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Alternative Histories of Modern Conflict

Film, video and lecture

Curated by Florian Wüst (Berlin / Rotterdam)

An eclectic program of films, videos and lectures exploring non-mainstream representations of war and how the military makes an imprint on civil society. With the current ‘war on terrorism’ as waged by the US, which up to now has culminated in the live broadcast of the invasion and defeat of Iraq, we experience a new dimension of war, i.e., as a spectacle of mass media. Nevertheless, politically motivated conflicts more than ever pose a technologically enhanced and devastating threat to numerous human lives.

The series features historical and contemporary works by international artists and filmmakers comprising critical, satirical and subjective responses to the realities of war. These works are shown in combination with music videos, documentary films and official recruitment and propaganda footage. Alternative Histories of Modern Conflict is realised in collaboration with the Lux and the Imperial War Museum, London.

PROGRAM 1: CIVIL WARFARE

Wednesday, 4 June, 16.30h, Cinema
Saturday, 7 June, 18.00h, Cinema

Starting with the Seattle WTO protests in 1999, the various anti-globalist demonstrations and street clashes with police forces heralded a new stage in urban violent conflict. In Genoa 2001, especially, peaceful protests and civil disobedience were crushed by a police that have militarised in gear, tactics and aggression to a point beyond control by civil jurisdiction. The program brings together an experimental film from 1979 and a recent documentary, both dealing with the circumstances of extra-parliamentary opposition.

BERLIN/ALAMO
Knut Hoffmeister
16mm / 00:09:00 / Germany / 1979
In the late 70s, West-Berlin is a city under siege. The evidence is every- where: waves of riot police, annual military parades and Wild West battles on TV. With a rattling pace and images of machine guns, the film, originally shot on Super 8, ironically reflects this condition.

DISOBBEDIENTI
Oliver Ressler / Dario Azzellini
video / 00:54:00 / Austria / 2002
The video deals with the origins of the Disobbedienti, their political foundations and forms of direct action on the basis of conversations with seven members of the movement. The Disobbedienti emerged from the Tute Bianche during the demonstrations against the G8 summit in Genoa in July 2001. The Tute Bianche were the white-clad Italian activists who used their bodies – protected by foam rubber, tires, helmets, gas masks and home- made shields – as weapons of civil disobedience.

PROGRAM 2: DOMESTIC MANEUVERS

Wednesday, 4 June, 18.00h, Cinema
Saturday, 7 June, 20.00h, Cinema

With a sense of irony, undisguised critique and brazen appropriation, this program comments on the de-territorialization of war in civil life and common consciousness. The marriage of industry, media and the military in a world full of dangers, horrors and terrorists is targeted by a selection of films and videos ranging from a 1936 activist film against militarism to an ambivalent up-to-date campaign by modern American environmentalists.

AMERICA IS WAITING
Bruce Conner
16mm / 00:04:00 / USA / 1982
The lyrics of America is Waiting ‘Well now, you can’t blame the people – blame the government! Take it in again! Again! Again! America is Waiting for a message of some kind or another’, cued Conner for a piece which examines ideas of loyalty, power, patriotism and paranoia. (Anthony Reveaux)

SCENES FROM THE MICRO WAR
Sherry Millner
video / 00:24:00 / USA / 1985
‘The worst of times—riots, famine, war—could be just around the corner and, in the battle to survive, this family is going to be battle-ready from here on in.’ This fractured narrative follows the misadventures of a family hypnotised by Reagan’s Space Wars, state terrorism and Rambo fashions in a time when the family has shifted from consumerist unit to military training force.

HELL UNLIMITED
Norman McLaren / Helen Biggar
16mm / 00:15:00 / GB, Canada / 1936
Using puppets, live action inserts and animation, Hell Unlimited is an extraordinary film about the evils of the arms race, which ends in a call for people to unite and protest against militarism.

GEORGE / PARODY
The Detroit Project / Americans for Fuel Efficient Cars
video / 00:00:30 / USA / 2002
‘This is George. This is the gas that George bought for his SUV. This is the oil company executive that sold the gas that George bought for his SUV…’ George/Parody is part of a citizens’ ad campaign aimed at getting people to stop driving SUVs and other gas-guzzling vehicles while, at the same time, making a statement about US politics against terrorism.

THE IRAQ CAMPAIGN 1991
Phil Patiris
video / 00:19:00 / USA / 1992
The Iraq Campaign 1991 transforms network news footage, clips from Star Trek, and sports coverage into a devastating critique of the media/industrial complex. The tape reinterprets the 1991 Gulf War and explores myths, symbols and narratives of warfare and consumer culture.

PROGRAM 3: OPTICS OF WAR

Friday, 6 June, 13.30h, Cinema
Sunday, 8 June, 20.00h, Cinema

When machines in conjunction with science and the military dictate what is to be seen, one’s outlook and thoughts are not free. This inherent manipulation through visual technology is investigated in some of the essay films by the acclaimed German filmmaker Harun Farocki. In this program, Farocki is brought together with Dutch artist Wim Liebrand whose work also deals with the belligerent world of images.

VERGELTUNG
Wim Liebrand
video / 00:03:00 / The Netherlands / 1995
Liebrand utilizes image and sound fragments from archival material of Nazi Germany and World War II, mainly footage of V1 and V2 missiles. With those ‘Vergeltungswaffen’ (retaliatory weapons) Germany tried to turn around the war in 1944/45. The associative montage in the video reveals the collusion of technological power and frantic fulfillment of duty in a lost war.

