Thanos-Bolsonaro I: and the work of death



Images of death in modern and contemporary cinema

By R. Fausto


For those who haven't seen it, the last two Hollywood blockbusters (Avengers Infinity War/ 2018 e Avengers: Endgame/2019) have as protagonist a terrible villain, Thanos, who has a very current plan: the genocide of half the population of the universe to allow society to function better. Thanos is literally a genocidal villain and assumes himself as such. His character is denser than the average of those who inhabit the mystical recycling of Marvel fiction, on the screens of North American multinationals. The plan is not pure evil, hence the interest. Your psychological type even has a certain sweetness. A doggy, doggy look makes him more complex than the superheroes he fights.

In his genocidal yearning there is a eugenic vein, with an ecological bias: by killing half of humanity we would get rid of the Malthusean pressures that compromise the balance of the planet. The cut by death would be fair, as it is entirely random, preserving, of course, your own life. There would be a certain renewal in extermination, by that mode of necessity. The liberality of Thanos' fantasy unwittingly embodies the finalist logic of genocide. It lands, in its simplicity, in a Malthusian format to solve the contradiction between overpopulation and restricted production. He believes he can revoke, simply by snapping his fingers, with his 'magic stones', the dark predictions of Thomas Malthus and his trap (the 'Malthusian catastrophe'). Reality, however, shows a much dirtier world and a non-linear path, involving pests, hunger and wars in the unmeasured proliferation of the species.

The first film ('Infinta War') is more successful than the second ('Endgame') and ends with the villain's unexpected victory, sustaining the bet on random genocide. 'Endgame', by promoting the Hollywood happy ending in sequence, ends up getting tangled up in a mess of multiple time travels and gets mixed up. But it was Thanos, the genocidal villain, and not superheroes, who captured the imagination of some Brazilian public figures. Whether out of identity aspirations or out of envy, the fact is that the villain's genocidal power and the utilitarian instrumentality of his strategy attracted the hubris of some spirits at the top of the republic.

Shortly after the release of the film, in 2018, Bolsonaro explicitly stated, using the first person, when being criticized in an interview for delay in social actions: “I am not Thanos, who does this with his finger and solves the problem”. Directly or indirectly, his imagination came into contact with the figure and the genocidal strategy of the villain and something quickly connected in the constellations of his imagination. They were entertained in a horizon close to that of fictional fruition and linked to empathy with death, which characterizes his speech. Snapping your fingers and 'solving problems' by the logic of massive population subtraction proved to have an active part in your consciousness, in the way that a daydream runs through sleepless dawns.

Following his statement about Thanos, Carlos, his son, returned to the topic. He publishes a 'meme' with his father in which Bolsonaro appears in a figurative condensation, a kind of mixed and disproportionate zoomorphy, overlapping the image 'Bolsonaro head' with 'Thanos body'. The 'meme' follows the dark humor typical of the clan's imagination, in the way they are attracted by the elegy of death, violence and torture. Reproduced by the media at the time, Carlos created even others on the subject. In the language of social networks, perhaps it was a way of dealing with the negative load of connotations that involved the declaration of the father, a confessed admirer of a genocidal character, explaining the positive by the double negative (old rhetorical procedure).

The genocidal resourcefulness of multiplying deaths as a finalist instrumental strategy seeks to establish a model of executive action in the pandemic, a state policy, with more immediate results than those involving complex mediations and strategies with scientific methods. There is, however, an absolute black hole in the middle of it, in the middle of death as an end, which tramples its realization. When we leave fiction and enter the reality of exterminating logic, there is an absolute point of consummation in death, a kind of horror that bogs down human consciousness. This is where the problems begin, as the implementation of rational strategies related to the optimization of death has to be calculated. Mediations in the rational planning of death have difficulty asserting themselves as a utilitarian end, ignoring the means. There is no way to ignore matter, and the remains of matter, when wanting to delineate a pure reason of understanding. After all, they are procedures, albeit misshapen or opaque, of a genocide in action. It is necessary to assume that death, in its empirical extension, must be, for its mass realization, divided into a social production process, on an assembly line. Productive rationality then has to face the abject task of disposing of the waste of death and the human affections that surround it.

The snapping of Thanos' fingers, from this point of view, has meaning beyond murderous hatred, but there it gets stuck. Facing the experience of death in series, or in volume, is faced with something heavier in the excrescences of the process. Dirty things like blood, putrefaction of the flesh, the corpse-body, insist on slipping out of the regime and are quite complex to deal with socially, even for a genocidal conscience open to the exercise of violence and experiencing it as 'banality of evil'. Death, in its social dimension, is not abstract, but linked to matter by the thread of the experience of feeling (pity in remembrance, for example). Although its representation can claim a clean extension of the body thing, it is not extinct matter that easily turns to dust, a particle that, disappearing, as in the blockbuster, crumbles into dust. Transformation through death takes place in the world and is corporeal, as well as your consciousness. The remains remain in the organic field, impacting the figural experience and loading the imagination with meanings. The uniqueness of the human, when his individuality is denied in death, has its most barbaric representation in the mass grave. It is the symbol of an abstract generality that, through the negation of the subject, composes the action of genocide at its base.

