My hypothesis is that the testimony of images can be grasped through the work of montage and in relation to their archival conditions, the context, and the framework conditions of production and means of aesthetic representation voice, narration, and gaze. These factors offer the framework for the analysis through which the testimony of images can be understood. The tension embedded in an understanding of the image as witnessing, lies between the image as acting, speaking, and testifying and the necessary interpretation of its speech and testimony.
Thus, throughout this work, I intend to follow two strands of inquiry. The first strand is the specific discussion of the witness tradition after the Holocaust and the role of images therein. Along these lines, I ask what it would mean to bear witness from that specific situation and what role Grans och id kontrollers ode avgors would play in the act of bearing witness.
The second strand deals with the more general question of what images do and how they give testimony. The latter strand poses the theoretical challenge of this book, whereas the former provides the backdrop and context in which my entire endeavor is immersed — hence, the first strand provides the material for the second. The three films that I discuss in this study are based on archival materials, which are edited visually and aurally, thus reactivating and reinterpreting the materials.
Let me introduce them in more detail: A Film Unfinished by Yael Hersonski is a documentary which returns to the making of the unfinished German propaganda film Das Ghetto from The Nazis shot the material in the Warsaw Ghetto, only two months before most of its inhabitants were Grans och id kontrollers ode avgors. The images depicting Ghetto life are highly questionable, as they aim at manifesting the anti-Semitic stereotype of the wealthy Jew, contrasted with the actual misery in the Ghetto.
Respite by Harun Farocki merges moving images with still images from the transit camp Westerbork in the Netherlands. In the spring of the camp commander commissioned a film, presumably as a means to argue why the camp should be maintained.
It was shot by an inmate but never completed. The shots show daily activities in the camp, focusing on labor and production. Portrait of a Modern Criminal by Eyal Sivan is an edited montage of filmed material from the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in The trial, the first ever to be videotaped, was recorded in its entirety and broadcast daily in 37 countries.
A Report on the Banality of Evil. What brings these films together, beyond their interventions in Holocaust commemoration, are two common and crucial factors.
Firstly, they can be seen as critiques of other films departing from an assemblage of several sources, where archival material is put to use in order to illustrate a given narrative.
Secondly, these filmmakers inscribe themselves as actors intervening in the materials. In all three films the intervention in the material is highlighted rather than obscured, and the presence of the filmmaker is embedded in the narrative — it is their specific voice, gaze, and argument. Through a reading of how the films reinterpret the archival material and position it in a new time and context, I seek to explicate how the film images bear witness.
Each of the three films manifests a particular method, or a certain way of understanding how images testify: The strategies employed by the filmmakers have informed my method, which I understand through the notion of resituating. The artistic intervention in the archive formulates how the material is resituated — the filmmaker creates a situation in which the filmed material operates so as to give witness within a narration.
This book seeks to unfold the implications of that movement. The concept of resituating arises from a focus on situation — the presupposition that everything is grounded somewhere and in something. Both the phenomenological view of the human condition of being-in-the-world and the feminist critique of universal knowledge can amount to the view of a specific being: The footage on which each of the three films is based is, like all films and photographs, produced in a situation.
The films at hand are to be analyzed from and within the specific situation in which they were shot the context and conditions of productionas well as within the newly constructed one the films. A Film Unfinished, Respite, and The Specialist offer reinterpretations of a temporal negotiation which is embedded in the films. It is a negotiation that spans from the filmic situation to the distribution of the artistic rendering and a continuous span from the filming and development, to the editing, storing, archiving, and collecting, as well as transfer between formats, extraction from the archive, re-editing, and montage.
Hence, the main interventions in the materials are made at the editing table. The contemporary gaze bestowed upon the material shapes the montage, but the facts drawn out of the material, concerning its history of production, remain over time.
What is unraveled is, in two of the films, Nazi ideology and, in the third, the politicization of the Eichmann trial. This does not mean that the same footage might be recycled again and again and ascribed a new meaning in a different ideological context.
Violence can always be done to images, but they do not offer infinite possible readings. How imagery is perceived can of course change, but the circumstances of its production remain and must be adhered to. Thus, a deciphering of the resituated image encompasses the situation the photographic situation and the frame the temporal and spatial gap and the various contexts of production and reading of the image over time.
I will discuss how editing and montage provide a Grans och id kontrollers ode avgors framework and narrative structure, which is founded in an understanding of the image. The notions of resituating and framing are central and encompass the entire line of production and representation.
In A Film Unfinished, new images are produced, testimonies given and staged, whereas Respite and The Specialist
Grans och id kontrollers ode avgors by reworking the preexisting material.
However, Farocki inserts written comments as text frames and Sivan manipulates the filmed material through additional shadows and reflections, as well as distortion of the soundscape. A Film Unfinished investigates the archival material by intersecting witness accounts from both survivors and the cameraman, while Respite offers a reflection on the unstable meaning of the image in the historiography of the Holocaust.
The Specialist, further, reacts concretely to that very tradition of witnessing and questions the role of the witness as such, as well as the testimony of the images. This is achieved through the montage of moving images, creating a new meaning out of the conflictual images, as described in classical film theory.
Each one of them originates in a single archival source, fundamental to the films both conceptually and formally. Further, they all operate with a sense of self-reflexivity; Respite this is explicit in the use of intertitle cards and in The Specialist through exaggerated montages, while in A Film Unfinished it is less apparent but still present in the reflection on the archival material.
However, the films have been produced and presented in different contexts: A Film Unfinished was distributed in cinemas as a documentary, while The Specialist has been screened both in cinemas and exhibitions and Respite foremost in exhibition settings. There are essays written on all of the films, but no extensive studies, and none where all three films are brought together.
