FEAR, DEFENCE, DISAPPEARANCE

Dual channel film for installation


"Contemplating the half-buried mass of a bunker, with its clogged ventilators and the narrow slit for the observer, is like contemplating a mirror, the reflections of our own power over death, the power of our own mode of destruction, the industry of war"

Paul Virilio (Bunker archeology)

Fear, Defence, Disappearance questions established notions on the necessity for conflict by looking at the mental and physical structures of defence built around it. Inviting reflection through a comparison between the solid casemates found on the Normandy beaches – disused vestiges of WW II – and the young, fierce bodies of today's soldiers in training, this moving image diptych looks at the body of the soldier as rampart, considering how the forms taken by these military structures reflect our fear of death at a deeper existential level.

---

There is a resonance in shape and intention between the bunker and the sacrophagus. The blockhouse is a place of safety, a type of burial house that enables us to see danger and guards us from actual death. Studying this very phenomenon, Paul Virilio ironically points out: "The bunkers of the European Littoral were from the start the funerary monuments of the German dream". Although now forgotten, strewn along the European coast, these shapes are a premonitory reminder of our own perverse death wish.

In Fear, Defence, Disappearance a commentary by the artist guides us through an ennumeration of "structures of protection" and "architectures of defence", alluding to the extensive terminology in our bellic vocabulary. This proliferation of terms reminds of our historical need to label and distinguish between forms of military action – forms which, at the end of the day, all amount to the same principle: "Protect, Defend, Attack". If the terms “munition” and “ammunition” are a direct inheritance of “munitio”, in latin meaning fortress (from wall to weapon) the training for hand-to-hand combat is perhaps the most archetypal construction of the fortress – where the enemies are face to face, imposing their bodies as armour. It is also in this gestural choreography that we perceive the immense humanity of the clasps, holds and bites between its players.

Isabel Rocamora spent six months observing ex-soldiers who are experts in the defence system Krav Magà developed by the Israeli Army, and now practiced by many armies worldwide. Quoting from this military form of combat, she then created a mise-en-scène by placing actors (ex-soldiers) in the historic landscapes of Normandy, its beaches and its only remaining landing strip (today Cherbourg Airport) – therefore eliciting a sense of irony between the loss of life recorded in our history books and our ongoing preparations for conflict.

Installed like a sculpture in the void, the dual projection invites the viewer into a Sisyphean world where repetition, time and expectation play out the destiny of history in the making.

---


This piece is part of The Intimacy of Violence exhibition, a solo show which considers the nature of military training in a series of interrelated moving image works and still images. Positioning Body of War as the central work, in a consciously reiterative way the surrounding pieces play on the military theme of repetition, by quoting the main film to expose further questions on the psychology and representation of conflict and its defence systems.

The exhibition premiered at Galeria Senda and Arts Santa Monica in Barcelona on May the 10th and ran until 12th June 2011. See also Body of War and The Speed of Violence.

 

 

ISABEL ROCAMORA