[S: you need a title here. Also think about the idea that ideology is scripted, which may be useful]
‘You don’t always have explicit rules, you always, in order to become part of a community you need some implicit, unwritten rules that are never publically recognized but are always absolutely crucial at the identification of a group’
In ‘A Perverts guide to Ideology’ Slavoy Zizek discussess the role of the symbolic in social groups towards maintaining order and dominant ideologies. To highlight this practice Zizek presents military institutions and the more subversive obscene behaviours that escape the explicit code of conducts but a critical in the order of the community. In Stanley Kubrik’s Full Metal Jacket (1987) the sergeant withholds power & order by bribing the affection of the students with obscene, ridiculas rituals. Zizek argues that this ‘obscene supplement’ is core to the efficiency of the military organisation.
“In order to really be a member of a community you have to render your hands dirty”
Zizek presents the Abu Grahib scandal (the pictures exposing abuse of prisoners in Baghdad ) as more than a abuse of military power. Zizek interprets the images as the ‘staging of the obscene underside of American military culture’. The pictures depicting the torturing of Iraqi soldiers is the public staging of the obscene underside of the American military culture. This public staging of the symbolic is the departure point for this analysis of Joshua Oppenheimer’s ‘The Act of Killing’ and Renzo Martin’s ‘Enjoy Poverty’.
[S: this reads to me as the introductory para would make sense to put this first>>.]
How does re-enactment and staging of the symbolic expose submiliminal and previously hidden rules that shape the ideology of a community or social group. In this essay I will demonstrate how Joshua Oppenheimer uses re-enactment to articulate some of the obscene implicit social practises, [S:which Zizek cites as a tent pole of ideology] (often in military groups) to depict his characters. I will then look at a sequence in Renzo Martin’s ‘Enjoy Poverty’ where the practises of western charity companies are adapted by local men from the Congo to expose the mechanics of that capitalist idealogical construct. In both examples a method of re-enactment is used to reveal the symbolic code of social groups (the milirary) and is also applied to capitalist systems.
Whats interesting is that these ‘hidden rules’ are normally experienced subjectively as the individual identifies with a group. They are, in Lacan’s terms, part of the symbolic realm that construct the real through their imaginative and symbolic meaning. Through the re-enactment process the symbolic conditions of a social order become publically visible and stranged from their original form.
Definition of re-enactment, examples of re-enactment as theraputic social practice. Examples of Re-enactment include The eternal frame by Ant Farm Re-enactment as remedy as the artist impersonating JFKs wife while taking off his wig comments ‘ This is the end for me’.
The act of Killing Context
Director Joshua Oppenheimer presents the viewer with 3 text slides to inform the viewer of the context and reasoning behind the film we learn that he invites these men to re-enact the killings – “To understand why, we asked them to create scenes about the killings in whatever way they wished.” The film openly announces to the viewer that the following images are no restriction re-enactments of these killers experiences, faciliting and enabling these men to perform their normally secretive desires. Like the leaking of pictures showing American soliders torturing Iraqi prisoners, Joshua Oppenheimer is deliberately restaging similar encounters. It is important to recognise how a limitless invitation of re-enactment can be a method to reveal inner fantasises of an individual.
The horror of these men’s actions exceeds the rationality of the viewer as they worry about wearing white trousers while strangling someone. At points we watch them as they watch themselves re-enacting their memories of genocide. Collectively the reflect on their actions through the normative scenarios in which they are re-enacted “I’m laughing – I did it wrong didn’t i?” The fantasies & tortuous desires of the individuals rendered visible & exposed into a public context through these re-enactment sequences. The motivations and surplus desire that form the implicit social codes in military disciplines become estranged elements in the restaging of their actions. 1:56:42 “If they were pretty id rape them all” In this scene a group of paramiscilas(?) are on a break from shooting and recollect the joys of abusing and raping captured victims. The obscenities of the ‘military spirit’ are privately recounted within the group before cutting to a group of female actressess being directed in the next scene.
“morality is relative” The act of killing. Coping mechanisms – killing is the worse act you can do. For the time of the military coup the actions of these men were supported by the ruling ideologies of the time, torture fantasies were legally acted upon and supported by the state. Like the cases of Tortue with the american soliders in Iraq, the implicit rules of the community drive obscene behaviour from the individual to identify within the group. When these subliminal actions are presented outside of community they affected (or mislead) actions are judged by wider rational of the collective. I am not justifying their actions in any way simply need to break down the film to highlight the ideological forces that can influence and encourage irrational inhumane behaviour. The social and political context of the murders committed by (_) (_) provide insight into how the implicit social rules of a military group can drive obscene behaviour. Throughout the film the killers re-stage these horrific actions in public locations , in a half celebratory half sombre tone. 60 years later appear were part of a temporary but dominant ideological system that framed these atrocities. These characters could be seen as opportunists during a brief moment of transitional power they were able to act out obscene military fantasies without the restrains of the ‘normalized’ majority. Methods
Enjoy Poverty “You are all actors” When teaching Congonese men how to take pictures of the poor people in their community Renzo Martins is explicit in highlighting western economic value in their own poverty. Martins gives cameras to the men and assists them in creating impoverished images that can be sold to western media companies. Martins advice as the western ‘other’ in this situation attempts for the Congonese men to alter their perspective on their everyday surroundings and begin to frame for the camera their living conditions for market value. They ask Martins for instructions as they are unable to see how these images could be valuable to anyone, through these actions Martins is presenting the hidden mechanisms of an industry by the locals re-enactment of this process. Martins films local Cogonese men taking pictures of starving children , and as they discuss how the images can be composed to make more money, the hidden methods of an industry and its relation to a community are re-enacted by members of the community.
Martins takes the new local photographers to a distributer and after being denied any offers on the images disappointingly confides to his trainees that he ‘thinks this will fail’. After telling them that they can continue to photograpgh parties but their images are not good enough for this idea to work we see these characters for the last time sukely strolling away from the camera. In regard to Renzo & the film their role has been fulfilled as they have performed the processes of documenting poverty and applying Renzo’s entrepreneurial business model to camera. The re-enactment of western methods to photograph poverty is a performance of Renzo’s concept in practice.
The implicit , in this instance, is the practises of western aid photograpghers and their relation to the people they take pictures of. In this sequence local men invert these methods to take similar pictures of their own social environment. Re-enacting these methods within their communitie creates violent encounters as the brutality of an industry is inverted and performed by local men trying to earn some money.