2016, HD Video, Sound, 15 minutes
In 1515 Machiavelli stated that it is better for the Prince to be feared than loved. Some 500 years later, Michael Hardt, political philosopher and co-author of Empire, Multitude and Commonwealth, asks what it would mean to base a political system on love, rather than on fear. How can we transform a society that is increasingly defined by a permanent state of war and cultivated by an industry of fear? How can we realize the paradigm shift necessary to move away from a reality that depends on the exploitation of people and the cult of privatisation of public resources?
“Here’s a puzzle about love. Love is an event that arrives from the outside and breaks time in two. It shatters the structures of the world you knew and creates a new world. In love, you lose yourself and gain a new being, a new body, remade. And yet if love were really an event in this sense, outside time, it would be unlivable. It is almost impossible even to breathe during such a tumultuous transformation.” These words were the first lines of The Procedures of Love Notebook 68 by Michael Hardt for dOCUMENTA 13. In the first minutes of Johan’s Grimonprez movie about Hardt’s itinerary on the relationship between politics and love, he states: “My academic friends have a lot of problems with my work on love, that I may have been hanging out too much with Italians…” Both Hardt and Godard—through Alphaville, 1965—embrace these images and words dedicated to explore the political agency of love. A force that serves to the transformation of life since living requires love. A complex concept, like all our democratic vocabulary, it can be misused but also be the source of new political ideas on the social.
But while seeing this interplay between the somehow sad black and white images of this dystopian Paris landscape and listening to the fascinating words of Hardt, I cannot but help myself imagining a softness that would correspond to his proposition. A sentence I read next to one of the original drawings by Annette Tison and her husband Talus Taylor comes to my mind. On one of their animated characters, the colorful Barbapapas, they wrote: “With a few shape shifting and a brilliant imagination, he smoothly overcomes the most difficult situations! He is always ready to help. His goodwill is inexhaustible.” I am offering this idea of inexhaustible goodwill on the unending possibility of metamorphosis and transformation not as a way to interpret this amazing movie, but as an example of how these images put the mind at work not only at ideas but at images that are and are not present in the work of Johan Grimonprez and Michael Hardt. To think about the possibility of love as a political concept makes me think about inexhaustible goodwill as a method to deal with the relation of public life and public memory, a transformative concept of history but also of forgetting, as well as how love in our dramatically changing political and social contexts inspires pure encouragement. There is no other way to introduce the importance of love than by way of an anti-epic wit that playfully refers to the need of a radical empathy and to the fact that this becoming another being always implies the impossibility of the unity embodied in a hierarchical understanding of authority, of morality ruling the social through a central tone.
And this is what really contributes to the creation of a new and productive visual style, like these images. It is one made not of all the disasters in front of us, but of a necessary joy in this transitional moment. It promotes a sense of people, of us all regardless of our citizenship, an invocation in the present tense to the goodwill we need in order to develop a new social body.
directed by Johan Grimonprez
exclusive interview withMichael Hardt courtesy of Shadow World Productions, LLC
director of photography Nicole Mackinlay Hahn
sound recording Andrew Brzozowski
editing Sabine Groenewegen
co-productionMuseumcultuur Strombeek / GentContour 7
with the support of Flanders State of the ArtVlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie
© 2016 Johan Grimonprez