To fund his work with Gorin in the Dziga Vertov group, Godard produced this advert for the razor firm Schick. Apparently, the mise-en-scène – a couple in their ratty underwear waking up to an argument over a radio blaring news about Palestine, only to be reconciled by aftershave – didn’t do it for a public yet inured to irony, and, at least according to the art dealer who commissioned the advert, lost the company money at each appearance on TV. (The agency Dupuy & Compton was later incorporated into Saatchi & Saatchi.)
To mark the loss of a Kulturarbeiter like few others. Harun Farocki has died at 70.
Chanced upon this brief interview with Kerry James Marshall about his mural work on the political economy of slavery and its invisibility after discovering his work at a very good exhibition at the Reina Sofia in Madrid. The two pieces below were among some of the works on display. (The background display is taken from one of the best pieces in the show, Theoretical Video.)
‘We can see our forests vanishing, our water-powers going to waste, our soil being carried by floods into the sea; and the end of our coal and our iron is in sight. But our larger wastes of human effort, which go on every day through such of our acts as are blundering, ill-directed; or inefficient, and which Mr. Roosevelt refers to as a lack of “national efficiency,” are less visible, less tangible, and are but vaguely appreciated.
We can see and feel the waste of material things. Awkward, inefficient, or ill-directed movements of men, however, leave nothing visible or tangible behind them. Their appreciation calls for an act of memory, an effort of the imagination. And for this reason, even though our daily loss from this source is greater than from our waste of material things, the one has stirred us deeply, while the other has moved us but little.’
“The least that can be said today is that in the ‘system of states’, the presumed rationality of each member is reversed into its opposite. Some would refer to this ‘international system’ as a contradictory structure. Perhaps this formulation simply signifies a moving and relatively unstructured hierarchy of contradictions. In fact, once it has any force, contradiction opposes itself to structure and makes it explode. Whatever its theoretical definition may be, this system threatens the planet with death. Deicide, parricide, matricide, regicide, genocide and ethnocide are followed, in this escalation of crimes, by a crime of unprecedented amplitude. To proclaimed ends and innumerable murders we can now add terricide (thus named by J.-C. Lambert in the journal Opus International, issue 50).
Like a gigantic Easter Island, planetary space is limned with colossal forms, monstrous and fascinating statues, which contrast with the smallness of those who erected them. What spectacle for those galactic travellers whose landing has aroused so many imaginings!
Should we be shocked, morally indignant? A liberal and moral contestation, that of the ‘citizen against power’ (the title of a book by the philosopher Alain), may regard itself as profound, but it represents only the protestantism of the State. No. The first task is knowledge: to take as our object, not only the State, but also and especially the world system of States – to the extent that there is a system.
The planet only comes into existence when it is put into question: the terrestrial only becomes world when it is menaced, through uncertainty and the absence of a prefabricated fate. The philosopher will say that the planet, to deserve its name – which means wandering [errance] – must run the risk of destruction, and that man, to affirm himself, traverses his self-negation, his auto-destruction. So that the possible is only attained through this ordeal, and the world revolution and planetary death rub shoulders in the game of the world (K. Axelos). Death spreads its kingdom to the stars and the galaxies: and the will to live can only unfold on this background, by refusing the will to death.”
“The modern State cannot be grasped as a reality, substance, objectivity (an inert or organic object). The State is not seen. No more than the Law. They do not pertain to the sensible. You can photograph rulers. Not the State. What does the spectator see, from the outside, or the member, from the inside? He does not see the Law, only the policeman. We only see the theatrical appearance of the State, the ceremonial garments. The State is not seen, it is conceived: this allows Hegel and Hegelians to claim that the State is (nothing but) an idea.” (Henri Lefebvre, De l’État, vol. 1, 1976, pp. 42-3)