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Collecting isolated clips of the sky

August 8, 2012

The video is of a helicopter flying through the blue sky. If looked closely, one could assume that it is a military helicopter, that is it is in apparent army green, but to what army it belongs, and in what sky it is flying remains on clear. At first we see merely a dark spot, it becomes larger, it comes in and out of focus, it jumps in and out of the frame before the video stops. We hear noises, maybe of people talking, but it remains incomprehensible, we hear a sound of gunfire, but we do not know where it comes from – was it the helicopter shooting at a target, or was it the target of a shooting, or the sound was of some other random shelling?

Godard’s Passion opens with a jet plane contrail traced in the partially cloudy blue sky. Interspersed between are a woman pulling a stack of metal boxes in a factory, later a woman bicycling by a car driven by a man, later a woman getting dressed (probably before a mirror) while a man walks into a the bathroom door behind her. An image of a jet plane flying in the sky, is nothing but an image of a jet plane flying in the sky, and so is a helicopter only a helicopter.

Regime Military Helicopter in Sky for Continued Destruction, youtube still

Yet as the youtube title explains “Regime Military Helicopter in Sky for Continued Destruction,” the footage is from 08/12/2012 the sky is the sky above Al-Ashrafiya, Aleppo. The youtube channel is SyrianDaysOfRage, so the footage belongs to the Syrian conflict, the helicopter belongs to the ruling army. Now we can edit in correlatively in our mind: helicopter flying/crying woman/helicopter flying/dead bodies on the floor/helicopter flying/rebels defecting the military/helicopter flying. We put the video in our visual repository of the Syrian conflict and attach meaning to it.

This video and many more are all scattered around the internet, either as part of the online iteration of the Syrian conflict, or from other places, from variety of different contexts. However, isolated footage like this is related to the technologies that capture and present these images; the digital camera, the internet. But the viewer’s ability to attach meaning to them, to categorize them and to edit them subjectively in her/his mind, is the legacy of the history of cinema. Godard’s method of nonsynchronicity show the filmic narrative’s contingency on the conditions of viewership, what precedes the cinematic event and what follows it.

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