"The language of information is more and more a militarized"

We interview Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni on the occasion of their participation in the exhibition "Llega un grito a través del cielo"

Published: Nov 12, 2014
"The language of information is more and more a militarized"

Still. Courtesy of Silvia Maglioni & Graeme Thomson

By Semíramis González (@semiramis_glez), Semíramis en Babilonia

The use of multiple supports defines the work of Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni, as well as their interest for the fictions emerging from the ruins of the moving image, and a remarkable political and filosofical content in their work. The relationship between image, sound, text and politics defines their projects that, based on great personalities of literature and cinema, question our current way to consume information.

These days we can see two of their works in A screaming comes across the sky, the exhibition that LABoral presents as a criticism of the use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, that in most cases has a military purpose. The use we can currently make of technology with the purpose of gaining power is one of the questions proposed by this exhibition, where the works of Silvia &Graeme fit very well.

We take advantage of their visit to talk with them about the reality of the present, what they think of the current world in relation with the technological evolution, and the projects that they have in mind.

1. The exhibition curated by Juha van’t Zelfde at LABoral showcases artists who are very diverse in terms of backgrounds and approaches but have one thing in common: The issue of surveillance and the need to control it. Has information become the most powerful weapon in current wars?

This is a complex question. Many fields of work are being reduced to gathering and processing of information according to fairly rigid algorithms. Information is at war with uncertainty, mystery, the unpredictable, the unsayable, the unknown. The language of information is more and more a militarized, disciplinary language, that moves towards a convergence of military and civilian codes of practice. We see a similar intensification of a disciplinary machinic coding, compartmentalization of behaviour and the shrivelling of horizons, both of agency and of sensibility, in almost all areas of cognitive labour. The more we become the soldiers of information processing, the less able we are to recognize (and the more hostile we become) to anything that can’t be reduced to an information paradigm, anything that threatens our nodal efficacy in the networked chain of command and control in which we happen to be enmeshed.

2. Your work is in between filmmaking and the reflection upon the medium itself. Why this interest? Is it more focused on the support itself, its concept and evolution?

Our work lies between a lot of things: before and after, already and not yet, subject and object, sound and image, visible and invisible, to name just a few. What interests us is this very “betweenness” as a place of thought, a zone of desire and experience and a potential site of fabulation.

3. One of the pieces showcased at LABoral, commissioned by Lighthouse, is
Clouds of Unknowing, that puts clouds and climate in relation with Goethe, Constable and the 9-11 attacks. Does it have a political intention behind poetic visuals (i.e. the clouds)?

One could say that the weather is political and that politics is (in our everyday experience of it) a bit like weather. Clouds gather and disperse, both mutable and unchanging in their constitutional inconsistency. Except that post 9-11, the political weather has resembled an unrelenting overcast of low, leaden skies. Goethe’s 9-11 text speaks of a clearing after the storm. How does this relate to the climate of the last 14 years? Perhaps there has been a clearing of sorts but more in the nature of a removal of obstacles to the pursuit of US global hegemony. The regenbogen of full spectrum dominance.

'Clouds of Unknowing', 2014.
Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson (terminal beach).
Video (still)

4. In this same piece you use a granular re-synthesis of fragments of Barack Obama’s speeches defending the policy of war with drones and targeted killings...

Processing Obama’s voice was to give it similar due process to that afforded to those on the kill list of his disposition matrix, the process which transforms them in the three seconds it takes a hellfire missile to reach its target from the status of suspect to that of bugsplat. Obama’s voice and words (remotely piloted) become the sound of the predator drone, but equally they let us hear the deathly drone of power in its unceasing monotony.

5. Cinema is a great reference in your works. You mix many scenes with political speeches and images of historic events. Who is your filmmaking reference? (especially, who do you think has made more political and high-quality films).

A part of our recent work, notably the tube-tracts including Blind Data installed at LABoral, has been focused on reconsidering the potentials of montage as a tool for thinking politically in relation to viral media. For us, montage is a way of disabling or disarming the image as a vehicle for communication or information, and of redeploying it as a component in a wider problematic field. The acceleration of information flows places a premium on the immediacy and communicational efficacy of the message but equally on its disposability. This is what we try to disrupt. The lineage of such disruptive behaviour is long, stretching from Brecht and Walter Benjamin to Debord, Godard, Farocki…

6. On what new projects are you working?

We're finishing work on Disappear One, a shipwrecked film of variations around Kafka’s Amerika that we shot on a transatlantic journey from Lisbon to Sao Paolo, and we are currently preparing it took forever getting ready to exist, a show (or perhaps it would be more correct to speak of a no-show) around the “unmaking of” a sci-fi screenplay by Félix Guattari.

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