Earlier this month I produced a film programme for the University of Iowa’s Exuberant Politics season, which screened at Legion Arts in Cedar Rapids on 2 December, then at the University the next night.
For everyone who isn’t based in Iowa, here’s an online exhibition of the screening programme.
The selection highlights the horrors of conflict in a collective call to peace. Presenting images of the people on the frontline fighting other people’s wars, and those who rise up and refuse to conform to state control.
It starts with Bradley Manning Had Secrets and the plight of the lone soldier. Here the infamous Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley) talks of the classified military information leaked to Julian Assange that she had hoped would provoke discussion globally and bring about reform within the military, but instead brought about her incarceration as a traitor to the US. Sounding Glass and A Short Film About War similarly reflect on the humanity of those who have witnessed atrocities during warfare.
Animation is employed in all of the films, as a means to highlight war and unrest in vibrant, exuberant, and illuminating ways, with some artists producing new perspectives by manipulating existing material. In Free Society, Garrin flashes a barrage of digital images of police brutality on to the screen in criticism of the assertion by TV evangelist Pat Roberts that “in a free society, the police and the military are God’s special envoys.” Whereas in I’ve got a guy running, Kirk abstracts military combat footage to mere outline to signal how desensitized we are to graphic images of warfare in the media.
The programme concludes with Z, a cautionary film that hints at a dark future if things remain the same; followed by The Invisibles, featuring the socialist anthem The Internationale calling to unite humanity against all forms of tyranny, offering hope after the horrors of the preceding films.
Bradley Manning Had Secrets, Adam Butcher, 2011 – www.adam-butcher.co.uk
The story of Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley), not as a Wikileaks ‘hacktivist’, but as a young American soldier simultaneously going through a crisis of conscience and a crisis of gender identity. Using Adrian Lamo’s chat logs of instant messenger conversations with Chelsea, the film explores issues of personal and political secrets, digital identity and alienation.
Join the Freedom Force, Martha Colburn, 2011 – www.marthacolburn.com
Protestors strike out and are struck back in a dance of police brutality and the wild rally of freedom-seekers. Protestors join forces from the streets of Iran to the G2O Conference. A stop motion 16mm film made using an upright three dimensional glass technique.
Sounding Glass, Sylvia Schedelbauer, 2011 – www.sylviaschedelbauer.com
A young man standing in a forest is subject to a flood of impressions; structurally rhythmic waves of images and sounds give form to his troubled introspection. Made using archival material, including footage shot during the Second World War.
Free Society, Paul Garrin, 1988
An experimental video that juxtaposes images of the police and military on parade with riot footage from South Africa, the West Bank, South Korea, Northern Ireland, Panama and the Civil Rights riots in the US. Free Society bears witness to social and political injustice while stretching the limits of electronic image manipulation.
I’ve got a guy running, Jonathan Kirk, 2006 – www.jjkirk.com
Through digital edge detection, using Max/MSP/Jitter software, the artist explores simulation, media distortion, and the emergence of ephemeral technologies to illustrate the difficulty of distinguishing between real war images and computer-generated ones.
Freedom, Eva and Franco Mattes, 2010 – www.0100101110101101.ORG
Documentation of an online performance that took place in a massively multiplayer online first person shooter (MMOFPS) war game. Eva Mattes tries to make an artwork, pleading with the players not to be shot; yet her avatar always meets a violent death.
Spin, Max Hattler, 2010 – www.maxhattler.com
Toy soldiers marching and moving in harmony, spinning and rotating, erupting and exploding. When conflict becomes a spectacle, the lines between destruction and entertainment get blurred.
A Short Film about War, Thomson & Craighead, 2009 – www.thomson-craighead.net
A narrative documentary artwork made entirely from information found on the worldwide web. Viewers journey around the world to a variety of war zones as seen through the collective eyes of the online photo sharing community Flickr, and as witnessed by a variety of military and civilian bloggers.
Z, Alan Warburton, 2012 – www.alanwarburton.co.uk
A monochromatic journey thorough a desolate landscape, made using the z depth of 3D computer animation. Is hindsight 20:20? Does history reveal or obscure the truth? Can we predict the future? Will history repeat itself? Are we in control?
The Invisibles, Nisha Duggal, 2012 – http://www.nishaduggal.co.uk
In a singular call to action The Invisibles employs and re-affirms the socialist anthem The Internationale for a contemporary audience. Vive la Révolution!