REV-CONF Sep 5, 2001

Documenta Platform 2, Delhi May 01, pt. 2

New Delhi, May 7–21, 2001

Report by Sonia Khurana

Part 2: Experiments with Truth: Transitional Justice and the Process
of Truth and Reconciliation. Reviewed for ArtHist by Sonia Khurana,
New Delhi - Amsterdam <sonia_khuranayahoo.com>

India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
May 7 - 21, 2001
Platform 2 was twofold. There was a conference from May 8 - 12, and a
video and film exhibition from May 7 - 21.

The films

A season outside
Director : Amar Kanwar

A SEASON OUTSIDE is a personal and philosophical travelogue of the
mind's voyage through geographic and historic India: a nomad wanders
through the shadows of past generations, conflicting positions,
borders and time zones, lines of separation, and studies the marks of
violence.
Amar Kanwar , the directed of A SEASON OUTSIDE has directed over 40
documentaries which deal with issues of health, ecology, philosophy ,
labour, law , politics , art and education.
In this film he explores the idea of non-violence: How can it
prevail, in the face of history's aggression? Through memories of
India and Pakistan's partition in 1947, a trauma and heartache for
many families in the subcontinent, through inquiries into Mahatma
Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence, through legends of 16th century
Mughal attacks, and through records of the aggression against Tibetan
monks and families. This visual essay searches for a wisdom to
transform conflict through a process of humanization.
The film begins its exploration at the Wagah border, an outpost where
everyday, divided people are drawn to a thin white line that divides
India and Pakistan. Probabaly anyone in the eye of a conflict may
find themselves here.
The documentary is in the form of an analytical essay about the
ambivalent dimensions of conflict, with many characters but without
interviews it embarks, with the viewer, upon a search that could
await peace of a different kind.

The specialist
directed by Eyal Sivan
1991
THE SPECIALIST is a document of the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, the
Nazi bureaucrat who organized the mass deportation of Europe's Jews,
Slovenes and Gypsies to concentration and death camps,
Deliberately presented as a public event, Eichmann's trial by the
Israeli Government was immediately recognized as an event of great
historical significance and was extensively covered by news media
around the world, the trial was the subject of intense interest and
debate. The prosecution described the accused as a bloodthirsty
monster, yet his demeanor was that of a family man, quietly comic and
terrifying in his 'banality'. While he never denied his role in the
Nazi deportation of the Jews of Europe, he maintained that he was
merely following the orders of his superiors, and could not be held
responsible for following orders.
The Israelis decided to document the trial on videotape, then a very
new medium, and installed four video cameras behind partitions in the
courtroom. Approximately 500 hours of footage was shot of the trial,
which was the only trial of a Nazi criminal to be documented in its
entirety. THE SPECIALIST is assembled from this footage.
The documentary filmmaker and Israeli dissident Eyal Sivan is
particularly interested in political manipulations of memory and the
historical significance of Eichmann's trial, which both shaped the
national identity of the young state of Israel and provided a proving
ground for critical tenets of international law, led Sivan to begin
work on THE SPECIALIST.
The movie whittles down hundreds of hours of archival footage into a
hauntingly immediate précis of Eichmann's trial. A surly and
bespectacled Eichmann's obsessive distance from his crimes gives THE
SPECIALIST a lingering chill.
We finally stare right into the face of Adolf Eichmann, the infamous
Nazi head of transport whose 1961 war-crimes trial in Jerusalem
inspired Hannah Arendt, in her coverage of the event, to coin that
legendary invocation of the Holocaust bureaucracy: " the Banality of
Evil".

Videograms of a Revolution
1992

The compilation video VIDEOGRAMS OF A REVOLUTION, concerns the
Romanian revolution of 1989 - including the fall, attempted flight,
and Christmas-day execution of President Nicolae Ceausescu and his
wife Elena - and was assembled under the direction of Andrei Ujica
and the prolific Harun Farocki, seen by many as the German "guerrilla
filmmaker". VIDEOGRAMS.. was drawn from 125 hours of footage
including TV broadcasts and work by amateur videographers taken
during the 1989 Romanian revolution that toppled Nicolae Ceausescu's
regime. Opening with a hospitalized woman proudly declaring her
commitment to the resistance and asserting "We don't want a
dictator," the film closes with images of Ceausescu's corpse taken
after his execution less than two weeks later.
In a way VIDEOGRAMS reminds one of images and techniques used by the
early Soviet montagists, especially Sergei Eisenstein's October
(1927) : crowds are seen from above scattering under gunfire;
revolutionary leaders seize the platform at popular manifestations,
and major moments in the story are presented from multiple
perspectives. But with the difference that Farocki and Ujica's work
consists of found-footage, assembled and intercut with rather awkward
titles to gradually reveal the course of history.
Rather than making a straightforward documentary, Farocki and co-
director Andrej Ujica opt for a reflexive approach that pays as much
attention to formal concerns as to the political changes themselves.
The process of compilation is foregrounded by the presentational
press-conference style of many shots, the constant switching between
stock type, the representation of cameras and monitors within the
frame and voiceover commentary on the historical import of the images
and the relationship of film to history.
Early in the revolution, the gaps and lapses in state TV coverage
were largely a product of the government's confusion-when protest
breaks out at a rally, the cameraman "censors" it by panning to the
sky -but soon afterward, television crews become both active
participants and witnesses to the revolution, as evidenced by the
prime minister's decision to deliver his public resignation twice
because the TV cameras weren't rolling the first time.
Farocki superimposes the rapid consumption of images with a
tranquillity for their examination. And it is that which motivates
the ascetic exactness and the tranquil ordering of the cutting rhythm.

