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man films his own death

February 27, 2012

Already today there is hardly an event of human significance toward which the artificial eye of civilization, the photographic lens is not directed. Ernst Junger

In a video posted on June 4, 2011 on youtube from the ongoing violence in Syria, a man films his own death. The video shows jittery P.O.V footage, shot from a balcony looking at the opposite buildings, overlooking what appears to be a back alley. The camera jumps rapidly, scans the surfaces of the buildings, the parapet, the sky, satellite dishes etc. We can hear the man panting through the microphone and describes what he is win. A translation of his commentary is provided on the youtube by netspanner: “The armed services are shooting at my country men for no reason on 1/7/2011, there is no protest or anything.” At 0:37 we see the boots of a soldier behind a wall, his head not visible. A few second later we see the soldier as he lifts his gun, points and shoots. At 0:47 the camera man is shot and he falls, we hear the camera drop and the picture goes blank. Later we hear a voice saying: “the bullet entered your head?… what you were filming?”

A man films his own death, youtube still image

Ernst Junger notes that among the most obvious characteristics of the type of human evolving in our times is the possession of a second consciousness. “This second, colder consciousness” Ernst writes, “shows itself in the ever more sharply developed ability to see oneself as an object . . . the second consciousness is focused on the person who stands outside the sphere of pain.” Junger wrote about the increasing incursion on danger into everyday life triggered by technological advancements of weaponry, and cameras. Is this video the absolute instance of Junger’s second consciousness? While the camera man is obviously feeling the threat, documenting the soldier’s movements capturing him on gun point, what prevents him from dropping the camera and running for his life. Does he find the image the only remaining possibility for life? Is the direct encounter with danger normalized through the camera eye in such way that one becomes the object of the situation that ultimately results in one’s annihilation?

A man films his own death, youtube still image

Here the camera/body entity becomes the subject of the event in a kind of phenomenological displacement. The moment of death is captured through the spatial relations defined by the camera and not the representation of the deceased subject captured on the image. The picture of one’s own death is empty from the representational drive of the image of the death of the other. As opposed to similar videos capturing the death of others in similar situations, this video is devoid of the kind of sadomasochistic aspect of disaster spectatorship that Foster writes about. The subject is split in relation to the disaster Foster writes, “even as he or she may mourn the victims, even identify with them masochistically, he or she may also be thrilled sadistically by the victims of whom he or she is not one.” The thrill in this video, is not of witnessing the death of the other, but is the thrill of witnessing one’s own death through the camera viewfinder.

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