Rabih Mroué and the Pixelated Revolution
In Hayden White's essay 'The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality', he writes: 'Narrative might well be considered a solution to a problem of general human concern, namely, the problem of how to translate knowing into telling, the problem of fashioning human experience into a form assimilable to structures of meaning that are generally human rather than culture-specific'. White explains how narrativity and storytelling help us to understand culture, however exotic. It leads one to ask the question: When an artwork utilises the telling of narratives to convey a very specific and complex history, how can information be conveyed and new knowledge produced?
Rabih Mroué stages this in his lecture-performance The Pixelated Revolution (2012), performed at Documenta 13. Here, Mroué performs a narrative to images culled from the Internet and videos posted by civilians attempting to document the latest acts of violence in the ongoing Syrian Revolution. The witnesses have documented and shared their footage to tell of their experience. Mroué plays out the role of selector, interpreter and commentator as he appropriates material into a narrative of his own device.
Dramatically spot-lit and sitting behind his Macbook on the Staatstheater stage, Mroué explores the images he has selected in news broadcast-style. The collection of stills, videos and text projected behind him appear in succession on the large screen. He analyses the cinematic methods of the 'amateur' videos of violence captured on mobile phones and finds similarities between them and the Danish Dogme 95 film collective and its aesthetic. Written in 1995 by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, the group's manifesto posits the rules of this style of film production as follows: 'Shooting must be done on location, the sound must never be produced apart from the images, the camera must be hand-held, the film must be in colour, filters are forbidden, no superficial action, the director must not be credited'. Mroué identifies these rules in the videos shown, thus generating a new manifesto: the sacred dogma of how to document violence during a time of revolution and indiscriminate death. One by one, he takes us through segments of videos and still images that exemplify these cinematic methods.