"It is a narrative of endangerment and redemptive insight: the hero is in the process of making a construction into a calculation, is engaged in the labour of abstraction, at which point the measured space wants once more to prove its actuality. The greatest danger is posed by the objectivity and actuality of things. It is dangerous to remain physically near the object, to linger at the scene."
Harun Farocki, on Albrecht Meydenbauer's near-fall from the facade of cathedral and the origin story of photographic scale measurement1
"You need to adjust to a threatscape that isn't going to stand still and wait for you to be ready."
Army Lt. Col. Joseph DeFee, commmander of Florida National Guard's 48th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team (CST), CBRNE mission
Joseph Losey's Figures in a landscape (1970, hereafter called Figures) isn't "hard to watch", or at least not according to that qualification’s common meaning: the difficulty of continuing to look at what, even if not particularly atrocious in the moment, becomes unbearable over a duration, brevity’s shock stretching into interminability. The hard to watch has to be written with the gerund: squirming through long drawn scenes figuratively or literally torturous, enduring the relentless sight of dysfunctional family reunions and meticulous autopsies, weathering Sandra Bullock or Stan Brakhage.
Figures lacks that. Even as it comes to feel a long slog of watching and provides little respite from its ceaseless repetition, the horror2 it generates doesn’t draw the hands up to shutter the eyes or provoke a frisson of having seen too much and yet never quite enough. Rather, this film is hard to see. To note this real problem of sight, as well as the sense that its stakes far exceed aesthetics, requires no grand unpacking. It’s the film’s explicit concern, already there in the title, one of those namings, like Vampire Circus or Gun Crazy, that describe with rare precision the narrative and world it designates. In brief: two figures - both men, one younger (Ansell, played by Malcolm McDowell), one older (MacConnachie, or “Mac,” played by Robert Shaw, who also wrote the script), both nervous, manic assholes in their own way - have escaped from imprisonment by an unnamed military force. They’re on the lam and trying to make it to safe territory. With no map to guide, they cower, sprint, sweat, swear, steal, yell, and kill their way across an equally unnamed landscape, a mountainous, pastoral, and markedly non-industrial countryside (in reality, the Sierra Nevada mountains of Andalusia and Granada).
Industry is never far though, constantly threatening to disrupt the potentially tranquil scene in the form of the helicopter, that martial wasp so central to the historical terrain of the late ‘60s, above all in terms of, and hovering just above, Vietnam. The shadow of both that war and that specific military technology of the helicopter heavy over Figures. Allegorically in the case of the former, especially in the film’s source novel by Barry England, and literally in the case of the latter, as the figures are pursued and harassed by choppers that comb the land for them. As the film’s poster promises, “THE BIRD HAS COME FOR ITS PREY,” and indeed it has, swooping over the valleys, rivers, vineyards, and fields, flown by helmeted aviators who never speak a word, glimpsed only from the ground or from right behind them, as though the camera was third-party to their search, one more soldier on the hunt. But the problem, at least for the battered sanity of fugitive, is that despite having come for that quarry, and finding it again and again, the mechanical raptor is uninterested in making the kill, preferring instead to hover, circle, deafen, loom, depart, and repeat.
So too goes the arc of the film. Aside from minor triumphs (the bringing down of one helicopter in a counter ambush laid by the men) and ample shouting, the story is as non-linearas the figures’ exitless passage, a termite fleeing not through that landscape so much as deeper in it, into its surface, underbrush, ditches, houses, caves, and dust. There’s a nominal ending, with all the dire glee of doom that marks so much of Long ‘70s cinema in general and Losey’s output across the decades, especially in the 1963’s double whammy of The Servant’s autophagy of class relation and the motorboat’s aimless motion at the end of The Damned. Ansell and Mac will make it to what seems their intended destination, a border crossed high on a snowy peak into friendly territory, where the non-enemy forces show neither happiness nor triumph at the men’s arrival, just a formal acknowledgement of their intruders as technically non-hostile. But hooked on the chase and a pseudo-Hegelian death match with an inhuman other (helicopter as human skill plus war machine), Mac passes back over the territory’s dividing line, picks one more gun battle with the helicopter, and gets himself killed in the process. War is hell, and not least because one gets used to it.
