Rear Left

The Tal Afar Tophy

Posted in War & Culture by rearleft on March 22, 2010

An excerpt from my recent essay on remix technique in war trophy videos:

As an artifact demonstrative of the use of digital audio-visual recording technologies by Western militaries, and their remixability by veterans of the US-led wars of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the Tal Afar video points towards a set of historical and social conditions which demand reflection.

On one level, this production demonstrates the deep permeation into our culture of the logic of remix. The video’s producer (or producers) have taken materials from whatever source that they see fit, apparently without concern for copyright (in the case of the music), classification (of military documentation), or social norms (regarding depictions of killing), and remolded them into a form that they are able to share with everyone in the world. Moreover, judging by the volume of views, re-postings, and comments on the various instances of the video appearing online, a sizable audience exists for this particular type of remix. An amateur media producer’s ability to represent their experience and perspective on war, and to do so by working with some of the very materials of war-making itself, is a powerful notion.

At another level, this remix exposes the contemporary conflation of war and media, and the horrific normalization of this situation. In his influential essay “All But War is Simulation: The Military-Entertainment Complex”, Tim Lenoir (2000) outlines a network of collaborations between the military, government, academic researchers, and the entertainment industries. Remix war trophy videos can be viewed as a feedback loop in the Military-Entertainment Complex, the weaponised image reaching back out from the battlefield through the computer networks, confusing the viewer’s sense of materiality with its hyper-real representation of enemy cities being obliterated as if in a video game, complete with HUD interface. But ultimately this representation of war becomes, to draw on the notion of “the spectacle”, ‘not a collection of images; it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images.’ (Debord 1977). When we watch the Tal Afar video on our screens it is easy to be taken by the skill of the editor, the wonder of the spread of digital technologies and remix culture across social sectors, the voyeuristic thrill of witnessing such destruction from the perspective of the destroyer, and it is easy to forget that what we are watching is clip after clip of humans killing humans.

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Stinger Sessions

Making moves on Sydney town. Wednesday is the first iteration of a monthly screening/performance/discussion/workshop series exploring the role of arts and media in social movements. Being very new to town it may take us a few months to build an audience, but we have no shortage of plans for future events and have resolved not to be daunted by what may be small numbers in the first few sessions.

Stinger Session 01 features Welcome to Metal Kingdom (previously mentioned in these pages) and looks at the often maligned heavy metal music community as a site for meaningful discourse around issues of culture and power.

Stinger Session 01

Welcome to Metal Kingdom

(+ shorts)

Wednesday, August 12, 7-9PM

Serial Space

33 Wellington St, Chippendale, Sydney

$5 – no one denied entry for lack of funds

Follow this project’s progress at Facebook, twitter, etc will be live soon.

Satanic Decolonization

Posted in The Society for the Appreciation of Audio-Visual Culture by rearleft on March 5, 2009


I’ll be babysitting on the 14th so that DRG can have her first night out since Ramona came along.

This show features several of the bands that are in her very-almost-complete documentary Welcome to Metal Kingdom. The film chronicles the rise and fall of Metal Kingdom, a bar and record store in Long Island City, Queens. We’ve just finished the edit, Jeremy’s on the sound mix, I’m going to do some graphics and colour correction , and it will be ready for screenings!

I’m not now nor have I ever been a metalhead, but through my association with this project I’ve come to really appreciate some of the bands and people in our local metal scene. The best of it is represented in this show, which is a benefit for a Reaktor, a zine that covers metal, art, and politics, put together by the awesome Denise Ramirez.

Discordia are by far my favourite of all of the bands around Metal Kingdom, and they just seem to get better all the time. Slow, trancy dirges with Mixtli’s high-end scraping vocals AND a badass anticolonial ideological framework. Nice.

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one american soldier

Posted in War & Culture by rearleft on January 11, 2009

I turned up a interesting connection while  doing the research for this book of curriculum I’m putting together with my colleagues at Global Action Project.

Apparently, a guy called Michael Salomon directed the music video for Metallica’s One:

…simply one of the best music videos ever made. An incredibly powerful antiwar statement and a deeply disturbing piece of sci-fi horror. The song retells a story based on the novel Johnny Got His Gun, which I must track down. The clips throughout One seem to come from the 1971 film version, but apparently there’s a 2008 staged production on film that I’m on the lookout for.

Sadly it looks like Michael Salomon’s perspective on US wars has shifted somewhat, judging by his more recent work for Toby Keith…

(note: universal music won’t allow me to embed the clip, but if you click it anyway it should take you to their youtube)

…an incredible piece of OTT white patriarchal militarist propaganda. We use this video in the curriculum to introduce the concept of ideology to teenagers. It works remarably well.

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