Throughout 2016 we will be inviting six filmmakers, visual artists, and thinkers to intervene on the visual, political, and intellectual archive of the Long Sixties.
The result will be six previously unpublished pieces reflecting on the memory and oblivion of the international cycle of struggles that took place throughout the 1960s and 1970s, its subsequent afterlives, its active anachronisms, its contemporary relevance. Six interventions to reencounter traces of resistance in film stills, words, photographs, and faces. An invitation to establish critical dialogues between a past and a present marked by crisis and social mobilization.
Pablo Gil Rituerto
On January 8, 2016, a painting emerged from the darkness of the Reina Sofía Museum’s storage facility to hang in one of the halls of the Congress of Deputies. It had been in storage for 28 years since being moved there from the defunct Museum of Contemporary Art in 1988. Years before, in 1976, Felipe Garín, then Director of Fine Arts under Adolfo Suárez’s government, recovered the painting from the hands of an American collector who, in turn, had acquired it through the Marlborough Gallery. Meanwhile, its creator, Juan Genovés, was being detained and held incommunicado in the prison cells of the Ministry of Governance at the Puerta del Sol, accused of the crime of producing illegal propaganda. Initially, Juan Genovés had ceded the rights for the image to be reproduced for the Democratic Junta’s campaign in favor of amnesty for political prisoners. To that end, 25,000 posters were printed with a reproduction of the painting and the slogan Amnesty!, but government forces seized and destroyed the material nearly in its entirety upon its being declared subversive.
One of these posters was hanging in an office of labor lawyers located at 55 Calle Atocha in Madrid when, on January 24, 1977, it was attacked by a fascist group, and four of the attorneys and one union member were murdered. Across from that law firm, on June 10, 2003, a sculpture was unveiled that reproduces the motif of that same work: a fraternal embrace among a group of militants. The artist made the following statement regarding the work:
To me, that painting no longer belongs to me; its image now belongs to everyone. What is clear is that the painting in question has become a symbol for all of Spain. That symbol belongs to the leftist political forces in this country. I always liked that its spirit was in the street, so that the painting “Amnesty” became the sculpture “The Embrace” in the Plaza Antón Martín.
Recently, on February 24, 2016, political leaders Pedro Sánchez and Albert Rivera used that painting as the backdrop for a press conference in which they were to announce an attempt at a governing pact agreed upon by their respective parties. The agreement, which aspired to inaugurate a Second Transition in Spain, was baptized by the media, and not in vain, as “the pact of the embrace.”
The series of photographs presented here conforms to the dialectic between two types of archive: documentation of the point of departure and of the point of arrival of Juan Genovés’s iconic work—a 40-year transition from clandestinity to institutionalization. At the point of departure, at the very genesis of the painting, we see protests for the amnesty of anti-Francoist prisoners—at the end of this trajectory, the hall of the Congress of Deputies.
The act of erasure imposed on the archive is meant to restore the original meaning of the work, so that negation appears here as a form of reaffirmation. Eliminating the painting from the series of photographs allows us to observe the array of positions established around it. Following the erasure of the image, the artifice of the staging is revealed vividly, making evident precisely the way in which we position ourselves in relation to the images: while the protesters march anonymously behind the images and literally carry them, the politicians pose in front of the painting, turning their backs on it, imposing themselves in the frame. Thus they obscure the embrace among militants in 1976 Spain to convert it into an embrace among citizens in 2016 Spain. An embrace among equals now becomes an embrace among (in)different individuals, in a displacement of meaning that demonstrates the Benjaminian tension between cult value and exhibition value. If the poster distributed in 1976 embodied the modernity of the reproducible and reproduced work, one that takes on value through praxis and meaning through exhibition as a socializing and political act, at the other extreme, the transportation of the original painting, guarded by national security forces on its way from the Reina Sofía to the Congress, represents a regression toward an attempt at an auratic interpretation of the work that returns us to its cult value as a sacred object.
This brings us to the question of whether institutionalization is a far more effective mechanism of power in the neutralization of the meaning of a work than the very censorship to which that work was subjected. Or whether, on the contrary, the potential inscribed in the work is capable of freeing itself in one last ardent flash to make evident those mechanisms of power that try to transform it. We know that the image is a remnant, a trace of the moment in time it attempted to capture but also of other times that subsequently adhere to it, and it is in this movement that the image flares up in its successive moments of contact with the real, in its relation with the context in which it is inscribed. The image burns to unveil itself and reveal itself. And the image, finally, burns until it disappears, to keep safe in its ashes the implicit truth of its genesis. The image, therefore, also burns to rebel.
Images & text: Pablo Gil Rituerto
Translation: Tess Rankin
CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 | 2016
Pablo Gil Rituerto (b. 1983, Madrid) is a film editor and visual artist. He has worked as editor with José Luis Guerin in Recuerdos de una mañana (Jeonju Digital Project, 2011) and La dama de Corinto (Esteban Vicente Museum and Centre Pompidou, 2010). He also edited Mercedes Álvarez’s Mercado de futuros (IB Cinema, 2011), winner of the New Gaze award in the Visions du Réel Festival of Nyon and Jury’s Special Mention in BAFICI. With Mercedes Álvarez he also edited the multi-screen installation 25% (MACBA, 2014) present in the Venice Biennale 2014. He has recently edited Lois Patiño’s Costa da morte and artist Paloma Polo‘s feature film Unrest. As visual artist, his photo montage series Jaque have been included in the photographic encounters Photoespaña 2014 and in the documentary photography festival Docfield 2015, as part of the Crónica 21 Archive.
Evan Calder Williams
Of the plentiful riots that both manifested and further impelled the deep social turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s in Italy, one of the most consequential occurred in 1962, in downtown Turin, on the 7th of July, before barreling straight ahead into the 8th and 9th. Its specific spark was the betrayal of metalworkers, who were on strike, by their unions, as the latter, for all intents and purposes, went behind the backs of their constituents to make a deal with Fiat, the automotive and manufacturing giant whose numerous Turinese plants included Mirafiori, one of Europe’s largest. Furious at the closed-door dealings, the remaining workers not already on strike joined in, bringing its total to around 60,000, and several hundred marched from Turin’s periphery, where the factories were located, toward its center. Specifically, they marched to the downtown UIL (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, or Italian Labor Union) office, where they burnt their membership cards and beat up officials who tried to escape. Over the course of the march, the afternoon and, the next two days, they were joined by others who lived in Turin but did not work in the factories, including unwaged populations who lived in what the city’s socialist deputy sneeringly referred to as a “veritable suburra,” referencing the crowded slum of ancient Rome known above all as a red-light district. Together, the crowds in Piazza Stauto battled with police, set cop cars on fire, pried up paving stones to be thrown, and rioted with an expansive vigor that captivated and stunned the nation.