The difficulty of sight in this film isn’t because it gives its harried characters the camouflage they so desire. We’re there every step of the way, both in the copter’s cockpit and amongst the mountains, fields, and streams. The hard seeing comes from how it frustrates plot and any attempt to locate those figures within either relevant meaning of that word: a delimited zone of terrain or a narrative sequence. Yet that’s not for a lack of continuity that could hypothetically give us the lay of the land for mapping physical or narrative progress. After all, the film’s style is primarily one of long takes and establishing shots, followed by relentless triangulation between the relevant materials in the shot’s space: rocks, copters, men. The film holds its ground with rigor, both spatially and temporally. No flashbacks, no crosscuts to other characters, no parallel storylines, no tough decisions being made by the forces of the “good guys” to get their men out alive, no other locations glimpsed, not even in memory. Excepting the opening sequence, where the three distinct modes of vision at hand - chopper, fugitives, and that of the landscape itself - we don’t go anywhere until Mac and Ansell do. As for where they’re going, how they escaped, what country this is, or why this war is even being fought in the first place, we’re in the dark - or, more accurately, we’re stuck squinting at what’s going nowhere but in an awful hurry.
Narratively stranded yet endlessly situating and reframing in landscape, this difficulty becomes what the film is, compounded by how irrevocable that split between these three modes of vision is and by how they concur only in nasty and literal collisions: the men bring the chopper's “eyes” (its pilot) down to the rocky ground with a rifle. It's a properly hostile mode of sight, in that hostility designates not antagonism but an enmity that can only treat its threats as wholly alien to them, beyond discussion, not merely a danger to continued existence but belonging to a different regime of life, thought, and time.
Yet here, without cause or purpose to gather around, the hostility can only become diffuse, a toxic filter laid over everything in sight. There lies the film’s peculiar abrasion, as the confrontation between orders of inhabiting, using, traversing, and surveying space gets nothing so concrete as punctual emergence, stormed beachhead, or overthown palace. A general condition, its most accurate representation in the film is no representation at all, no image, trope, or figure, but its soundscape that joins a thumping, droning score with the thump and drone of the chopper itself into one giant pissy locust’s whine of the novum, stuck somewhere between 24 frames and 300 blade rotations per second.
And unlike a modernist paradigm, be it the acerbic braggadocio of historical avant-gardes or a subtractive race to the minimalist bottom, this new can't be measured in terms of what it does to, with, or against what came before. Rather, the stakes of generalized hostility only become apparent with what will be the case, only retroactively, once this hostility becomes not a local condition of this film, these figures, and this landscape but truly general, epochal, and atrociously banal. It’s like they say about vampires: once you invite a helicopter into your landscape, it’s going to be hell getting it to leave...
Two very recent instances of cinematic aerial looking help make sense of just what it was that Figures did and does.
The first, an all-CGI architectural flythough of a London skyscraper in current construction, might raise grumbles about the designation of cinema. It shouldn’t, given both the stylistic echoes - it’s nothing more than an extended tracking shot that cuts out portions of its path deemed repetitive or irrelevant - and its preoccupation with the relation between mass-distributed moving images and the construction, sale, and rent of properties. The property in this case is not a cinema with seats for rent but the Avant-Garde tower: a 25-story luxury apartment development in Shoreditch by architectural firm Stock Woolstonecraft that’s “set to dominate the City skyline for years to come,” as their website trumpets/threatens. On that same website, one can watch a “Video Flythough” that travels through a digital vision of the yuppie stronghold to come, the entire video set within an ornate gold frame.3 It starts innocuously enough, despite the space’s eerie vacancy, swooping through a mixed-style lobby , cutting to a drifting passage through the “Free Spirit Garden” before entering into the building proper, where it float arounds like a half-drunk ghost uncertain of how to haunt without history, how to spook the pristine and uninhabited.
