State of Exception

»Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.« Carl Schmitt, ›Political Theology‹, 1922

»If the state of exception’s characteristic property is a (total or partial) suspension of the juridical order, how can such a suspension still be contained within it?«

      Giorgio Agamben, ›State of Exception‹, 2003

»The exception confirms the rule. But what if the exception becomes the rule?«

      Cicero: »The exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted.«

»You don’t live somewhere in the city, you live somewhere in the hierarchy.« Attila Kotanyi and Raoul Vaneigem, ›Basic Program of the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism‹, 1961  

       The next G20 summit will be held in Hamburg on 7 and 8 June. Among others, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdo?an are expected to attend the event. Other things to expect are a state of emergency, security zones and choreographies of power and powerlessness. Furthermore recurring pictures of water guns and police units that look like Stormtroopers, identity checks, rolling news on all channels, tear gas, barricaded banks and ritualised behaviours by everybody involved. However, a state of exception may simply refer to children’s birthday parties, the Harley Days or carnival in Cologne.

Looking at a state of exception as a disruption of normalcy (and not only of the political order), the question arises just who or what it is that defines normality – and whether the capitalist system’s inherent need to accumulate hasn’t already turned the state of exception into a system-sustaining norm. It’s a question of perspective, which this programme attempts to explore with animations, experimental films and documentaries. After all, shouldn’t we interpret cinema and the cinematic experience as interruptions of the normalcy of our everyday life? It’s not just for catastrophe films, explosions, flipping cars or talking animals that we voluntarily suspend our environment in order to immerse ourselves in another one. This programme aims at illuminating the state of exception’s terminology, and thus at going beyond the mere dimension of national politics. Yet in its dramaturgy, it still refers to the right wing political philosopher Carl Schmitt, who understood the exception as the internalization of the exterior. Thus the seven films on the state of exception perform a movement from within to without, from the human consciousness over the body to the universe. It begins with the right angle, the pictorial attempt to create order. But we quickly lose the floor beneath out feet. The cadres start to oscillate, and order is blown up. »The visual intensity attacks internalized structures; you begin to question patterns of perception. Thus the cinema unearths its specific illusions. The screen’s grid storm lures the viewer into a kind of cage. The dynamic increases. The more you try to liberate yourself from it, the more you get entangled.« (Siegfried A. Fruhauf)

Cinematic experience as state of exception: expanding space. While the power goes through our body, it appears to have gotten more interested in its pure information and permanent accessibility, according to Peter Ott’s ›Die Einnahme des Außen‹. In ›Gesang der Jünglinge‹, the relation between power and powerlessness is turned upside down by an act of subversion, while in ›Black and White Trypps Number Three‹, the state of exception is purely deliberate before the accruing mass is put into a cinematographic trance after its discharge. We pan from the bodies to the city. Nowhere else the capital’s creation of its own stage design, in which we take on the roles of extras, becomes any more graphic than here. Such as in Kevin B. Lee’s desktop documentary essay ›Transformers: The Premake‹, which displays the global big budget blockbuster serial film industry mentality and its antidemocratic use of public space for filming and which could be perceived as a permanent state of exception.

Finally, we leave earth and with Travis Wilkerson’s animated pamphlet ›Pluto Declaration‹, we move into the universe. In a charming but immediate way, Wilkerson, inspired by Santiago Alvares, asks the essential question who it is that decides order in and which spirit it is done.

But: »When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro« Hunter S. Thompson, ›Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl‹, 1974