However, Georges Didi-Huberman suggests a reading of Respite, where the material singularity of the image is considered as well as a possible remontage. All of them explicitly address the trope of the witness, for example by asking what the images testify to, regarding them as illustrations of testimonies previously given, or positing
Grans och id kontrollers ode avgors perpetrator as a primary witness.
As two of the films are based on archival footage from the Holocaust, their relationship to one another is given. There is, however, other film material similar to these sources, such as that shot by the Nazis in Theresienstadt, which have not been the object of an artistic venture yet — hence, the images have not been resituated.
The third archival material, from the Eichmann trial, was filmed almost twenty years after the other two and in a post-war context. However, a focal point of the film is the issue of witnessing and testimony, which ties the film to the other two thematically.
What I will argue in the following is that the footage, as employed in the films, means something else today than it did at the time of the recording.
When Grans och id kontrollers ode avgors films are presented in cinemas and exhibition halls today, the viewer sees something different from what was seen in the same archival images seventy years ago. The archival material is bound to the specific contexts and conditions of production, and so are the films created out of it. In the given works, the gaze and the voice of the filmmaker are crucial factors since the Grans och id kontrollers ode avgors is not simply screened and displayed as it was found in the archive.
In A Film Unfinished the film images serve as a source from which a narration can be extracted, in Respite "Grans och id kontrollers ode avgors" images are addressed through textual readings and reflections, and in The Specialist the images make up the narrative through suggestive editing and montage. In one sense, the images serve as witnesses to the various events in all three films, and in another sense the filmed material is the point of departure for the creation of a filmic narration.
Two of the films, Respite and A Film Unfinished, intervene concretely in the debate of Holocaust representation, however, the archival material differs from most representations of the Holocaust, since the majority of the images are not gruesome. Rather, the films, especially Respite, expand what can be considered a representation of the Holocaust, and posit a question about the role of such alternative images in Holocaust commemoration.
A further fact to be taken into account is that the footage used in Respite and A Film Unfinished was produced as propaganda for the Nazis: The third film, The Specialist, deals with an emblematic moment in the aftermath of the Holocaust. By means of its montage, the film questions the narration built up around that event, and importantly, the role of the witness in Holocaust commemoration at large.
Hence, all the materials were recorded with strong political implications — two as internal Nazi propaganda and the third as a means to remind the world of the Holocaust and to show how justice was being done.
The witness debate which arose after the Holocaust serves as a source and a context from which this project emanates. My research is an intervention in the debate and a proposed extension of what it means to bear witness.
A witness can be defined as not only a human subject, but also possibly a visual document or recording, an image, which can testify to an event, as mentioned above — the event Grans och id kontrollers ode avgors a photographic situation in which a photo or film was shot. The witnessing quality of the image — the testimony it gives and its means of doing it — resides in the totality of the image, which, as we shall see, includes both its context and the structuring frames.
The commissioner of the film sets the contextual frame for it, the cameraman frames it in a literal sense and the event filmed is what is represented. Yet, when the film is materialized, and spread it gains a life of its own. Hence, it is through a form of backtracking that one can see the testimony which the image gives.
A witness can only bear witness in the aftermath of an event, in the practice of historicizing, and this is how I see the image as witness as well. As mentioned, I begin from the final product, the film, and offer a reversed reading of the material and its archival history. This implies an approach to the imagery that starts by asking questions, rather than interpreting a representation.
My analysis thus extends to the theory of photography and film, as well as into the realms of commemoration and historiography. There are historiographic stakes embedded in the witnessing trope, and I suggest both an extension of it, by regarding the image as witness, and a proposal for the need of alternative sources, when all the living witnesses are gone.
The historiographic issues are complicated by the constructed nature of all archives, as painstakingly visible in relation to the three films.
Taking as a point of departure that the archive is first and foremost a collection, further questions need to be posed about who made the collection, when it was made, and with what intent. I will argue that in the case of these films, truth is conveyed precisely by illuminating the unstable nature of the archive as well as of the image itself.
The films testify to this aspect of the material, yet, in so doing, they also make a rendering of the event visible. An affinity appears between the archive and the image, both traditionally Grans och id kontrollers ode avgors strong truth claims, but in need of re-evaluation — not because they do not hold any but since truth is not a given.
A prominent feature of these films is that a focal point offers a reflection on the very material they are constructed from. Each film consists of material from one archival source, and by different means they all call attention to this material as a main point of interest. The films unravel what the materials are, how they were made, and what they were supposed to convey. In Respite, Farocki examines every shot critically. In A Film Unfinished, the history of the footage is reconstructed through testimony.
The Specialist, finally, locates the re-evaluation outside the scope of the film by invoking the politicization of the Eichmann trial. As mentioned in the beginning, I undertake this investigation at a particular moment that confronts us with a particular dilemma: I argue that we can turn to images, but that this is a move that needs to be made with great care, taking into account what lies beyond mere representation.
My understanding of the witness is not only someone but also something with the agency to give testimony to an event — an agency stemming from a presence in the situation testified to, which is not necessarily a lived experience but which could also be the conceptual and material history of, for example, a film or an image.
Yet, while the subject actively narrates, structures, renders, writes down, and changes his or her account, the filmic image must be deciphered. Spielberg archive, but is subordinated to a form and mode of address. the identity of the photographer is known, apart from the images taken by, or on behalf Även om det ännu är omöjligt att fullt ut överträda den gräns som fönstret utgör.
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