So on it goes, entering elevators, gyms, bathrooms, kitchens, and bedrooms, working its way upwards toward the top floors' exclusive “Altitude Apartments,” touching nothing, lingering on no details. Beyond the social ugliness behind the financing of such construction and the lives that will unfold there, there’s another moment of horror, a long, creeping one. It has no precise starting point, for the simple reason that the genre of the flythrough conditions us against recognizing what we’ve unmistakably seen, such that we can accumulate this only piecemeal, in little glimpses. As for when it dawns on a viewer, that remains an individual question, and perhaps it doesn’t happen at all, remaining only a niggling angst. But somewhere in the span of these motions into polished elevators, through mirrored gyms, near burnished panels, alongside buffed showers, and towards partially reflective picture frames, it will strike you: the camera casts no reflection.
Sight has become vampire in its own house. No operator, no apparatus, no hint of structure, no shard of the non-identical, because nothing is revealed in the mirror that has not already been seen in the unreflected field of vision. The eyes are weightless, depthless, entirely transparent, without even a lens flare when traversing the sun-drenched garden. The reason is obvious enough - there was no camera to start, the video being an entirely digital rendering. Yet the effect unsettles all the same, because this condo-to-be produces an echo chamber of morbid self-reflection, furnished with not just pixelated settees but also the only mode of seeing adequate to such a space: military vision.
It’s the tautology of a cloaked drone facing itself down in a mirror. Here, it relays data and program execution not from a great spatial distance but a smaller temporal one, from a late 2013 that will not arrive. To watch this flythough is to watch a broadcast back from what purports to be the future - the virgin condo, unsullied and ready for residents - yet that only exists morally, as an ought, only insofar as blueprints of what should be found there trump both the apparatus that produces that vision and the clusterfuck of the “facts on the ground,” as imperial lingo would have it. Both the computer processor and the homeless are locked out of this unarmed, avatar-less first-person shooter, where there are no targets because everything is enemy. Just like the drone and its data networks, this is a technology for reading the landscape that can only process what it has come to find, constructing the landscape in its quantification and evaluation of distance, coordinate, surface pattern, temperature, and breath. In Pakistan, it will find only heat profiles, villages, and flesh to be named casualty; in Shoreditch, it finds a vacant bed from which to see The City, unblemished by the stain of one’s well-toned reflection, and a dining table set careful for 8 with no bodies in sight, still warm or otherwise.
In The Bourne Legacy (2012, directed by Tony Gilroy)4, the object of inhuman flight, looking, and targeting still casts no reflection. It does, however, show up on screen at length, in the incorporation of drones not just as kind of seeing but also as key narrative element. Picking up the question that obsesses Figures (how does one escape being seen when there’s nowhere to hide?), The Bourne Legacy swaps the coterminous man-machine hybrid of the copter for a quieter, nastier world of surveillance networks, satellites, and drones. In this film, the bird hasn’t come for its prey: it’s been sent, steered both by eyes from afar and by algorithms that could care less for the texture of the landscape, reducing all - men, wolves, trees, snow - to variables in a data field.
When it comes to The Bourne Legacy’s explicit drone sequence, where viewers get the supposed comfort of watching not a Pakistani national but a white American man MacGyver his way out of death from above (by means of lo-fi signal deflection and a genuinely clever transfer of his implanted tracking device into a living wolf), it’s edited just as we'd expect, shuttling between requisite points of perspective. The target as seen from those who control the drone, beamed back in fuzzy video, even if these absent pilots do not target by vision but by coordinates and trackers, just explosively connecting the dots on a live-feed GPS. Those controllers as seen by others in the room where they huddle around screens. The target as seen by the drone itself, unrepresentable but made graphically available to us as a blinking point on a map. The wolf as seen by the man. The man as seen by the wolf, or at least how he’d like to be seen by the wolf. The drone as seen by both, and especially heard, as a low keening comes across the sky. And lastly, the drone as seen by nothing but the camera, located somewhere above the trees, flying alongside, casting no shadow, causing no interference.5
It’s the last that fascinates me. Not because the structure of a camera’s movement in narrative cinema is typically given by an element of, or figure in, its landscapes but because this film goes to such lengths to hint that its own style is adequate to our historical moment’s peculiar mode of total looking, from Google to DARPA and everywhere between.