The fatti (events) of Piazza Statuto especially fascinated and fractured the institutional left. Parties and unions sought to score points off the debacle and to blame each other for whose rhetoric or lack of control had fanned the flames, yet all generally agreed upon on that most familiar scapegoat, “outside agitators.” That this ideological maneuver was tried across the board is unsurprising, as it aimed (and failed) to ward off the real thought that manifestly horrified them: “workers” – i.e. good, disciplined, skilled, industrial, union workers – couldn’t take part in something like this, could they? And in many ways, the following years of struggle, the emergence of an “extra-parliamentary” radical and autonomist left, and the intense sequence of film, television, and video, turned around a double response to that nervous question. Yes, workers absolutely could, did, and would again and again do something like this, yet such doing demands to be understood within a contested terrain that far exceeds the limits of the factory as site or the wage as a mode of organizing time and politics. In this way, the fatti served as a wedge, splitting an inherited image of what was taken to be correctly political – the disciplined waged male industrial workers – from the full network of dissent within which that particular identity was only one instance, and hardly the most crucial.
In this way, both Piazza Statuto and the subsequent waves of strikes, wildcats, occupations, bombings, sabotage, and riots will come to bear a special relation to moving images, driving specific injunctions toward the development of both stylistic and distribution forms capable of impelling, rather than just cataloguing, dissent. That’s in no small part because a riot turns a city upside down, and one needs a style capable of turning with it. Because whether or not the riot was photographed or filmed, it posed a difficult question about images and the role that producing and circulating them might play within and beyond these sequences. How to make an image of a historical process still unfolding messily in the present, an image not for posterity or reflection but to help navigate that present? And in so doing, how do you not predetermine what will be allowed to count as a political image – that is to say, an image of the present set in history? How do you not simply crystallize another image to be fetishized and repeated, like that of the insurrectional riot itself, which may help block from view other modes at work?
One particular response to these questions can be seen around the possible filming of Statuto itself. While the main currents of what would become Italy’s version of militant cinema wouldn’t take full shape until the end of the sixties, with the cinegiornali liberi (free newsreels) projects and the collaborations of socialist and communist directors with occupied factories, workers collectives, and squatters, 1962 did see the filming of Paolo and Carla Gobetti’s Strikes in Turin [Scioperi a Torino]. As its quintessentially direct title promises, it’s a documentary detailing those strikes that culminated in the piazza. Except, here, that ending has been entirely excised. The riot goes missing 1. In comments that speak not only to their own political orientation but also to the wider limits shaping cinematic engagement in those years, the directors explain:
We didn’t, for example, film the events of Piazza Statuto: and this was for a precise political reason. Namely, that the clamorous manifestation of revolt by workers and sub-proletariats did not appear to us to constitute a characteristic and essential element of the new and modern struggle that workers in the large factories had engaged in during those years against the most advanced capitalism. The documentary therefore is and was intended to be an interpretation of the workers struggles unfolding in Turin in 1962, one made from a very precise and decidedly partisan point of view. It doesn’t pretend, therefore, to achieve an “objective” cinematic truth.
Two things to note. First, the riot – the “clamorous manifestation” – could be excised from a “partisan point of view,” structured as the unique province of those who do not belong to the fight “against the most advanced capitalism.” And so the work of partisan cinema here becomes caught in the very problem of visibility that the riot poses, the way that it cannot be made to correspond with the political and aesthetic frame that hoped to make sense of it, requiring instead a blurring of where the boundaries of organization, space, and refusal were thought to lie. Second, this won’t be solved in any fashion by simply filming more riots, even though that will happen over and over again in the next decade and a half, because that image of the tear-gas fog drifting around masked faces will itself come to function as cover for other excisions and blindspots. In this way, to track through the history of how Italian experimental and militant film and video made sense of its years is necessarily to read the archive negatively, to attend as much to what remained off-screen as to what actually was filmed and included, even if rarely watched today.
Because an archive is never a simple store of past images, of what was once alive and now is not, any more than one could say that any form of filming or writing distances from its living present. The archive is also an assemblage of interlocking methods, thick syntaxes and moves, that take shape within a limited set of materials that cannot be invented wholly anew. And within this, I’d suggest that the real force of such work within and beyond the archive, especially concerning images of militancy, might not reside in a capacity to resurrect or reactivate its images, to see a particular content that was filmed, or to thaw or spark them into afterlife. Rather, it gathers in the gaps and absences, the things that go not only unwatched today but were never watched insofar as they were left pointedly unfilmed, like the riot in the Gobetti’s film. From this, it impels us to find in this negative archive of the missing – the shots only visible as bullet holes, the kitchens from which women threw flowerpots at cops below, the buildings that cannot be shown because they were never rebuilt – a way of seeing a set of hidden strictures and limits doubly at work in making images and in the social structures of the world they recorded.
One might approach these gaps, holes, and busted relations from several directions. In what follows, I try one: the gesture. However, my sense of the gesture isn’t uniquely corporal here, at least not in the sense of a vital expression. It comes closer to the sense that Vilém Flusser suggests, of “a movement of the body or of a tool connected to the body for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation. 2” That doesn’t mean that the gesture can’t be explained, but that such explaining always must reach outside the immediate situation at hand. It must come in contact with the off-screen of a scenario, tangling the immediate movement of what is seen with an enormous array of forces, categories, expectations, and historical tendencies that make the gesture itself something thought to explain an unspoken intention or qualification. In another register, we might say that a gesture is where a medium of communication becomes visible: not in its success, not in the supplemental force actually given by the shaking of a fist or rolling of the eyes, but in the sense that our words or actions are never unmistakable, never given, the means of contact between people and their lived words always in process and in need of a support structure that qualifies them. So in this regard, the gestures I consider won’t be those filmed bodies themselves, their pointing fingers or thrown stones. It isn’t the action that happens onscreen. Instead, it’s the gesture of the camera, taken broadly. How does it turn? How does it follow the moving at a distance, how does it roam over the still? How does it turn upwards, stop running, angle, or reframe? More precisely, not the gesture of the camera itself, as an autonomous thing or prosthesis of the body, but the gesture that takes shape in the tenuous triangulations between the bodies, the camera (itself a body moving and a frame that joins those viewed actions to their eventual viewing), and the screen, both as graphic composition (the action processed into flat projected image) and occasion for viewing, debate, circulation, and remaking. In these passing gestures, which need to be held open, watched again and again, we catch small glimpses of the often-failed negotiations between the filmed and the unfilmed. This is the negative space of the archive where we run again and again into a fundamental act of editing, exclusion, and framing at work that can never be discerned through images alone.