IMAGES OF THE WORLD AND INSCRIPTION OF WAR
Harun Farocki
16mm / 00:75:00 / Germany / 1988
A film about the relationships of war, industry, the production and perception of images. ‘The vantage point of Images of the World and Inscription of War is the ‘blind spot’ in this aerial footage of the IG Farben industrial plant in Auschwitz taken by the Americans in 1944. Notes on the photographs show that it was only decades later that the CIA noticed what the Allies hadn’t wanted to see: the concentration camp was indeed depicted next to the industrial bombing target’. (Christa Blümlinger)

PROGRAM 4: NEW HEROISM

Wednesday, 4 June, 22.00h, Cinema
Sunday, 8 June, 12.00h, Cinema

Through videogames and big-budget promotional films, the US army sets off to court new recruits. It is propagated that today’s national security has to be enforced far away from home through high-tech military action. The symbiotic relation of advanced technology and the soldier’s male body has a long tradition in recruitment and propaganda films. In this program, these films are put in contrast with personal accounts on the brutal reality of training and warfare.

BIJ KOP EN STAART
Prod: Dutch Ministry of Defense, Department of Personnel and Publicity
video / 00:21:30 / Netherlands / 1960
General information film about the combat training of Dutch conscripts. In addition to much material on military exercises, the film contains beautiful impressions of the architecture of the General Spoor barracks in Ermelo.

STREAKED LIGHTNING
Prod: Central Office of Information, Air Ministry
16mm / 00:05:00 / GB / 1960
A Royal Air Force recruiting and propaganda film built around the image of the Electric Lightning fighter.

RECRUITMENT VIDEO
Ann Course / Paul Clark
video / 00:02:30 / GB / 2000
A video filled with Freud, family life, sexual lust and violence. All this sup- ported by the thrilling music of an old punk hit.

NOCTURNES
Anri Sala
video / 00:11:30 / France / 1999
In Nocturnes two men discuss their experiences of life. Denis, a young French soldier recently returned from the Balkan, speaks with alarming candor of his brutal training and subsequent role as an assassin expected to seek out and annihilate key military targets. Jacques, the owner of a tropical aquarium, reveals the harsh realities and stresses of life within the fish tanks lining his house.

KENNY LOGGINS – DANGER ZONE
Tony Scott
video / 00:03:30 / USA / 1986
‘Revvin’ up your engine, listen to her howlin’ roar, metal under tension, beg- gin’ you to touch and go. The highway to the Danger Zone…’ The music video to the title song of the 1986 Hollywood classic Top Gun.

ENDURING FREEDOM: THE OPENING CHAPTER
Klaus Obermeyer
video / 00:05:00 / USA / 2002
‘It’s not a question of if we go to combat, it’s a question of when’, barks a recruit in Enduring Freedom: The Opening Chapter, the first US military-pro- duced promotional film to hit movie theaters since World War II. Cut with TV-commercial rhythm and set to a symphonic score, this mini-movie flies through the barrage of images from the world-spanning war on terror. (Ed Halter)

SUKA (BITCH)
Igor Voloshin
35mm / 00:18:00 / Russia / 2001
Endless war and deaths in Chechnya. Suka is a journey to hell based on the experience of an ordinary serviceman, culminating in a scene where Russians kill Russians in a friendly fire incident. A film about the cruel absurdity of war in general.

PROGRAM 5: UNRESOLVED MEMORIES

Friday, 6 June, 22.00h, Cinema
Monday, 9 June, 15.00h, Cinema

This program takes a look at the experience of extreme violence, loss and uncertainty from the perspective of the individual. In the aftermath of war, memories often remain unresolved or one is left alone with devastating historical truths that are still aggressively denied by the collective. At other times a trauma might turn into an obsession if one lives in a place where survival is the only strategy available.

YAWMIYAT AHIR (DIARY OF A MALE WHORE)
Tawfik Abu Wael
video / 00:14:00 / Palestina / 2000
As a metaphor for the Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace process’, Tawfik Abu Wael tells the short fictional story of a male prostitute. Loosely based on a 1972 classic of modern Arabic literature, the film depicts libidinous scenes and violent episodes from the Jewish-Palestinian war in 1948.

ONCE YOU’VE SHOT THE GUN YOU CAN’T STOP THE BULLET
Jayce Salloum
video / 00:07:00 / Canada / 1988
The material for this tape was recorded over a period of three years in diverse places such as Beirut, Jerusalem, Las Vegas, Tijuana and Vancouver. The fragmented images express a sense of alienation and powerlessness which one feels when confronted with realities other than one’s own.

MASS GRAVE
Lexy J. Rambadeta
video / 00:26:00 / Indonesië / 2001
Mass Grave is a full and frank account of what happened in the reburial of 26 victims that were killed in the 1965 massacre of members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). The documentary weaves its story against the tide by presenting evidence of cruelties that were sanctioned by the military in various regions of Central Java.

MUAKA (GRIEF)
Hadar Friedlich
16mm / 00:22:00 / Israel / 2000
A day in the life of a Jerusalem taxi driver in which he buries his son who committed suicide while serving in the army. Having no family he finds himself at work as usual. He meets with blunt reality as it exists in Israel and with grief and pain.

PROGRAM 6: UNLEASHED MISSIONS - WAR AS MASS CULTURE

Sunday, 8 June, 16.30h, Cinema

A lecture by Mark Terkessidis within the framework of the ‘Alternative Histories of Modern Conflict’ program. See ‘couch.club’.


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