Swift / Film / Law

2014. Installation comprising diverse structures featuring videos, wood, photographs, objects and sound

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What does it mean to be expendable today, and how does the legal system bolster and enshrine exclusion? This is the twofold question inspiring Swift / Film / Law, an installation conceived as an expanded film that examines how modern-day dispossession –the deprivation of our most basic rights– is reinforced by legal mechanisms.

Within the calculations of neo-liberal capitalism, ever-growing sectors of humankind are becoming increasingly superfluous, as their participation is no longer required in the larger schemes governing the generation of accumulation and wealth. But if their exploitation is unnecessary, so is their existence. With no role to play in terms of value or credit, they have been turned into a surplus bio-mass of disposable lives, to be managed in an ever more repressive manner through legal and administrative mechanisms that seek to pre-empt, neutralise or reduce to invisibility any oppositional politics involving spheres of protest and citizen participation. In Swift / Film / Law, the twisted logic of this domain of exclusion- where opposition is pre-empted by the law- is mapped by a complex narrative field, built as an expanded cinematic structure that combines objects and spaces with moving images within the meta-frames of an installation-as-film.

A prologue-area leads the viewer to the lengthy stretch of the “income parade”, an update of the visual metaphor coined in 1971 by Dutch economist Jan Pen, which attests to the magnitude and violence of economic inequality. In Pen’s parade, humanity marches in line for an hour in order of height, determined proportionally by income. The parade clearly illustrates the obscene divide between the vast majority of the population, barely noticeable- if not downright invisible- until the march nears its end , and the giants that appear during the last few minutes. Dispossession, which historically seemed to be limited to specific groups, spreads like an oil stain over 99% of humankind, as depicted in the script of this expanded film through excerpts from legal texts, personal testimonies and historical accounts, from times past and present.

As the script’s narrative journeys through the installation, it becomes embodied through the voices of the members of the Magnetic Declination collective at the Palindroptic exhibit- a 360º audiovisual dispositif in the shape of a panopticon, devised to allow cross-temporal readings through images and speech acts that link contexts from different epochs. The script also describes several absurd or contradictory, Catch-22 situations, obeying the twisted logic of a double bind: a tangle of incompatible imperatives where the subject is always already- and inexorably- at fault. Despite the claims of liberalism regarding the transparency of modern juridical constructs, double binds and Catch-22 situations are commonplace in the structure and application of the law under the current regimes of austerity and repression. A table of disproportionate height blocks access to a pile of law books (compilations of jurisprudence) placed on top of it, thereby enacting the logic of the double bind as described in Kafka’s parable “Before the Law” (read here by Orson Welles, and then re-read by an unidentified voice). In The Room exhibit- a cubicle placed outside any clear bounds of time and space-, various subjects repeat a series of disconcerting actions. A scaffolding structure offers viewers a privileged view of the spatial layout of the meta-film entitled Swift / Film / Law: this is the vantage point from which we can scrutinise the spotlights, and observe the law’s backstage, i.e. the spaces behind the visible foreground where the law is enacted as performance or representation.

The criminalisation of protest is a theme running throughout the project. This repressive strategy- which is far from novel but has arguably mutated into ever-intensifying regimes of pre-emptive control in recent times-, rests on an apparatus of visual verification that fixes and reduces the wide imaginary associated with criminality, condensing it to fit certain recognisable features of subjective identity, and more specifically, the face. The hoods, sweatshirts, masks and balaclavas at the Diaporama exhibit become ambivalent symbols, garments that may cause the wearer to be targeted or profiled by law enforcers, or may become instruments of resistance and concealment in their own right. A constellation of monitors and images shows a series of parades of resistant bodies, working as a counter-shot to the regulation of gatherings and demonstrations in public spaces dictated by a host of juridical norms. These sets of images and counter-parades are not meant to be piled up in a linear sequence, which would dilute their content, but rather to enhance one another into new, unexpected constellations of meaning.

Swifts are quite unique birds. They live in flocks that never cease to fly, not even when asleep; as a matter of fact, they may die if they cannot regain flight. Constant swarm flying, and how to lift off into the air and regain flight when we have been collectively brought down low- “below ground level”- are two of the guiding metaphors for the project Swift / Film / Law. As though in a space-time labyrinth, the spectator delves into a continuum of multiple subjective and historical connections between places, moments and situations, seemingly distant from each other but actually entwined by profound affinities. Thus, testimonies on evictions in present day Spain are set in dialogue with the expropriation of communal lands in the early days of English capitalism in the 16th century; the 2014 riots at Ferguson and the 2006 riots in Paris are framed by Jim Crow’s long shadow; Spain’s 1956 Vagrancy Act comes back to life in the current Spanish government’s draft bill on so-called “Civic Safety” ; and Édouard Glissant’s right to opacity accompanies the flight of swifts. A synchronic vision of time proving that the past has not truly ceased to pass, and the future is not the as-yet-to-come, but has always already been here.

 

Credits

Collective direction: Magnetic Declination

Technical production & Post-production
Camera: Tato Pérez
Editing: Begoña Ruiz
Sound post-production: Jorge Haro

Participants: Aimar Arriola, José Manuel Bueso, Robert Espinosa, Eduardo Galvagni Veigl, Juan Guardiola, Sally Gutiérrez, Julia Morandeira Arrizabalaga, Diego del Pozo, Isabel Serra, Silvia Zayas.

 

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