Like the stones that paved it, Piazza Statuto was in the air, no matter whether or not it was literally filmed, and it’s certainly there in The Organizer (I compagni), a film directed by Mario Monicelli about labor struggles in Turin that end riotously. I can’t say one way or the other if Monicelli intended these echoes,3 but it perhaps doesn’t matter, as the film wasn’t released until October of ’63, more than a year after Piazza Statuto – meaning that even if it hadn’t inflected its production, its viewing couldn’t help but draw the parallel. However, like a number of the politically-focused yet popular films to come – what Elio Petri will call, in frustration, polpop and poppol – The Organizer meditates on present social war by casting it back into a markedly different era, going so far as to shoot in black-and-white and to swap out contemporary Turin for a grim nineteenth-century version. Adding further torque to its dance of displacement, none of the film is actually shot in the city, not even in those suburra pockets of disjointed development. Instead, The Organizer was filmed in other Piedmontese cities that had never been as fully industrialized as Turin, like Cuneo, Fasano, and Savigliano. As for the factory itself, it took a trip to Zagreb to find one that looked adequately pre-postwar Boom.
To be sure, a decision to set the film amidst labor organizing of the previous century is not de facto evasive or dismissive of contemporary struggles. It allows, for instance, a slipperiness that freed one from immediate, halting accusations of that’s not exactly how it happened, and for a strange epochal crisscrossing that was mobilized again and again over the next decade and a half, for better or worse, like in the work of the Taviani brothers, who cast a scathing eye on ‘70s armed struggle by making not just one but two films about the bloody failures of nineteenth-century insurrectional anarchism. But in The Organizer, this disconnect between the social world in which the film was made and the past struggle it portrays becomes tremendous, not because of the politics of its content or pessimistic ending but in its gestures of filming revolt. It is these that show how it couldn’t take object lessons from what was happening around it and how deeply that bore on the tension between, to borrow Godard’s division, making political images and making images politically.
Only in the final scene does this become fully apparent. In the Piazza Statuto riot, the initial march moved from the peripheral factory to the city center, extending a struggle around waged work to the entire network of the city and all the activities that enable it to run. In The Organizer, it’s the reverse: having been enjoined to show the city and its officials that the factory matters more to you than your own homes – in the words of the central character (a “intellectual” organizer who wears glasses, a fact that the film finds very significant) – the workers, families, children, and all march to the factory gates.
As they begin to leave, they are framed close and to the side, a mass surging leftwards, before the camera is placed 90 degrees off, directly behind them, showing them as a crowd receding toward the horizon. This gesture will be repeated again and again until the end of the film overlays the word FINE (“END”) on the gates themselves: bodies move horizontally across the screen in front of a relatively static camera, or they move axially in and out of its depth across a given space, like the courtyard of the factory where the final conflict is to take place.
As for that courtyard, the camera gets there before they do, in order to film the soldiers who have ridden in, formed a perfect line of horses in front of the factory gates, dismounted them, and left that line to array themselves in front of it as another precise line, as if turning themselves into an architectural element, another gate, a fence with guns. And formally austere as this looks in the film, as stagey as it is, it isn’t wrong: this is how those who try to stop riots often stand before they are pelted with chunks of city and made to run.
But if the courtyard is classically geometric, an open rectangular plane, the gestures that make the link between camera and the bodies it films serve to make this absolute and to insist that a riot itself will obey such rules, almost arithmetic in its confrontation, turning the chaotic misuse of the terrain into a delimited theater of morally discrete oppositions. Because as the crowd marches in, first breaking through the extra line of “moderate” forces of order (politicians, town officials, etc)and then coming to face the soldiers, the film adopts a series of positions on three sides of the courtyard.
To the side, as the rioters surge in.
Behind the soldiers, as they face the mob.
Behind the rioters, as they begin to hurl stones.
So when the soldiers fire and the rioters flee, leaving one dead boy in the muddy expanse, the whole thing has unfolded as a passage fore and aft across a quadrant, a firing range where only straight paths are allowed.
It’s to the film’s enormous credit to depict a fantasy of space that underlies its policing and management, that rigid clarity of a zone across which one faces the enemy. But it cannot make sense of the kind of scrambling that Statuto was to show, as would Corso Traiano and Battipaglia and San Basilio, for the simple reason that it cannot imagine the gesture as at once depicted and depicting, that necessary entanglement with no discrete edges. When the rioters face the soldiers, they thicken the air with rocks, but the film never allows the possibility that one might strike and break the lens of the camera, that its operator would have to swerve off this absolute edge in order to duck.
If the absence of Piazza Statuto in the Gobetti documentary means we look elsewhere for its traces, in fiction films like The Organizer, that won’t remain the case for long. The possibility that a stone might hit the camera – and the proximity this entails, and the possibility that one might put down a camera for a rock – becomes central to radical filmmaking and exhibition in the next decade and a half. There, it will be not just a verité principle but a mark of how the films are inseparable from the struggles they both show and are shown to, functioning as counter-information (controinformazione) document and collaborative process of sharing technical knowledge and developing networks of screening and debate. And so the operator learns to get close and, therefore, also to duck and cover, to take refuge.