In Greek-Latin mythology, Thanatus (from which the name 'Thanos' is derived), is the personification of death, its divinity. He is the son of Nyx, the goddess of the night, and grandson of Chaos, primordial representation of the universe. Through Chaos and in Night, therefore, reigns Thanatus, death. It is sensed in the dark, in the contingent proximity of Chaos, where its taste for the free exercise of extermination dominates, as foreseen in the ancients. Modernity established a new modality in death, far from Chaos and planned in understanding. Contemporary philosophers, who tried to free themselves from the yoke of reason and identity as the core of a subjectivity that chains, accuse the scope of Enlightenment even in the domains of extermination. Death, like murder or genocide, the death of man, thus planned, deduced, divided, into equal and progressive parts, follows its disposition in extent and causality by the consequence of the foresight. For its optimization, imagine the ordering in a factory plant, as a series production that uses the materiality of its by-products, a consequence of what it produces, in a previous proposition.

Death as a result of planning for extermination implies a totalitarian state that can dispose of life, or provide justification for this disposition. The political regime that, historically, took the grid of categories about the irrationality of horror to the extreme point, built plans for planning death in death camps. There was no chaos in the exercise of death in these fields, but a rationality in the extermination that reaches man's conscience (and bad conscience) in his guts. Precisely because it deals with what is unnamable in the spirit and indigestible in the flesh (the body as an inert mass, or the corpse), it brings the figuration of Evil in its essence. Hence the great paradox of negation, envisioned by Hanna Arendt, in the concept of banality. He refers to the surprise, or the contradictory impossibility, of the seriality of the banal that skids when being a method in the attainment of death in succession, as it is loaded with singularity in its action (the ontology of individuality in each death). The rationality of the productive disposition of death includes the format of the series in corpse matter, including the recycling of mortal remains, but results in something that the order of reason surrounds when conceiving in the deductive mode.


For those who saw it, night and fog/1956, by Alain Resnais, made ten years after the opening of the Nazi camps, brings images that will not be forgotten. The film shows the structure of the death camps as a particular universe in the broader functioning of the war economy. Around the largest German death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, clustered huge labor force camps, indirectly related to the SS, with more than 100.000 inhabitants. Siemens, Fauber, Krupp, are companies mentioned in the film that used labor in the fields and survived the war. The aerial shots of the work camps near Auschwitz, reproduced by Alain Resnais, are impressive for their gigantism. They show the advanced stage of its integration into the German state in 1944/1945. They are ready to take off to another level of horror, acting from their integration into the death camps, with the latter equipped with a railway complex for transporting prisoners, integrated into the structure of gas chambers and crematoria. Two groups were separated as soon as they arrived at the camp, one for death and the other for survival to work, following the motto stamped, in large metal letters, which until today remain on what remains of the great entrance porch of Auschwitz: “Work Free” ('Arbeit Macht Frei'). In the relationship between death and work, work appears in itself as a stage to be highlighted in the final form of alienation through freedom, in death. Work/value and freedom/death are the sides of two coins that synthesize the order of the fields. In each, a face that reveals and another that conceals, sustaining the paradox of its realization: work that kills, value that frees. They mean: extermination planning must produce value.

night and fog makes it clear how those separated on arrival in order not to survive (mainly children, women, the elderly and the disabled) also leave their contribution in value. In addition to the images of starving bodies, pushed like an inert mass by tractors, the piles of 'remains' of corpses, used as a reserve mass in the production process, are imprinted in the memory. In addition to the actual bodily matters (the film dares to intuit the fat turned into soap), images of tattooed skin cutouts are exposed and gigantic amounts of female hair, used as material for thicker fabric, rise like mountains from the ground. Thousands of glasses, combs, dentures, shaving brushes, shoes and other personal objects are accumulated in large heaps, waiting, without an owner, for their fate to become value on the assembly line of death.

There is another documentary that represents death in genocide, but focuses on criticizing the materiality of the photographic image as a figure of the unspeakable. Therefore, criticism of the representational material that fills Night and Fog. It's the documentary Shoah/1985 by Claude Lanzmann, a feature film lasting more than 9 hours, about the holocaust. Shoah does not have, in its audiovisual narrative, any photographic image of the fields that was taken in the simultaneity of the historical circumstance of the Nazi regime. In other words, it does not have photographic images, fixed or moving camera images, contemporary with the activities of the death-processing centers. Close to the Hebrew tradition, Lanzmann forbids the depiction of the god/golden calf of death. He goes so far as to assert that if a secret film, shot by an SS man, had been found in an archive showing how collective death was processed in large groups of two thousand individuals in the gas chambers, it would have destroyed it.

