War

Out of the mouths of rural boys, finding the incomparable Mulla Nasrudin in Afghanistan.

Anthony Ramos' astute deconstruction of television news focuses on his part in the media coverage of President Jimmy Carter's 1977 declaration of amnesty for Vietnam draft evaders. Ramos, who had served an 18-month prison sentence for draft evasion, was interviewed by news reporter Gabe Pressman, whose film crew meets Ramos' video crew in a confrontation between technologies and sensibilities. At the time, some broadcast television news crews still used 16mm film, although the expensive transition to ENG (electronic news gathering) systems had begun in 1974.

In 1972 Eric Siegel, an early pioneer of video art, set out on an extreme adventure driving from Europe six thousand miles overland to India. He was one of the first people to use the revolutionary new technology from Sony Corporation, the Portapak. This was the first small portable video camera/recorder combo that was the predecessor of today’s camcorders. Together with his friend Anthony they documented the trip. This video is the portion of the trip that took them through Afghanistan, one of the most exotic places along the way.

An old Russian Akula submarine, armed with ballistic nuclear missiles, is assigned a new captain. But Captain Pavel seems to care very little for Navy protocol. In fact, he feels the crew’s jobs are a waste of time, preferring to lead discussions about spiritual matters. The Captain dresses in a cassock and grows a long beard. His favorite pastime is shamanic drumming, which even the confused American’s can hear from the ship.

One of Zaatari’s earliest experiments in documentary video, All Is Well on the Border emerged from the filmmaker’s desire to understand Israel’s occupation of Southern Lebanon following the 1982 Lebanon War. The video presents a series of testimonies by Lebanese citizens who were detained during the occupation, each presenting an image of resistance that falls outside the dominant narrative of liberation and solidarity promoted by the Lebanese left.

For four years in the 1860’s, half of the United States was held hostage by an unrecognized white supremacist republic. Shot on 16mm in national military parks, swamps, forests and the suburban sprawl across the former battlefields, the film follows General Grant’s path liberating the southern United States. Part travelogue, part essay film, part landscape documentary, it moves from the Texas-Louisiana border to a prison island off the coast of New England.

Manipulating a variety of sources, Vasulka uses creative imaging tools to situate historical images against Southwestern landscapes of incredible beauty. Contorting the images into a variety of isomorphic forms, Vasulka creates a literal shape for these memories, developing these shapes as metaphors for the processes of fragmentation, condensation, and inversion, that inevitably contort fact into memory.

Q: What was the Cubists’ greatest contribution to modernity? A: The invention of camouflage. The Art of Protective Coloration asks us to consider the less-than-innocent connections between the making of art and the making of war. Such questions are the first few steps into the deceptively shifting terrain of this videotape, which leaps into a lurid meditation on aggressive male fantasies, linking the domains of art, war, and sex. It looks at binocular voyeurism, the regressive illusion of the perfected body (whether female or male), the phallic gun-toting pin-up, and camouflage.

Ashura, 2013

The Battle of Karbala (680) resulted in the death of Hussein, the grandson of prophet Muhammad and all his supporters. This battle is central to Shi'a Muslim belief in which the martyrdom of Hussein is mourned by an annual commemoration, Ashura. Artist Köken Ergun has worked with Istanbul's Shiite minority, documenting their preparations for the Ashura day.

Note: This title is intended by the artist to be viewed in High Definition. While DVD format is available to enable accessibility, VDB recommends presentation on Blu-ray or HD digital file.

Atomic Ed & the Black Hole tells the story of a scientist-turned-atomic junk collector known as Atomic Ed. More than 30 years ago, Ed quit his job making “better” atomic bombs and he began collecting what he calls “nuclear waste,” non-radioactive high-tech discards from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. As the self-appointed curator of an unofficial museum of the nuclear age called “The Black Hole,” Atomic Ed reveals and preserves a history of government waste that was literally thrown in a trash heap.

Spanish subtitled version available.

Forever pulsing, a severed hand bobs along a shoreline in this meditation on the atrocities of the early 1990s Rwandan civil war. The all-caps title says it all, loudly and poetically.

B & B, 2005

UK, November 26th 2005

The perception of an Anglo-American hotel room is coloured by new revelations about 'The War on Terror' and 'The Special Relationship' that exists between Britain and the USA.