Quite literally, in one section of film included in a 1970 found footage film, The Factory (La fabbrica). The film was made by Lino De Seriis and Alberto Lauriello by assembling footage that ranges across the century up to its present, folding in soccer games, assembly lines, Fascist parades, and, of course, riots, all linked by the central thread of Fiat. Here, though, the automaker isn’t just Italy’s largest industrial employer or most visible terrain of struggle between management and labor. It also names a project put into continual threat by forms of resistance that kept mutating, a project that dreams of an integrated network of production and social life able to defuse antagonism both across the entire peninsula and in Turin alone, which Fiat executives and planners would tout in the ‘50s and ‘60s as a developing fabbrica-città, a factory-city. And in many ways, some of the violent shock of riots like Piazza Statuto, and those of the later sixties on which the film dwells, lies in how much they countered and deflated that fantasy, restaging the dawning sense that “organized workers” doesn’t mean cleanly organized protest and ruining the idea of a coherent “neocapitalist” social fabric that management sought extend beyond labor forms to lived space itself.
Here, that extension and linkage of factory to city appears – flipping the direction of The Organizer back around – as a July 3, 1969 march that begins from Mirafiori, Fiat’s enormous plant in Turin’s outskirts, with plans to head into the city’s center. And also as a linkage beyond, given that the strike was itself suffused with anger over the murder by cops of two people during the recent riots in Battipaglia, a struggle itself sparked by layoffs at a tobacco plant, a fight set in the context of a different industry, different context, and different zone, the far southern Mezzogiorno from which so many of the Fiat workers had migrated. In Turin, before the march can leave, the police charge, followed by an ambulance that “accidentally” drives into the crowd. A running battle breaks out on Corso Traiano, a wide boulevard, complete with stones thrown at the police, who (the film’s narrator says) attack immediately and hard, with batons and tear gas.
In the film, the break is sudden, sharp: crowds marching in a line, right to left across the screen in front of a camera held on the same street, wobbling slightly, and then suddenly, with a stark cut, the horizon is thick with billowing tear gas, and the camera back at a distance, amongst the grass as people scatter through, one holding a Mao poster at waist height. Then another cut, as the rioters take refuge in the working-class neighborhood nearby, where many didn’t know of the march, taking the strike just as a day of rest. But, we’re reminded, the cops are always an enemy, the arm of the bosses, and so they follow, as armored vehicles spray jets of water at the bodies surrounding them, and the battles burst out onto the large avenues, the little streets where Molotovs are thrown.
Above, a helicopter beats its blades, looming over the scene it surveys, and below, the rioters construct barricades, both in the narration and in the image too, at the same moment, men in white shirts tossing broken bits of the neighborhood in a pile to assemble for defense, while from windows the women bombard the cops with all the objects they have in their houses.
Yet we won’t see this bombarding: at the moment these words are spoken, the screen is occupied with a firetruck trying to hose insurgents off the slicked pavement. It is perhaps the same street onto which the household objects were thrown, perhaps not. We can’t say, as the act itself remains unfilmed, relegated to that spoken evocation. And at this point we might realize that the view of the camera we have been sharing has itself been from on high in this neighborhood, that it and whoever is using it also took refuge, and is peering out just such a window, from just such an apartment. But it never turns around and considers those spaces inside, never shows those women lobbing flowerpots at the heads of cops. For all the confusion caused and documented, the divide between the public and the personal is calcified, and the street alone – that space between the factory gates and the door of the house, that gap where politics is supposed to happen – remains the object of attention. Apparently, one can only show an item from the kitchen when it has been assembled into a barricade by men below.
A cut to the helicopter, again. Now it’s almost too far to see, a zoom doing its best but still barely picking it out. Yet the sound of its blades are loud and omnipresent, roaring just next to us, as if coming from inside a house that will not be filmed.
It’s back, the helicopter. But it’s further south, and further than Battipaglia, down in Sicily and passing over it, held center in the frame by the camera but flying left to right now, like how you read the words the helicopter came and went and did not rest a moment. It is no longer a police chopper but a military one, even if the similar framing against the grey sky – for this too is black and white, and the film does not specify how blue it might have been – reminds us how small the gap between the two, and yet how much it matters here. The chopper in The Factory is a threat because it scouts the action below to betray the hiding positions and movements of the rioters to the cops who then send armored vehicles with pressurized water after them. This helicopter, hovering over Sicily, is a threat for an opposite reason. It threatens by doing nothing, by simply looking and not landing, surveying the damage already done by the earthquake to the towns and lives below as if it was possible to look at and then look away from. Simply looking, and then flying away from the scene, having decided that yes, that is possible, and, yes, they will have to wait a little longer. And being seen doing this by the they in question.
The film is Sicily: Earthquake Year One (Sicilia: terremoto anno uno), directed by Beppe Scavuzzo, and was shown in 1970, but it is set at many times at once. In January 1968, when the devastating Belice earthquake hits Sicily, and the buildings fall. In the days and weeks of its immediate aftermath amongst the rubble and crisis. In all the days and weeks and months after, adding up to the year one of the title, at which point the promised aid still had not come, despite 100,000 left homeless. In a decade after not yet happened but yet to come all the same, when 60,000 of them will still have no homes, living in tents and shanties, still told to wait. And reversed, rewound: in the decades before, in corners cut and shoddy walls built that enabled the catastrophe. In the whole century of condemnation of the south as backwards, messy, and beyond repair, such that the ruination of towns by an earthquake merely makes them align with the image already held by those with the resources and power to do something about it.
How can one show this, this thing that is once a sudden wrenching event and a continual process of judgment, neglect, and slow deterioration? For this film, it appears as a gap: a profound gap between the aid supposed to come and the territory where it will never arrive, the uncrossed air between the helicopter that won’t land and the people who cannot wait but who are made to do so all the same. Later in the film, the camera will pass through the spaces, panning left to right over the crumbled. It will focus on the conversations of men in uniforms, who say that they are doing all they can, and on the voices and faces of the people who have to live through all this. But the gap is already there, stark and lucid, in the technical relation of the camera to its first two sequences and the broken relation between those two. The first shot is the helicopter. Centered, thrumming, moving diagonally away from the lens, but still held central. Here, the motor of the camera matches the rotor of the copter, one mechanical device that functions by means of interval between solid and empty recording another one that does the same. In order to keep the moving helicopter in place, the camera pans with it. It doubles.
