"Revolutionary Body" is a three minute video posted to YouTube and BlipTV. The video uses clips from the films "300" and "Zizek!", original autobiographical video, and ripped YouTube videos of Soviet news and propaganda footage to create a visual accompaniment, of sorts, for excerpts from an essay by philosopher Slavoj Zizek about the body in Soviet communism. The video was in part inspired by the many YouTube Soviet music montage videos (for example), and in part by the work of Anthony Cokes, who has made several videos setting text by Zizek to music. This is the first video project I have ever made, so I cannot deny that simply learning how to use video editing software was a major goal of this project. This video was originally conceived of as part one of a two part project on the body and politics; part two on the capitalist and jihadist body will hopefully soon be in the works.
The goal of the video was to raise questions through humorous juxtapositions, rather than make a specific polemical point or give transparent answers. Eisensteinian "Soviet montage" was a stylistic inspiration for this video, though montage is used here for a much more light-hearted effect. (It is worth noting, however, the way that montage, a form pioneered by Soviet art, has become the dominate form of YouTube video.) Match cuts are used throughout to suggest relationships of identification and implication of temporally and ideologically diverse elements (Mao's corpse & Zizek, Soviet soldiers and Spartans from 300, Soviet youth and myself exercising, etc.)
At one level the video is self-consciously pedagogical, often doing little more than illustrating Zizek's words and even poking fun at itself for doing so. However the border between pedagogy and propaganda is slippery; one might say that propaganda is pedagogical form used to deliver polemical content. Zizek's writing, already for many uncomfortably apologetic about Stalinism, has been further excised of any harsh words against the Stalinist conception of the revolutionary body; at times, the video may even appear to be pro-Stalin propaganda. Images of exercising in a modern gym (the acquiring of a capitalist commodified body through a paid workout routine) and from "300" (an ultraviolent, homoerotic reimagining of antiquity produced by Hollywood--capitalism par excellence) further complicate things. Is "300" Stalinist or capitalist (not to mention a good film or a bad one)? What does the recontextualization of this film say about the real relationship of these ideologies? Do they share secret affinities? Is one better than the other? Worse than the other? Or, as Stalin might have put it, is that that "they are both worse"? Finally, the film concludes on the question (left open) of the relationship between the bodies of Soviet and contemporary 'revolutionaries' (Zizek, myself).
Special thanks to Andrew Kostrzewa, assistant camera operator, and KT Mccomas for shooting location.
- STALINISM by Slavoj Zizek
- Zizek! dir. Astra Taylor, 2005
- 300 spartans by ecthelion23
- Joseph Stalin by SSA786
- Soviet Propaganda by OMGHEISRETARDEDLOL
- Stalin funeral by hildergarn
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
- The True Hollywood Left by Slavoj Zizek, on "300"