B & B is the fourth episode in the Hotel Diaries series, a collection of video recordings made in the world’s hotel rooms, which relate personal experiences and reflections to contemporary conflicts in the Middle East. 

BAGHDAD IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER is an ambient video essay of life in Baghdad before the invasion and occupation. Men dance, women draw and sufis sing as they await the coming of another war. In seven languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish).

Notes, gifts, promises, paintings, trash, and other ephemera from the city which is now hardly a city. What if Walter Benjamin didn’t kill himself, learned html, bought a camera, and thought himself useful enough to work in an impending war zone?

Because of the War things were changing. Very few toys or games were left and music was almost over. Tap water was tasting female and television only came in nasty spasms…

A surreal and sometimes comic meditation on how war affects the hopes and dreams of ordinary people.

In a city post-apocalypse, young men communicate only through smart devices. They make home out of urban debris. They can’t speak to each other, but are still able to dream.

In a broken near future, a band of listless vagabonds ambles across a war-torn coastal territory, supervised and sorted by a group of idle soldiers. Rummaging, stuttering, and smashing through the leftovers of Western culture, these ragged souls conjure an unstable magic, fueled by their own apathy and the poisonous histories imbedded in their unearthed junk. Suspicion, boredom, garbage, and glamour conspire in the languid pageantry of ruin. Feel the breeze in your hair, and the world crumbling through your fingers.

The fragment contains within it an implied reference to something that was once whole. It suggests damage and violence, time and distance. These qualities I found were integral to my own constitution, and it was with the making of Cooperation Of Parts that this became clear.

“Misfortune makes and breaks you.” I have the misfortune of a history of disruptions, and the fortune of having that history to work with.

Countdown, 1995

An episode from a Lebanese TV series entitled "Image + Sound."  Each episode in this groundbreaking series is based on paralleling TV news images alongside staged events. This episode was shot in Gouraud St. in Gemayzeh in Beirut.

This video takes its departure from the BBC's coverage of the killing of three IRA volunteers by British Security Forces in Strabane, a small town on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Interrogating television discourse, the video examines what is referred to as the British “shoot to kill” policy of planned assassination in the North.

Though difficult at times to understand what is happening due to audio damage, this tape provides rich historical documentation of a protest on Wall Street in May of 1971. The tape also records the energy in the air created by motivated activists who took to the streets at Columbia University in protest of the Vietnam War.

—Faye Gleisser

This piece investigates the possibilities and limits of writing a history of the Lebanese civil wars (1975-1991). The videos offer accounts of the fantastic situations that beset a number of individuals, though they do not document what happened. Rather, they explore what can be imagined, what can be said, what can be taken for granted, what can appear as rational, sayable, and thinkable about the wars.

This film uses the ‘old fashioned’ conventions of documentary film practice to stand history on its head. There is a narration taken from a radio lecture by Claude Lévi-Strauss entitled, “The Meeting of Myth and Science,” images from the Deutsche Wochenshau of June 25, 1940 that recorded Hitler’s dawn visit to Paris, images from American newsreels, a movement from one of Beethoven’s Rasumovsky Quartets. The film could only succeed, in my mind, if the imprint of prior usage of all elements was clear.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles — drones — have become an everyday feature of contemporary military activity, replacing humans in reconnaissance flights, small-scale combat missions and covert operations. The U.S. Army operates some ten thousands UAVs — a six-fold increase during Obama's term — deploying them over locations like Pakistan and Yemen.

Home Movies Gaza introduces us to the Gaza Strip as a mircrocosm for the failure of civilization. In an attempt to describe the everyday of a place that struggles for the most basic of human rights, this video claims a perspective from within the domestic spaces of a territory that is complicated, derelict, and altogether impossible to separate from its political identity.

"... Basma Alsharif’s Home Movies Gaza, a film that captures the impossibly politicized domestic sphere of the Gaza Strip, under the constant hum and buzz of overhead drones."

Hostage: The Bachar Tapes (English Version) is an experimental documentary about "The Western Hostage Crisis." The crisis refers to the abduction and detention of Westerners like Terry Anderson, and Terry Waite in Lebanon in the 80s and early 90s by "Islamic militants." This episode directly and indirectly consumed Lebanese, U.S., French, and British political and public life, and precipitated a number of high-profile political scandals like the Iran-Contra affair in the U.S.