The film cuts, and in the next sequence, it is again moving, again panning over what it records. But what it films does not move and so the frame of the shot travels across its materials like a plane. There is a hand, palm upwards, gesturing toward what is there. The camera pans across, past it. Another hand, its index finger pointing straight up.
A cut back in space and back in time, as if rewinding, shows again the same gestures, but now with bodies framed in full. It’s a woman and a man, and a crowd behind them. They are pointing at the sky. We zoom in, and in again on the man’s face, the small details brought closer. But nothing moves, except the small shudders of the camera and the projector.
It is a photograph, as is the next image, of a boy grabbing an arm in front of him and pointing up, as is the next, the same one, framed back further, showing the boy set amongst a crowd, arms all angled upwards, every limb signifying focus toward the sky. And here, that lived gap is made formal and mechanical and real: those with the money and power to dictate the flow of goods will appear as ceaselessly rolling motion, in synch across the sky, while those who are forced to wait are frozen, filmed in time but damned to repeat the same gesture again and again before a camera that will roam over them, trying to find something new by reframing, zooming, angling.
In the next shot, motion of the image will be restored, as soldiers hand out food and blankets, as will the sound, an eerie dissonant choir. It becomes apparent now that in all that has happened before, when we were moving up the wrist of a hand pointing to a sky we don’t see, that there has been no sound whatsoever. Not the copter, not the shouts of the filmed who point and curse the state and its failures. Just the slow hiss of the film itself.
Again, the gap, but differently, perhaps. It’s Rome, later, 1977, towards what retroactively will look like the end of this sequence of revolt, but only retroactively. This film is not reflection for posterity but analysis within something still unfolding, articulating diagonally. Years later, in Bologna, I asked someone who was there about those years, about whether it felt like something was an end, or was just going on, or just getting going. He told me how, looking back, he thinks now that they made a fatal misstep, how the decision to focus on police repression in Rome meant forgetting how they had the numbers to start living and defending their own zones in other cities, and in Rome too. But, he said, it was also necessary to go there, to go Rome and to not let this pass by, because you can’t pretend that you didn’t see.
In Filming in the City (Filmando in città), 1977, a film produced by Lotta Continua, that articulation is happening in the midst, going back over past events, not in the sense of combing the distanced archive but working tenderly through what is still too fresh.
On the street, a man is showing someone photos. The camera holds them at arms length, watching the hand, the finger, point at the photos of the demonstrations and explain them, explain what has been told wrong in the media. A triangle of analysis, if not more. The photograph, which has already been taken, not for the film but out in the world. The finger that points at it, picks out its crucial details. The camera – and not in the immediate, but in the editing room too, where this whole relation gets constructed anew – that produces its own attention, getting close to the photo, and the finger. We don’t need the words to know that what we are watching is an attempt to analyze a present in order to better face how it keeps occurring. In order to learn to distrust images, but to do so through them.
And then later in the film, the image layers thicken. The camera – which uses celluloid, which we know because of its spots and flickers – is filming a screen where a video plays, which we know because of its lines, the tracking, the glitches. On that screen, an image turns, filmed by another camera in the streets, one in a different past, making a full circle around a blood stain on the pavement. It cuts: not the camera filming the screen, which doesn’t stop, but the image on it, flicking to a man lying on his back on the street, as the hand of a cop holds a gun close, standing, not kneeling, and then more blood, and then a man talking, and on the screen that shows the video, there is suddenly the silhouette of a hand, not in the footage but laid on top, for reasons that never become clear: touching it, blocking half of it.
Obscuring a face to protect an identity or touching a screen to touch a face that is no longer around or simply to make a gesture that does not mean anything clearly but which, like all gestures, points to the necessary limits of any medium of communication, the space where one ends and another begins, hovering on that threshold we just call the screen.
Further north, back in time: 1975-1976 in Milan. The span necessary, because the film works to depict an entire sequence, to get a hold of a whole historical logic at work as if epochal, as through from afar, as if we could look down from a helicopter at the networks of production and dissent and discern how they all link together. And also the sequence of a day, because this is the structure the film borrows, beginning with the silence of the train station, its platforms empty, the camera turning in nearly a full circle at Sesto San Giovanni, wordless, and then beyond its platforms, still without people arriving, out onto the marks and traces on the walls and their graffiti, as if it was impossible to be alone in a city, even at dawn, because it is always full of what doesn’t get scrubbed off.
The film is called With Crossed Arms (A braccia incrociate), which we know not only because it is the title and such things are recorded, but because it has been written on one of these walls, there at the start of the film. The sequence is particular. A grey screen, with the words written, not by hand but mechanically typed, cronache interne di un contratto collective (internal chronicles of a collective contract), lowercase like that, or rather, with line breaks, like this:
di un contratto
This appears before the title, to qualify what we’ll see, and it is followed by more words that will turn out to be the title, all capitals and broken into lines:
Itself to be followed again and again by text, by more words,
OF THE FEDERATION
L. MARIETTI 4
Which is to say, these are credits we are watching. Plain enough. But what is particular about them is not just that all are graffiti, painted directly on brick walls with other markings and slogans, but that it’s impossible to know for sure what the order was. It’s more than likely that there was no preexisting graffiti in Sesto San Giovanni, or anywhere else, that read DIRECTED BY E. BEDEI… But as for the title, those crossed arms, we cannot know if this was found in the present archive of the city, and so gave its name to this attempt to grapple with an entire span of activity, or if it was written just for this occasion, the name of the film being written onto the terrain to be filmed that is in no way ever or merely a set or a stage for such things.
And in this way, before anything happens that we would call the substance of its investigation, we already have the shape of a form of making images that will, at the very least, do its best to take its cues from what has already been happening, the little signs waiting outside the empty station before the working day begins and there straight through the night.
Back into The Factory, into a splintered time. Later in the film, towards its end, concerning the riot in Battipaglia that happened before those houses vomited into the street. But after the riot there, not showing its surge, not the indiscrete lethality of the police, their bullets straying up to kill Teresa, who stood on her balcony, looking down. Instead, it’s the after of this.
The empty road coming into town, its stone walls disturbed, because they had been driven into or made into weapons, filmed from a camera that sits inside a car that drives straight through, its wipers crossing the frame again and again. A figure walking up the road. The sound of a cymbal, crashing on and on.
