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of FATMI Mounir

FRANCE, 1997, 00:06:42

Production : FATMI Mounir
Genre : Video art
Keyword : Allegory, War, Memory, Politics, Society

Summary :
 In 1997, Embargo confirmed in images and sound the bodily suffering of the Iraqi people, undergoing alone the political chastisement addressed to their rulers, the terrorism experienced by the international institutions responsible for such a decree, the reign of injustice elevated to the rank of political strategy, and the moral corruption engendered by the embargo. Mounir Fatmi then wrote: "How does a body deprived of food live? Embargo is an autopsy video, a fibre-optic endoscopy which passes through the body from brain to anus, showing that the embargo is a real surgical strike, and a serial killer. In fact, the international community doesn't see the damage that the embargo can cause in a population. Twenty-seven countries have undergone or are still undergoing different sorts of embargo: from Angola to Cuba, Cyprus to Sudan, Vietnam to Yemen, etc.... Today, in Iraq, a child under five dies every eight minutes either of disease or malnutrition, for want of food and medicines. For years peoples have been putting up with this international "fatwa" imposed in the name of a condemnation of their regimes, which they did not choose. A measure which has merely reinforced the power of the dictators who control the distribution of foodstuffs."

Embargo precisely describes what a political body is: something to do with comprehensive exploitation to the point of being akin to a form of deferred cannibalism. The superimposition of medical imagery with shots of forks and empty plates squeezes the overall exploitation of the Third World by the Old World into a visual piece. Mounir Fatmi's film reminds us of the vision of Louise Michel in 1890, in a manifesto titled Prise de possession: "Is it not a crime to wait while millions of human beings are crushed beneath the millstone of wretchedness like so much human wheat, like bunches of grapes in the press; it is in this form that the bourgeois world eats its bread and drinks its wine.(5)"

Almost ten years after the film, in 2005, newspapers publicly reported the facts governing the economic cannibalism which is what the embargo consists of, just as Mounir Fatmi had already reasoned in images. Let us remember these facts, let us display them alongside the film; they are the local subtext whose allegorical generalization is provided by the film. "The scandal around the UN "Oil for Food" programme entered a legal phase on 14 April. The US federal justice system announced, in New York, the indictment of several people including three directors of the Texan company, Bayoil, suspected of having paid millions of dollars in bribes to the Saddam Hussein government. The American David Chalmers and the Bulgarian Ldmil Dionissiev were arrested in their homes in Houston, Texas, and the Department of Justice requested the extradition of the third associate, the Briton John Irving.
According to the federal public prosecutor of Manhattan, David Kelley, who gave a press conference, the three men helped the Iraqi government to corrupt the "Oil for Food" programme by paying kickbacks to companies and banks controlled by the Saddam Hussein government. According to the investigators, Bayoil played a "pivotal" role by setting the prices of the oil purchased very low, which made it possible to then discreetly pay commissions to Baghdad and make further substantial profits. "Instead of getting help to the people who most needed it, which was the aim of the programme, the accused facilitated the transfer of money to front companies set up by the Saddam regime", explained M. Kelley(6).

In 1997, apart from the various interested parties, nobody knew anything whatsoever about all this. They all turn up in Embargo. They come in forms other than words and numbers, but in the limpid clarity of images and sounds, in the critical certainty governing the act of creation in the work of Mounir Fatmi. Contrary to what people would have us believe, art does not reflect the world, it anticipates truths, including the most factual varieties, which are unable to express themselves.

Nicole Brenez, août 2005.

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Original language : french
Original format : video
Aspect ratio : 4/3
Chroma : Couleur
Available version(s) : Version originale française et version originale française sous-titrée anglais

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