflicts are represented in the media. I am heavily influenced by the Found-Footage Film – and in general by an art which focuses (with a political mindset) on the appropriation of material and which transfers this with a critical approach to new associations and correlations.

Tell us something about the initial idea and the work process.

When working with the media footage of Iran and Afghanistan, I knew in advance that I was working with manipulated and censored material. I began focusing on a field which was – in connection with pictures from the war – unfamiliar to me up to this point: the leisure time of the soldats. I collected some hours of material on YouTube that was recorded by American soldiers via mobile phone and digital cameras.

How did you make your choices concerning cutting, music etc?

I used for Week End exclusively the footage found on YouTube. While editing we worked with the original footage and abrupt cuts. There was no post production on the very pixelized images and this was very important to me as I wanted to keep a certain rawness.

Week End has a very conceptual approach. In the beginning – while collecting the footage – I was proceeding very analytically with a set of search criteria. This made it possible to create a typological order of the acquired sequences. The process of editing was much more experimental and playful and which then led me to a light narrative structure. It is in a away a day that ends with a sandstorm that turns the day into night.

Looking back – would you have done somthing differently if known before?

No, absolutely nothing.

On what new project are you working at the moment?

I just came back from Cairo after a longer stay there. There I produced in December 2010 a set of post cards:
Thomas Galler 2011

www.thomasgaller.ch