The railway station, where people stand and look at the tracks where fires had been set, as they had in the police station and the city hall. Groups of men stand on corners, on ledges, as the camera turns circles, takes in the faces looking back at it.
Cars sit on the road but do not drive because they have been torched. Buses the same. A jeep twisted with heat has a license plate that the camera angles downward to note:
The view through all this, even below its free jazz wails, is forensic. It is the study of the capacity of supposedly voiceless things to speak publicly of what has happened yet which has not been grasped, not paid adequate retribution. And so this becomes literal. A stucco wall, pocked with holes. A single shoe on the ground. Flowers laid beside footless shoes. It doesn’t take a narrator to make the link, and the film doesn’t give one. When the narrator does come along, to try and link Battipaglia to Corso Traiano, what it says is bullshit. It tells us that many in Turin come from there [Battipaglia], but that this isn’t the most important thing. The strike is political, that’s what counts, not the little demands, but a higher level of class consciousness. It’s a terrible thing to say, to decide why it was that people from Battipaglia raised hell in Turin, to say that what matters is class consciousness, rather than the deep sense of space and home, as if that mattered less. But at least the camera doesn’t agree with the narrator, because it was filmed by someone else, with a reading that’s never spoken.
So what we see is this: that the camera, held in the hand of its operator, draws close to a hand that holds bullets. These bullets are proof of the careless spatter of the cops’ firing, as is the bullet held in an open palm that fills the screen, as is the one that isn’t held but is present all the same, in the two fingers that a man points directly to his forehead with a grimace, showing how it hit, striking il cranio (the cranium), and made clear by the immediate break to the hole in the wall, the camera’s pointing to it, to other walls, to other holes.
And if we can stop the film, as we can, we can see that one of the bullets struck a film poster – the word TECHNICOLOR gives it away. And given the name ALISTAIR MACLEAN and the year of the riot and the color of the film advertised, a color not to be seen in The Factory, we can trace out the fact that the film was Ice Station Zebra, that perhaps during the riot, some were inside the theater, some perhaps hiding from the cops, some perhaps just there for the film, watching Rock Hudson and Patrick McGoohan fight the Reds, before joining them to complete humanitarian missions thanks to the destruction of a film containing important secrets, watching the subs tool around in the Arctic waters, oblivious to what was happening around save for the radar picking up on disturbances outside.
Battipaglia, once more. And not just once more for this sequence, for ours, but also for the film, which itself is a return, coming back with the footage that had been shot there immediately during the riots in order to view it together, to discuss it with the town, because it is a decent principle of film to refuse to adopt the relation to surveying lived space advocated by aid helicopters that never land. The intent is in the title – Battipaglia: Self-Analysis of a Revolt (Battipaglia: autoanalisi di una rivolta) – and in the year, 1970, which means after the riots, and hence a return to the scene of the crime, like the first year of an earthquake. Here, that meant brining back a “newsreel” made there, the cinegiornale libero #5 called simply Battipaglia.
Many of the other gestures happen here. In this film too, that split between the still image and the otherwise occurs, again letting enraged gestures hang before the bulb of the projector, like they too are on the verge of flame. These are interspersed with shots held from a car that drives that same road in The Factory, unsurprising because both come from the footage of the newsreel where the bullet walls and head pointing reside, the station and vans and rocks too, all of it. And so here too the turn will be forensic, marking the sites, scouring the walls, closing on a shot of the burned cop car so that saying END (Fine) overlaid on it is not just descriptive but also a hope and a promise. But it is towards the beginning of the film that I was first startled, and remain so every time I watch this. Not just because the film reflects on its previous filming, though that is no small thing. Not just because it shares this and uses it as the platform to let people tell their stories of what happened – a story that insists that the cops pushed and provoked people into this deathly encounter – but because in so doing, it turns to consider the faces of those who watch. When this second film was made, this self-analysis, the filmmakers returned to Battipaglia and screened the footage for the community and filmed this screening and the meeting that followed. The voices that speak through this come untethered, later hanging over that footage of the ruined road into town, such that we no longer have a single narrator who decides what is or is not the most important thing. It is a collage of voices, a tumult, one woman’s voice in particular singing like a saw throughout, furious.
But the turning to the faces is literal. The theater is dark, the cinegiornale bright and small on one wall. We won’t see it immediately, because this camera faces the other way, back onto the audience who are all facing to that rectangle of light. From the camera comes another light, like a second projector casting back onto those looking forward, showing faces that are looking close, others holding tissues to their faces as they weep while watching. One woman raises her hand to block the light attached to this camera so as to be able to keep seeing the light from the projector.
It is a technical and practical movement. A shielding. But it is also a gesture of annoyance and frustration that marks a gap internal to this analysis. Which is that perhaps one cannot simultaneously see and be seen seeing at the same moment, even as this will be the project, to make that into an ongoing work. This will be a fundamental limit that marks all of these contacts and relations, between the stones, the persons, the fires, the motions, and the dark rooms. But in this capacity to pivot, to finally turn around, even in practice, even if it couldn’t look into the kitchen, the camera articulates this necessary negative space and gestures toward a process without end. In this, a film is both a testament and a point of departure, a reflection upon its own failures and a ragged opening, a foothold, a crack, a hinge.
Text & heading images: Evan Calder Williams
Images: Criterion Collection (The Organizer) and
Archivio Audiovisivo del Movimento Operaio e Democratico
CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 | 2016
Evan Calder Williams is a writer and artist based in upstate New York. He is the author of Roman Letters, Combined and Uneven Apocalypse, and, forthcoming next year, Shard Cinema. His writing has appeared in Film Quarterly, Mute, The New Inquiry, Third Rail Quarterly, Journal of American Studies, The Italianist, La Furia Umana, and World Picture, among other publications. He was a Fulbright Fellow in Italy and received a doctoral degree in literature from the University of California Santa Cruz. He is a contributing editor to Viewpoint Magazine and a founding member of research and production collective Thirteen Black Cats. He has presented films, performance, and text works at the Serpentine Gallery, the Whitney Museum, Images Festival, Artists Space, and the Montreal International Festival du Nouveau Cinéma. He was a 2015 artist-in-residence at Brooklyn’s ISSUE Project Room and teaches theory at Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies.
An eclectic patchwork of newsreels, censured clips, home videos, collective cinema movements, web and social networks imagery, surveillance camera and institutional sources all come together to reflect on the chaos of documentation, archives and collective memory.