The film’s opening stages this bluntly, as a gliding track out from a medium-shot of the protagonist, semi-nude and shivering after diving into an icy river, to extreme long shot frames him in the uninhabited wilderness of Alaska, as if we’ve witnessed the wolf-seeking missile’s trajectory in slo-mo reverse.6
The technique is mirrored at the end of the film, where the of the protagonist (again shirtless, of course) and his unconsummated love interest are on a boat off Manila and pithily decide to throw away the map, to see where the very blue sea takes them. The ham-fisted allegory of going off the grid, and toward the unknown regions of the heart, gets stylistic confirmation by a motion out from the two similar to the opening, as if to insist that you can never fully escape the hunting eyes of global security networks and, therefore, therefore, they will be found, ensuring a sequel. But it’s the motion itself that’s odd, no longer the weapon in reverse but a slow, circling track in a 360 degree spiral around and out from the boat before framing behind it as heads off to the horizon. Like De Palma’s comically dizzying circular track around the passionate kiss in Body Double, the non-axial, obsessively focused motion here gets to stand in for both voyeur and dizzy promise of lust to come. And yet nothing in the film has moved like this. The drones follow direct lines, and the characters move centrifugally toward the post-colonial outskirts of the global north. Most ominous, then, isn’t the fact that one might always be watched but that one is watched by something that does not belong in the landscape, that can’t be named, found, sighted, targeted, and brought down, be it with rock or virus.
To be sure, the history of narrative cinema is largely one of pretending that the camera doesn’t exist, at least not as a opaque mass that casts shadows, makes noise, runs on tracks, or catches its own reflections unawares. Like vampires, film knows to stay away from glaziers and dressing rooms until the moment - the moment recurrently, obstinately staged by materialist film - is just right. Figures is no exception on this front. We never see the camera, the crew, their reflection, shadow, or footprints.
Narrative cinema, across nations and decades, also rarely insists that, even if we don’t see the camera as a camera, it should follow rules or expectations of sight laid down by previously glimpsed perspectival points or objects that could see, characters above all.7 Certain genres dwell extensively on the possibility of binding sight to character, perhaps in the slasher after Mario Bava most famously, where the tracking shot is bound not just to the potential pleasure and phallic gaze of viewing slaughter but to the already located threat of a specific killer lurking and stalking. All the same, those are notable precisely for their rarity. On the whole, the movement of the camera finds no analogue so concrete and placeable. And like the missing camera, this tendency holds true for Figures as well, although in a way that turns out to deeply complicate not just its own situation but the relation between sight and hostility in total.
The first moments of the film place us firmly on this territory. It opens onto a pastel sea and sky, so dreamily muddled as to be anyplace. A cut preserves that sky, but it marks it as later towards dusk (or closer on the other side, toward pre-dawn), with the sun dipping closer to horizon, the mid-ground taken up by a strip of uneven beach, and the shot tracking backwards away from two figures run across it. The title appears, naming in white what it is we are seeing: “Figures in a landscape,” a linear text that reinforces the horizon in triple with the production data on the screen. A cut gives us the sky once more, seemingly lighter, confusing the sense of if we are indeed witnessing dawn or twilight, and in that sky is a helicopter. Its location and movement is all wrong, insofar as one might start to place it as the thing that had been watching the figures run, but all the same, it bolsters the sense and possible impetus of their running from a threat.
What it undoes, simultaneously, is the prospect that is being seen in reverse by those figures: the shot is from a point too high, not angling up from that beach but somewhere in the air, hovering in that vague pastel zone. And with the next cut, where the chopper flies straight towards and over the camera without stopping, the sense of that sight as belonging to the fleeing men evaporates along with the film’s dewy morning.
