The works in the Breaking News program, presented at the Digital Art Lab in Holon to accompany VideoZone 3: The Third International Video Art Biennial in Israel, examine the interrelations between the fields of art, cinema and media. They explore the gaps between news coverage and fiction, between viewer and participant, and between the event and its presentation, via “apolitical” treatment of the topically and acutely political.
Present wars are conducted not only on the battlefield, but in other arenas as well. While this is a widely known fact, it seems that the means to describe it are still deficient. Advanced communication technologies force us to reconsider the traditional understanding of location and presence in situ. The works in the program expose the unbearable lightness of media manipulation based on sound and image. The first piece, Being Luis Porcar, differs in content from the others. It does not engage in representations of war, terror and terrorists, or the construction of a new type of television icon or celebrity to which we are exposed once the real time broadcast begins, as in Black September; but rather illustrates the imprint of the media image with the identification of John Malkovich’s voice but without his presence. The quest for the real thing, for the moment of truth, runs like a leitmotif throughout all the works, whether through treatment of themes and images from news agencies, as in the work Casio, Seiko, Sheraton, Toyota, Mars…, where Sean Snyder explores the representation modes of events consumed second-hand, or in November, Hito Steyerl’s intricate film, where the artist furnishes a personal view conveying credibility of a political figure by means of home videos, archival footage, televised materials, interviews, and the incorporation of the subject via voice-over. At the same time, one must not forget that war is an integral part of the “media front,” and that the events have a political value by virtue of the very television distribution at their disposal; the “telegenic” quality of the news generators consistently increases their bewitching power, and their appearance creates the vision of the world.
All the works are characterized by a combination of documentary materials, some first-hand, mostly second-hand. All of them recycle media or documentary materials alongside biographical materials.
Manuel Saiz | Specialized Technicians Required: Being Luis Porcar, 2005, 1:30 min
Manuel Saiz exposes the lightness typifying media manipulation through the practice of dubbing – substituting the voice of the dubbing artist, Luis Porcar, who dubs the voices of American actors into Spanish, for the voice of John Malkovich. The manipulation is exposed while listening to Porcar explaining to the camera that the artist, Manuel Saiz, requested him to sit in front of the camera in order to ask John Malkovich to dub him, Porcar, into English. He notes that the goal could be difficult to realize due to the great distance between the art world and the cinema. At this point the viewer notices that the English words pronounced by Porcar are actually heard in Malkovich’s voice. The work’s conceptual loop is thus wittingly closed when Malkovich contributes only his voice to Porcar’s face.
Sean Snyder | Casio, Seiko, Sheraton, Toyota, Mars…, 2004-2005, single channel video projection, sound, 13:09 min
Sean Snyder’s work is an extended exploration of war reports and images. It focuses, however, not on the response to the political events, but on the study of the modes of representation of events consumed second-hand. Snyder attempts to relate to the news seriously, as something that conveys information and refers back to reality through the television screen and the printed paper. Thus he exposes fundamental questions about the representation of digital images and the changing interrelations between sound and image.
In Casio, Seiko, Sheraton, Toyota, Mars… Snyder examines the acceptance of consumer products on all sides of ideological divides and the transformation of a digital image as a commodity. Using images from amateur sources as well as from news agencies, such as the Associated Press, the piece presents the conventions and complications of producing an iconic image of war. Snyder explores war imagery via concepts such as the history of staging, the digital manipulation of images, the news viewer as consumer and the photojournalist as looter.
Hito Steyerl | November, 2004, 25:00 min
In the 1980s Hito Steyerl depicted her good friend, Andrea Wolf, with a super-8 camera as the protagonist of her film, a fighting woman in leather clothes, riding a motorbike. The commitment expressed in her images later transformed into a materialization of Wolf’s political path, when she joined ranks with the PKK in the Kurdish area between Turkey and Iraq, where she was killed in 1998. Today she is honored with the title of revolutionary who acquired eternal life, and her portrait is hoisted at demonstrations.
Wolf’s pictures as a revolutionary, as a poster, can be linked with either Asian genre cinema or with home video documentary. If October is the hour of revolution, November is the ensuing time of reason, even though it may also turn out to be a time of madness. From this perspective Steyerl reexamines a relationship that began with a pose. Andrea Wolf, who assumed that pose, appears satisfied with the symbolic act, even though she later opted for another type of film which made her into a true icon.
In November, Steyerl examines the range of interrelations between territorial power politics and individual forms of resistance. Her memories of Wolf and Wolf’s importance in Steyerl’s life urge the filmmaker to conduct a thorough reflection: she strives to fathom how fact and fiction are intertwined in the global discourse.
Christoph Draeger | Black September, 2002, 14:30 min
On 5 September 1972, at 4:30 a.m., eight armed terrorists, members of the Black September organization, penetrated the Olympic village in Munich, and took over the apartment used by members of the Israeli Olympic team. During the takeover, the weightlifter and wrestling coach, who tried to fight the terrorists, were killed, and nine other members of the team were taken hostage. The Olympics were stopped for several hours after the murder of the two Israelis and the hostage-taking became known. After the tragic termination of the event, in which all the Israeli athletes were killed, the International Olympic Committee decided to hold a memorial service for the victims in the Olympic Stadium, and after a 24-hour break – to resume competition as planned.
Black September unfolds the tragic story of the Munich Olympics, as an absurd spectacle within the theatrical set of the Olympic Games, which led to the moment after, in which the Olympic community tried to convey a façade of normalcy to the public. The coverage of the event in news networks from all over the world reflects the catastrophic dilemma, when the German Democratic Republican television broadcasts the police preparations for Operation Sunshine, intended to rescue the hostages, live. The terrorists and the hostages could view a detailed, real-time report of all the police actions on screen inside the apartment where they were being held. Draeger combines excerpts from the televised coverage of the rescue operation alongside an imaginary installation of the sequence of events, as they might have occurred within that apartment. He intertwines tragic factual and imaginary moments, thus blurring the lines between the live documentary broadcast and the drama.