History converts the representation of the past into its own theme. The past contains a syncretism pressed into the service of redemption. It is a crescendo (integration) of reality; in which a past event (of its own time) contains a higher degree of actuality now than at the moment of its existence.
What distinguishes an image from its phenomenological “essence” is its historical mark. Each present is determined by its synchronous images; each “now” is a “now” of categorical reference.
The image is the suspended dialectic between past and present, containing on a higher level the mark of the critical moment.
Trauma is outside memory, outside history. It is (un) represent able, unmemorable, and unforgettable. How can we understand the trauma i.e. how can its impossibility to be represented be presented? And isn’t history an original container of trauma? Isn’t the work of memory and its memory-based processes of transformation of time and space, of the political, the public and the private, of the nation and the family, a process of desire?
In a playful format and in an interesting anachronistic dialog between different media, we unsystematically display archive images of Portugal from 1964 – 1976 alongside contemporary images borrowed from assorted sources on the web. How do past and present interact? The red filter reminds some people of Marker’s famous statement “le fond de l’air est rouge”, implying that the socialist movement existed only in the air to describe the politic turmoil that characterized the revolutionary movements of the 1960s and ‘70s.
The additional sound work underscores the trance-ritual experience of political demonstrations, war marches, riots and religious processions.
Project Coordination and Concept: Salomé Lamas
Sound Work: Sara Pinheiro
Intern: Henrique Real
The project features images from:
Catembe by Faria de Almeida (1964), a cross between fiction and documentary that portrays life in Lourenço Marques – (Maputo), Mozambique, under Salazar’s regime. It is the most censured film in the history of Portuguese cinema. From the 87’ final cut, the film was reduced to a 42’ version, and later its showing was prohibited. Most of the censured sequences showed local life in Maputo and featured the black population, nightlife, bars, racial mixing, etc. Reality, as a rule, tends to displease any totalitarian regime, and Estado Novo was no exception. Estado Novo was interested in propaganda films that conformed to the logic of the white population in the colonies and their development achievements in Africa. The black population, on the other hand, was paraded from a folkloric perspective with unorthodox ethnographic pretensions. ‘Catembe’ was censured because it presented a disruptive view that diverged from that proposed by the propaganda films.
Júlio de Matos Hospital… by José Carlos Marques (1974), which was shot right after the Carnation Revolution, is an impressive account of the ‘concentrationary’ situation in a central Lisbon psychiatric hospital (the Julio de Matos Hospital opened in 1942, supposedly as one of the best in Europe). It is a powerful documentary that denounces the alarming degradation of the mental institution and the sordid conditions in which patients existed.
As Armas e o Povo by Colectivo dos Trabalhadores da Actividade Cinematográfica (1975) illustrates the first six days of the Carnation Revolution.
Manifestação Unitária de 16 de Novembro ’75 (1975).
Cravos de Abril by Ricardo Costa (1976) follows the social and political turmoil of the Portuguese democratic revolution which took place between 25 April and 1 May, 1974.
Opção Europa by Jorge Cabral (1976) charts the political developments and expectations of the Portuguese European Economic Community (ECC).
All archive images were kindly provided by Cinemateca Portuguesa-Museu do Cinema. Other sources include several url web websites that must remain unidentified.
Acknowledgement: Cinemateca Portuguesa – Centro de Conservação ANIM (Sara Moreira, Luis Gameiro); Tabakalera (Pablo La Parra Pérez, Ane Rodríguez Amendariz); Filmmakers (José Carlos Marques, Ricardo Costa, Manuel Faria de Almeida, António de Macedo).
CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 | 2016
Salomé Lamas (b. 1987, Lisbon) studied cinema in Lisbon and Prague, visual arts (MFA) in Amsterdam and is a Ph.D candidate in film studies in Coimbra. Her debut feature films Terra de Ninguém (2012) and Eldorado XXI (2016) premiered internationally at Berlinale (Forum). She is currenly finalising Extintion. She has authored different experimental film pieces. Her work has been awarded and showcased both in art venues and film festivals such as NIMK, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, BAFICI, Reina Sofia, Mar del Plata, FIAC, Rome Film Festival, MNAC, DocLisboa, Documenta Madrid, MoMA, Guggenheim Bilbao, Pacific Film Archive, Harvard Film Archive, Museum of Moving Images, Jewish Museum, Fid Marseille, Arsenal, Cinéma du Réel, Hammer Museum, Serralves Contemporary Art Museum, La Casa Encendida, CPH:DOX, Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Bozar, Tabakalera, among others. She collaborates with O Som e a Furia and is represented by Miguel Nabinho Gallery. + info at www.salomelamas.info
Athens, from my balcony.
The city centre, the outskirts of Europe.
How to make a film-tract from here, from the country with no future?
I’ve become one of those people who stay at home because they don’t know, or more accurately, no longer know how to react.
Off screen, people are stopped in the street and asked about their daily lives in post-referendum Athens.
It’s a film which doesn’t show much, because after all, what’s the use of showing, yet again, a set of images that no longer provoke any reaction?
It’s really an anti-tract, because perhaps it is more appalling to shut oneself up at home and watch everything from a distance, instead of showing the battles that others wage so well…
This film was born out of a request by the Hors Pistes Festival for a work focusing on film-tracts, and was later resumed and finalised at the request of Tabakalera, for the ‘Europe, future past’ project. It was shot in February and March 2016, and reflects the impressions of that period of time. It is, perhaps, a slightly gloomy work; an anti-tract, or perhaps more accurately, a ‘non-tract’.
Before deciding to shoot exclusively from inside my house, I searched Athens for ‘the last traces of resistance’: demonstrations, occupied areas, everyday gestures, etc.
I always shoot from inside something. If I film a demonstration, for example, it’s because I too am participating in it. But in February 2016 there were no demonstrations. So I simply stayed at home, confused and disappointed, like so many others. Like the vast majority. But instead of making a film about silence, I went out into the street to talk to people, to find out how they saw things and to gauge the general feeling in the city.
I shot everything with a hand-held video camera, which is why the image is a little shaky. I tried it with a tripod in order to ‘do it properly’, but the shots were terrible and horrifyingly static, standing in out in stark contrast to the latency and fragility so palpable in the city.
