1. This essay was first presented as a keynote address at the “Quiet Revolutions: Politically Subversive Cinema Conference” at San Francisco State University in October 2014. I want to thank the host students, who organized the annual event, especially Erin Weigand. Many useful comments there gave me additional thoughts which were then further framed by the events immediately following the grand jury report in late November 2014 on the Ferguson shooting as I was revising the essay. Special thanks as well to SFSU faculty Aaron Kerner and R. L. Rutsky. [return to page 1]
2. YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJt7gNi3Nr4
4. Four images with captions:
Images A. and B. While Kanye West sings, the accompanying images include a view from inside a police car as it is assaulted by the mob of protestors, and one-on-one attacks on the police line.
Audio, lyrics: Coke on her black skin made a stripe like a zebra.
Image C. Kanye continues as we see a protestor attack a mounted policeman with a pole, knocking the cop off his horse.
Audio, lyrics: And deception is the only felony.
Image D. We see protestors push a police car, in flames, at the police line.
Audio, lyrics: “Love is cursed by monogamy.”
6. Of course it may actually be that they are the most vulnerable, easy pickings for the police to boost their arrest statistics.
7. Here I’m working from simply “ferguson.” You can refine the search with additional terms such as “protest,” “riots,” “police” (which brings forward many pro-police images), etc.
8. Even the street sign carries a political significance. Ferguson, a very small suburb within the great St. Louis metro area, like many area village sized communities with a white power structure and police force and a large and underrepresented black population, depends heavily on earning money off of traffic violations and thus has many exceptionally low speed limits designed to entrap inattentive motorists who pass from one suburb to another without noticing an abrupt change. This effectively supports lower property taxes for municipal services (advantaging whites) and combined with racial profiling in traffic stops, disadvantages African American residents and people passing through on the main streets. [return to page 3]
9. The first page on a Google image search provides refinements, including “police” which tends to provide more positive images of law enforcement, often implying they are protectors rather than menacers.
10. Given its years of development through different versions GTA has acquired a substantial critical literature analyzing it, as well as fanboy appreciations of the game. People unfamiliar with shooter video games might want to look at State of Emergency for Playstation (2002). A YouTube link for a game walk-through:
The game’s premise is a small band of warriors must take on a dystopic future dictatorship by “The Corporation” by shooting their way through a shopping mall, etc. Anyone with images from the past decade of U.S. mass killings (perhaps most famously Columbine high school or the Aurora Colorado shopping mall at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises) could easily read the murderous events as a re-enactment of the videogame fiction.
11. Also pertinent here, the discussions of activist media in this issue of Jump Cut: Chris Robé, Angela Aguayo, Ernie Larsen. Richard Porton’s Film and the Anarchist Imagination (NY: Verso, 1999) provides excellent background to anarchist aesthetics.
12. His book, Bastards of Utopia: Living Radical Politics after Socialism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015) is forthcoming in Spring 2015. It accompanies his 2010 feature film done with Pacho Velez.
13. In a brief recent email exchange where I pointed at “No Church in the Wild,” Razsa wondered how the fictional nature of the Jay Z and Kanye West video functioned given that his ethnographic subjects always viewed the work they were watching as “documentary.” My own view is that the affective result (which is what his subjects value) is the same whether documentary or fiction. But I’d withhold final judgment until I can read the book length study and see the Razsa and Velez film.
14. I’m thinking here of a wide variety of work, much of which I admire, as represented by Jean-Marie Straub and Danielle Huillet, Haroun Farocki, Yvonne Rainer, Dan Eisenberg, Ernie Gehr, some of Godard’s more documentary work, Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, and Trinh T. Minh-Ha.
15. A DVD is available from TRT’s Market site:
Full disclosure, she is a friend and former student. [return to page 4]
16. The film was made in 2003. Since then, major regional events have created new regional shifts, especially with the US Iraq War creating new configurations of Kurdish aspirations and autonomy. The Syrian civil war produced one million Syrian refugees in Turkey, and the rise of ISIS establishes a new imbalance.
17. Agriculture only amounts to about 8% of the national economy, but employs 25% of the total labor force.
1. The speaker's native tongue is Arabic and women of her generation received hardly any formal education, so her remarks (in Turkish) are heavily accented. [return to visual essay, page 4]
2. This group of migrant workers come from Southeast Turkey and must travel to find work. In Spring they are involved in planting, in Fall harvesting. Marriages take place in August. The baby's actual uncle must earn enough money before August to have a wedding with his betrothed.