As suggested, these are the formal grounds for the diffusion of that general hostility. But as with all technologies within capital, the inhuman doesn’t equal the neutral. So too here, where the figures can be sighted as if by helicopter, just as they actually will be in the next sequence, while the lone helicopter, on the other hand, is watched and recorded by something that belongs to its own regime of sight: a camera that’s free to track, hang, and zoom. We will see the copter from the POV of the figures, again and again, but only frantically, in hurried, howling motions, until they eventually steady their aim, take out the pilot, and can then contemplate its slow retreat as if they had all the luxury of being a camera.
The point, then, is that this hostility is a condition dictated by those who control sight and terrain, not one decided by those who declare war upon each other. It is imposed and articulated by they who, upon sighting an enemy object,may well kill it. But even more likely, they will just survey, pursue, hound, and terrorize, until the moment where, like Mac at the end, the badgered other must take up arms, if only to shut up that terrible racket, and can therefore be gunned down without retribution, as insurgent, combatant, or terrorist.
The consequence is that it's not just the figures but the landscape itself that becomes hostile. It always potentially contains enemies, while sometimes containing just horses, vineyards, mountains, rivers, and plains, each element categorized solely by whether or not it is the target or not, and, more subtly, if it might hide that target. Given the latter condition and the existence of camouflage, it means that there is nothing that might not be enemy: just target and potential target. A napalm of looking, this sticks to everything it touches, leaving a loathing that’s abstract, indifferent, and impossible to shake off. The task of it is to flatten, to isolate what has been declared target, and reduce it to the mere condition of potential target, to turn a figure into just one more portion of landscape. In a recent interview, Brandon Bryant, former drone operator involved in missions that killed 1,626 individuals between 2006 and 2011, spoke of watching the thermal images of three men hit with two missiles on a road in Pakistan.
And after the smoke clears, there's a crater there. You can see body parts of the people. But the guy that was running from the rear to the front, his left leg had been taken off above the knee, and I watched him bleed out. The blood rapidly cooled to become the same color as the ground, because we're watching this in infrared. And I eventually watched the guy become the same color as the ground that he died on.
To see in drone sight means to see in process, in the prescription of a bad materialism. It's the insistence, backed by force, that “a figure in a landscape” must becomes just more “landscape,” unlived and unhot, merely a surface's slight ripple, a minor detail for a cartographer's pleasure.
In Figures, the first mode of vision we’re invited to seriously share isn’t that of Mac and Ansell. It’s from within the chopper, aping the human sight that tries its best to anticipate what drone sight would be, but, in that moment, still stuck having to read a set of visual patterns and cues. We look with the chopper in a series of discontinuous shots through its windshield and down onto the lands below where, finding nothing worth investigating further, the film cuts ahead, removing the inessential space between, even if a different sort of movie would prefer to linger on the horses galloping majestic through the fields.
The historical echo this calls forth the most, both in its military doubling and its early position in the film's running time, is not the architectural flythough but the flyover of first-person shooter video games, both those played online and solo. In such games, the cut-scene prior to the battle/live play often features a flyover of the stage, allowing the reconnaissance of the untethered camera to pull out points of interest. (Which in those video games overwhelmingly means utility - places to hide, places to save, things to break open to find other things inside - rather than aesthetic experience or pretty vista.) Moreover, they frequently track backwards from the exit point to where the difficult and bloody slog will start so that one can chart a course through the melee to follow.
The viewpoint is therefore no element in the landscape, yet it exists to make that landscape readable, to give one bearing. Figures also opens with a military flyover, providing glimpses of the ground to be crossed. But it is of no use to the figures themselves. Not just because they have no map but because they have no access to the form of vision that dominates them and, more saliently, because the audience also lacks the ability to match the two motions, shots, styles, angles, and landscapes. The split is total, even when the two literally come together.