Long Night's Journey Into Day
1999
LONG NIGHT'S JOURNEY INTO DAY takes one inside post-apartheid South
Africa to give one an intimate look at a country's attempts to heal
itself with truth as the balm.
LONG NIGHT'S JOURNEY INTO DAY reveals a South Africa trying to forge
a lasting peace after 40 years of government by the most notorious
system of racial segregation since Nazi Germany. The documentary
studies South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), set
up by the post-apartheid, democratic government to consider amnesty
for perpetrators of crimes committed under apartheid's reign. Shot
over 2 1/2 years during 8 trips to South Africa, the film tracks the
human drama of just a handful of the 10,000 requests for amnesty that
came before the TRC.The film also reveals the lesser known fact that
most of these applications for amnesty were made by black South
Africans. In exchange for absolute truth about their activities and
human rights abuses, perpetrators could earn amnesty for the crimes
they committed before Apartheid collapsed in 1994.
LONG NIGHT'S JOURNEY INTO DAY takes viewers to the hearings where
murderers meet the surviving family members of their victims in four
different cases, one of which is that of a young black activist who
comes to recognize the anguish he caused by killing a white
California student during a mob riot, while her parents see past
their pain to embrace a new, multi-racial South Africa.
The film quickly dismantles the simplistic perception of the TRC's
mission and goals, and the impression that everybody was willingly
coming forward, and confessing to everything they did, and all the
victims were willingly forgiving, and everybody was living happily
ever after. In the words of the co-director, Francis: The one time I
went myself it was in the midst of a very intense hearing. The
stories were of such intense betrayal on the part of the police of
these young kids. By the middle of the week I was starting to have my
nervous breakdown too. It really was hard to hear that day-after-
day." Co-director Deborah Hoffman said that it just blew her mind
that "the idea that first of all a whole country would agree to
uncover its past, as opposed to cover up its past, and then would
agree to discuss, on a national level; How would we heal and move on?"
The film attempts to bring to the fore the most profound moral and
ethical questions about justice, truth, forgiveness, redemption,
Blanket amnesty, the problem of no individual accountability and the
ability of brutalized and brutalizing individuals to subsequently
coexist in harmony.
As the Rev. Desmond Tutu says in the film : "We make the mistake of
conflating all justice into retributive justice. Whereas there is
something called restorative justice and this is the option we have
chosen."
What for me is particularly remarkable about the film is the strong
participation of women in the process of conflict, forgiveness, and
renewal : for instance, after enduring more than ten years of police
denials, the mothers assess to what extent their need for justice is
satisfied by finally hearing the truth. One mother says, "As long as
they are telling the whole truth, I've got no problem with the
amnesty." Others feel that simply admitting their guilt does not
absolve their sons' killers, and they express the desire for punitive
measures.
As they speak out, telling their own truths and evaluating the
killers' testimonies, the mothers move through a process of
transformation and empowerment. Having considered themselves to be
victims, the mothers find a voice and an identity through their
participation in the TRC, emerging with a newfound sense of
themselves as full-fledged citizens in a progressive democracy.
A daughter of a White South African teacher who was killed in an
attack, in an interview in the film quotes Maya Angelou:
"History , despite its wrenching pain , cannot be unlived but if
faced with courage, it need not be lived again"

sonia khurana

Sonia Khurana is a viual media artist. She works in the area in-
between video, photography, performance, installation and public art
Sonia received the INLAKS Grant to study art at the Royal
College of Art in London, between 1997 and 2000.
She has been selected for a year - long period at the Rijksakedemie
in Amsterdam for the year 2002. She currently lives and works in
Delhi.

Recommended Citation:
Sonia Khurana: [Conference Report of:] Documenta Platform 2, Delhi May 01, pt. 2 (New Delhi, May 7–21, 2001). In: ArtHist.net, Sep 5, 2001 (accessed Nov 29, 2022), <https://arthist.net/reviews/24624>.

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