As for the poems, they are there to give the video a sense of ‘struggle’. They are there to remind us of what has been and what still resonates. They are there to remind us that we have to fight and that it is possible, even necessary to do so. Three poems and two extracts from different periods of contemporary Greek history: from the resistance poet Tassos Livaditis, deported to the Island of Makronisos during the civil war; to Mikis Theodorakis, who wrote ‘We are two’ in reference to the Regime of the Colonels, the amazing anarchist poet Katerina Gogou, the unclassifiable Nikos-Alexis Aslanoglou and Jazra Khaleed, a young Chechen poet who currently lives in Athens.
Someone told me recently that desperation is what moves things forward, not the other way around. That would be how this video would start today, if I had to make it over again. With all the force of the black.
Άσπρη είναι η αρία φυλή
τα λευκά κελιά
οι άσπρες μπλούζες των γιατρών
Αυτά λίγο πρόχειρα
για την αποκατάσταση του μαύρου.
White is the Aryan race
The white cells
The white medical gowns
The death gowns
These few words
in order to restitute black
I would like to conclude by saying that ‘Au revoir’ is the name of a bar in Athens, located in Patission Street. The bar of all farewells.
Text: Daphné Hérétakis
Images: Stills from Au Revoir, selected by Daphné Hérétakis
Au Revoir is a film directed by Daphné Hérétakis // Poems (in order of appearance): Jazra Khaleed, extract from ‘In this city there’s no place for manifestos’, read by Alexia Sarandopoulou / Tassos Livaditis, extract from ‘I wait for you everywhere’, read by Eva Anerrapsi / Mikis Theodorakis, ‘We are two’ (demonstration song). / ‘Prayer’ by Nikos Alexis Aslanoglou, set to music and sung by Vassilis Noulas, extract from his piece/performance ‘Odes to the Prince’ / Katerina Gogou, ’25 May’, read by Anna Mastori /All the slogans that are featured in the video were painted on walls in the city of Athens.
Translation (English subtitles): Chloe Howe Haralambous
Translation (text): Diana Draper
CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 | 2016
Daphné Hérétakis was born in Paris in 1987. After finishing school in Greece, she moved to France to study film at the University of Paris 8 Saint-Denis where she obtained a Master degree in documentary filmmaking. There, she directed ici rien, an experimental documentary shot in Exarhia, prime centre of social protest in Athens. From 2013 to 2015 she was a resident at le Fresnoy, National Studio of Contemporary Arts where she made Archipelagos, naked granites, a film diary shot in Greece. Her work has been shown to numerous festivals. She lives and works between Paris and Athens.
Virginia García del Pino
Improvisation #2 is a piece directed by Virginia García del Pino within the framework of the project Europe, future past.
Improvisation: Josep Maria Esquirol / Directed by: Virginia García del Pino / Production: Ainhoa Ramírez / Sound: Maider Fernández /Acknowledgments: Elías León Siminiani, Iñigo Fernández, Oscar Vicentelli, Lara Curto, Damián Depetris / Estudio de Imagen Dela S.L. / English subtitles: Sejal Shah
/ CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 | 2017
Virginia García del Pino is a film director and professor for the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona’s Master Programme in Documentary Filmmaking. With a Degree in Fine Arts, her production as a video artist led her to documentary films. Her work has made an extensive international tour of festivals and contemporary art museums. In 2002, she made her directing début with the short-subject film Pare de Sufrir. In 2008 she received various awards for Lo que tú dices que soy, a film that made the rounds at many festivals and museums such as the Tate Modern in London. Her first full-length feature film, El Jurado (2012) was included in the official selection of FID Marseille, FIC Valdivia and Punto de Vista, and was exhibited in museums such as MNCARS, IVAM and MUSAC. In 2013, the Márgenes, L’Alternativa and Cineuropa festivals did retrospectives on her work. Her last film, La 10ª carta (2014), debuted at San Sebastian Film Festival, and is a portrait of acclaimed filmmaker Basilio Martín Patino. It was nominated for the José María Forqué awards and has toured Spanish film libraries and international festivals.
Irati Gorostidi & Arantza Santesteban
Faces of women watching a series of film fragments, the sounds of which are off-camera: “how does the women’s liberation movement affect you…?” One of those faces is Itxaro Borda’s, who describes the images: “they all have a common characteristic, that of the woman in her intimacy and in the world of labor”.
Euritan aims to revisit the story “Kara eta Biok”, written by Borda in 1985, confronting the author with the words she wrote in the past, taking up and updating her peripheral relationship with Basque identity.. (Irati Gorostidi and Arantza Santesteban)
With the participation of Itxaro Borda / Starring: Itxaro Borda, Miren Aranguren, Edurne Epelde, Contxi Sierra, Bego Oleaga, Mirari Agirretxe, Bego Aranburuzabala, Leire Manzanos, Nerea Martinez, Jenofa Berhokoirigoin, Kamille Dizabo / Direct sound: Gerard Ortín Castellví / Images of the demostration: Kepa Matxain / Screened films: NIGHTCLEANERS (Berwick Street Film Collective, 1975), JON – Barrura begiratzeko lehioak (Txaber Larreategi, 2012), A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (John Cassavetes, 1974), À BIENTÔT, J’ESPÈRE (Chris Marker, Mario Marret, 1968) / Text: KLARA ETA BIOK (Itxaro Borda, 1985) / Acknowledgements: Pablo La Parra, Gerard Ortín, Chez Xina, Juan Gorostidi, Beñat Sarasola, Lur Olaizola, Martxoak 3 elkartea, Kepa Matxain and everybody appearing at the film / English subtitles: Sejal Shah
CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 | 2017
Irati Gorostidi is a filmmaker and researcher. She holds a BA in Fine Arts (2011) and a MA in Contemporary Film Studies from the Pompeu Fabra University. She has made art video projects in collaboration with art collectives, cultural institutions, and magazines. Pasaia Bitartean (2015) is her first feature film.
Arantza Santesteban is a historian and audiovisual researcher. She studied Documentary Film Script and has directed several documentaries, such as Passatgeres (2012) or Gorputz grafiak (2015). She has developped different research projects about media and gender, a line of work she is currently developping within the MA in Media, Culture, Society and Politics (UNED).