Consider one of the many sequences where Mac and Ansell are threatened by a helicopter. A medium-close shot frames the two men side by side, turning their heads back to the unmistakeable sound of the coming vehicle. The film cuts to a long shot reverse POV (from the men) of the sound’s source barreling down on them. Without cutting, the chopper roars low over the camera/the men’s position, passing out of the frame. But in the cut that follows, which places the camera in the now familiar position of riding shotgun inside the chopper, we are still a distance from the men, watching them crouch and fall as we pass over them again. Meaning, in short, that there has been not just a disjunction of space (the standard one of montage joined by reverse shots and eye-line matches) but also of time, as the sequence’s temporal progression comes unstuck, stutters, and doubles back on itself.
To speak of landscape doesn’t designate a terrain or region itself. The suffix -scape is related to -ship, as in hardship, the condition of the difficult. Landscape, then, means the condition of being a region. No wonder, then, that landscape paintings take not the elements of a countryside but the whole complex by which one can make sense of it as having a set of conditions, organized around ground, figure, focus, and depth. And as I suggested, the landscape, as the manifest condition of seeing a region in total, proves to be far from neutral. It belongs to those who patrol its skies, who have the maps, who draw the borders, and who, depending on mood, either leave coordinates aside momentarily to take pleasure in the contemplating the terrain or take different pleasure in the ruthless hunting of those who can only look up at the invaders, as though heaven was raining down on all those who live on the surface of hell.
To end, though, there’s an element, also present in the film’s first moments, that throws an ocular wrench into this whole assemblage. More specifically, there's an eagle.
Less than two minutes into the film, the disjointed shots from within the copter are interrupted by the first clear shots we’ve had of it from outside: not drifting across a sickly dawn/dusk sky, not swooping fast and close, but plainly visible, in the light of midday, ascending diagonally across the frame. It’s a shot that, like those first ones, belongs to no one, or perhaps to the camera itself, the camera that will, of course, remain unseen, unshadowed. But the next shot after that of the chopper is one of a golden eagle in flight, first gliding, then beating its wings to maintain altitude in the current.
Of course, this functions to provide the doubling echo suggested by the film’s tagline , as well as to register both the strangeness and strangely natural fit of the flying machine within this pastoral space. But it also serves as a reverse shot. That is, it gives a ground , albeit aloft, to a mode of vision that can take sight, and make sense, of the manifest source of hostility. This is a grounding located neither in what the chopper itself hunts nor in an element that will be considered central to the narrative. It resides in a different figure, an element of that landscape, a bit of avian ornament made into the point from which to take aim. The eagle won’t return, won’t – alas – claw the eyes from the pilot, won't get eaten by Mac and Ansell like Pasolini's crow. But all the same, this brief exchange inaugurates a condition of vision, a difficult and explosive one that can’t be shaken free, because it shows that all elements of the landscape can become not figures but techniques of seeing. Such that when we see, in the nearly two hours that follow, an ample number of shots from positions and with motions that we can’t place, we nevertheless watch within an order of counter-sight wherein such a situating is possible, where trees, rocks, streams, eagles, houses, and dirt itself become particles of potential insurgency against those who doom us to their literal oversight.
