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Radical Closure, Program 2: War/The Visible Signs

Curated by Lebanese video artist Akram Zaatari, and originally presented by the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Radical Closure features works produced in response to situations of physical or ideological closure resulting from war and territorial conflicts. The program looks at what is known as the Middle East, and how the moving image has functioned throughout its history, charged with division, political tension, and mobilization. This 5-DVD box set has an accompanying monograph with curator’s essay, and features important work by 24 artists including Guy Ben-Ner, Harun Farocki, Mona Hatoum, Walid Raad, and Elia Suleiman. Many of the titles on Radical Closure are being made available to educational audiences for the first time.

This program presents different approaches to looking at war, and to using images of war. My Friend Imad and the Taxi is an unfinished work from two amateur filmmakers, both passionate about film, who lived in Beirut in the eighties when the city looked like the set from a war film. Samir’s work looks at the intersection between (H)istory and (h)is story as lived at home. While Farocki’s piece looks subversively at war from the point of view of the industrial machinery used to collect images-–almost a scientific approach--Salhab’s video presents us with a poetic portrait of a people and a city full of scars.

# Title Artists Run Time Year Country
1 Mon ami Imad et le taxi (My Friend Imad and the Taxi) Olga Nakkas, Hassan Zbib 00:19:00 1985 Lebanon
2 (It Was) Just a Job Samir 00:05:00 1992 Iraq, Switzerland
3 Eye/Machine III Harun Farocki 00:25:00 2003 Germany
4 (Posthume) (Posthumous) Ghassan Salhab 00:28:45 2007 Lebanon

Mon ami Imad et le taxi (My Friend Imad and the Taxi)

Olga Nakkas, Hassan Zbib
1985 | 00:19:00 | Lebanon | None | | | 4:3 | Super 8 film


In 1985, Hassan Zbib and Olga Nakkas separately started to develop film scenarios based on simple narratives, and would shoot them on Super 8, which was still possible to develop in Beirut at the time. Their work featured the city as a stage where lonely characters drifted: a taxi driver in his car, a man walking around, talking to a Rambo poster. These films were never presented as finalized work until a Beirut-based festival, né à Beyrouth, discovered them and asked the filmmakers to present their films with a live electronic soundtrack improvised by local artists. The soundtrack presented on this version is the recording of that session.

This title is only available on Radical Closure.

(It Was) Just a Job

1992 | 00:05:00 | Iraq, Switzerland | None | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | 16mm film


Right after the first Iraq war, the filmmaker visits his family in Iraq.  He tries to reconstruct the war from different points of view, all depicted on the same screen at the same time: U.S. airplanes dropping bombs, his parents fixated on the television, and the family welcoming him back.

This title is only available on Radical Closure.

Eye/Machine III

Harun Farocki
2003 | 00:25:00 | Germany | English | Color | Mono | |


“The third part of the Eye/Machine cycle structures the material around the concept of the operational image. These are images which do not portray a process, but are themselves part of a process. As early as the Eighties, cruise missiles used a stored image of a real landscape, then took an actual image during flight; the software compared the two images, resulting in a comparison between idea and reality, a confrontation between pure war and the impurity of the actual. This confrontation is also a montage, and montage is always about similarity and difference. Many operational images show colored guidance lines, intended to portray the process of recognition. The lines tell us emphatically what is all-important in these images, and just as emphatically what is of no importance at all. Superfluous reality is denied--a constant denial provoking opposition.”

--Harun Farocki

This title is also available on Radical Closure and Eye/Machine I, II and III.

(Posthume) (Posthumous)

Ghassan Salhab
2007 | 00:28:45 | Lebanon | None | Color | Stereo | 16:9 | Video


Following on from the 2006 Israeli aggression on Lebanon, the filmmaker tries to film the destruction of Beirut. We witness a city deserted by life, and ghostly characters who, featured in his earlier films, talk about living through such a war.

This title is only available on Radical Closure.