In the last few years, a strange term has emerged in global security culture, pushed especially by the weapons, targeting, and logistics management firms aiming to cash in on the wild proliferation of the war on terror. The word is threatscape, which Deborah Natsios sees as the consequence of “civil space […] becoming coincident with state security space,” producing a densely layered zone of information technology, infrastructure, and the potentially inflammable interactions between the two.8 More broadly, I’d define threatscape as the historical condition where the condition of terrain as available to sight, management, and control - that is, its quality of being landscape - becomes inexorably linked to the capacity to make that terrain insurgent against itself, to make the support mechanisms of regions, buildings, or cities into their own worst enemy. As one of the endlessly alarmist security industry reports puts it, “the Threatscape is already within our inner circle, searching for any unsecured entry point.”9
The panic is well-warranted, though, at least for the squires of state might. Industry analysts have started to compile a sort of quiet doomsday scenario: not the tsunami or the quake, the nuke or the plague, but the everyday, lived-with objects of the built world, as antagonists to a nation, land, or social order find ways to make flamingly evident how the apparently neutral landscape of capital has long been wired to blow. In one of the more striking examples, a security flaw in Hewlett Packard printers, coupled with the fact of remote access, allows one to make a printer catch fire, through simply sending instructions to continuously heat its fuser unit.10 In other words, one can commit arson, with no matches, gasoline, or triggers, from anywhere in the world, leaving no trace other than an apparent accident of faulty office equipment. Echoing the collapse of the divide between civilian and combatant, the landscape comes to bare itself, joining warzone and workplace, convention center and battle ground. Not simply because printers are flammable, but because commodities can be activated to commit sabotage against the ends for which they were designed. One can see from within their own inhuman sight, make routers into spies, sprinklers into the death of server farms. Through their non-eyes, one can take a fresh look, from inwards on out, at the innate hostility of what certainly does not escape the total vision of capital and military, but which, all the same, it didn’t think worth noticing. What it couldn’t process as threat, as tool, as heat to exterminated.
Figures doesn't reflect this, either per se or at all. It was made in a time prior to the threatscape, at least insofar as the multilayering of cartography, data transmission, analysis, and infrastructure hadn’t been thickened and autonomized to the powderkeg of now. But now, indeed, it is our condition. The opposing forces in the contest over terrain – and of lives that try to persist within, below, and across it – are both impossible close and irrevocably split, with all the non-communication of the hostile. On one side, the inhuman sight of the security network, the drone military and police, the supply chain, and the satellite. On the other, not the vision of the human figures in the landscape trying to flee but the third mode of sight, from and of the landscape itself, the supposedly neutral made into unseen threat. Any serious political, critical, or historical cinema now will have to grapple with the fact that this is the fundamental split within seeing that already dominates, even if we are just now starting to creep our way toward feeling, listening, seeing, and burning not with our own fragile bodies but with the built world ready and waiting.
Figures opens this up. It shows, however briefly, what it looks like and marks out a zone where one can even start to process what it could mean for landscape to become a terrain of threat without the visible presence or influence of hostile forces (like, say, a helicopter or a platoon), both as overlaid by surveillance mechanisms and as opened up from within by threatscape actions. In this film, there’s no exit for our figures, and even less so now, as the antagonism of the hovering, terrorizing helicopter has been outmoded by its total diffusion into all realms, from the smartphone in the pocket to a smartmissile over the sea.
But, as we say, for every precinct, a printer, and for every chopper, a raptor.
Evan Calder Williams
1 Harun Farocki, “Reality would have to begin,” in Thomas Elsaesser, Harun Farocki: Working on the Sightlines (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2004), 194.
3 The site’s designers are evidently less than aware about the general resistance of historical avant-gardes to gilt frames, let alone providing pseudo-cultured housing for bankers. Or, more viciously, they are probably all too aware.
5 As such, we get the wonky pleasure of a ‘50s sci-fi or noir communications montage, but with the added pleasure of being not a set-piece of stock footage and phone operators but direct temporal binding to the target figure in the landscape.
8 Deborah Natsios, 'Towards a New Blast Zone: Washington DC's Next Generation Hunting Forest”; in Architectures of Fear, Barcelona: Centre de Cultura Contemporimia de Barcelona, 2007. Gijs van Oenen has also been theorizing a similar situation. In the words of Stephen Graham: “Such transformations lead the philosopher Gijs van Oenen to propose that the current p eriod is marked by a shift away from the modern urban ideal of interactive citizenship towards what he calls an 'interpassive security-scape: This, he suggests, is marked by an urban culture where 'the primary quest is not for encounter or confrontation, but for security.’” Stephen Graham, Cities Under Siege (London: Verso, 2010), 103.
Operating within the Threatscape: Understanding the impact of an evolving threat to the Federal Reserve’s Information Security, assessing the costs, and implementing solutions.” Online at:www.dkcmarketing.com/pdf/Agy_Wh_Paper.pdf