The statement provoked controversy at the time (March 1994) as a mark of the prohibition on the representation of the unnamable, divine or horrific, applied by the documentary Shoah. The direct photograph of death, in its status as an archive image, dealing with the indexical, analogue or digital dimension (in reality, it doesn't matter), emerges as immorality and even complicity, in the exercise of figuration denied to the Holocaust. On this subject, Claude Lanzmann had a heated debate with the French philosopher Georges Didi-Huberman, publishing articles by his supporters, Gérard Wajcman and Élisabeth Pagnoux, in the magazine Modern Times, which he edited for many years. Didi-Huberman disagrees with them and says they are stuck with a very shallow critique of the 'referential illusion'. She proposes to bend the representation of the 'terrifying image' (the traumatic image), pulling it out of what her opponents call the 'fetish screen-image'. The image of the unnameable (and here Bataille is mentioned) would be for Didi-Hubermann a 'slit-image', which emerges as an indexical, photographic archive, but in the spectrum of the 'malgré tout' (of 'despite everything') unspeakable. It arises from that point 'where all words cease and all categories fail'. The debate revolves around the limits of the notion of the imaginary. Didi-Huberman defends the image of trauma as quasi-observation, following with a certain irony Sartre, with whom Lanzmann was very close. It would be trace, reading, work, multiplicity in the crevice. She thus responds to the accusation of promoting a closed archival image, in a totality cut 'without imagination', straddled by 'voyeurism', on the one hand, and by hallucination without history, on the other. And he credits Lanzmann with hypostatizing his testimony, the testimony of his film, denying the audiovisual experience of other 'speech', or expressions, contemporary to the Holocaust.

The replies and rejoinders of the debate are gathered in the book of Images Malgré Tout by Didi-Huberman (Minuit, 2003), a work that addresses the determinations of imagery representation, particularly photography and moving camera-images, and the ethical meaning of the index's charge in the figuration of the unnamable. At the root of the controversy we mentioned is Didi-Huberman's co-curatorship of an exhibition entitled Memoire des Camps (Hôtel de Sully, 2001) in which he manipulated, cropped and enlarged for use in a museum, the only four photographic images taken from inside an extermination camp, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. The four photographs were taken by members of a 'sonderkommando' – usually made up of Jewish prisoners forced to do chores for the Nazis and who, therefore, were the only ones to survive long enough to have a global vision of the horror and be able to articulate ways of dealing with it. resistance. They are images taken in conditions of great risk, from camera devices and negatives introduced clandestinely in the field, made to be broadcast abroad (where they never arrived) as a way of denouncing the Nazi barbarism in the processing of death. By Didi-Huberman's calculations – acidly criticized by Lanzmann as a way of rationalizing the action of the representation (in a certain equivalence with the original act) – they were taken from inside the gas chamber of crematorium V in Auschwitz, through a half-open door. The first photo (the temporal order is up to the interpreter) shows, outside the gas chamber building, always out of focus and with off-centre framing, a group of naked women walking. The next one shows the same empty frame and the next two men walking over corpses in a thick cloud of smoke. The camera-images taken by the 'sonderkommando' inside Auschwitz, in August 1944, are the images from inside the extermination assembly line, witnesses of the 'despite everything', as Didi-Huberman defines them, of the 'eye of the cyclone ' in the eye of history. Debating about its status, the philosopher builds several layers of mediation in the representation to be able to think about the indexical reference layer. Mediations that are kept under the fire of Lanzmann and his allies, acidly defending the radical legacy of his 'monument' to the imagination, by the report in the audiovisual speech, as disposed in Shot in filmic/documentary mode.


A third axis in the representation of images of death and genocide (in addition to Lanzmann and the Resnais de night and fog), can be found in the work of Harun Farocki, one of the main German filmmakers in the second half of the XNUMXth century. Farocki, now deceased, once defined himself as 'the best know unknown filmmaker in Germany'. In his various documentaries, some in the film-essay style, he deals with the reflexive theme of the audiovisual image, but through the non-dramatic bias of conceptual thinking. One of his recurring themes is the representation of work, as it emerges in the advanced modes of commodity reproduction in technological capitalism. two long, Pictures of the World and War Inscriptions/ 1989 e Interval/2007, articulate, in particular, the holocaust as a way of turning incorporated value and the ethical questions to which the serialization of death leads.

Farocki forms, together with Alexandre Kluge and the Straubs (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet), the Marxist trinity of audiovisual abstraction, in dealing with the concept. Although Farocki is about ten years younger, they are often placed close together, in the same generation of the new German cinema of the 1960s. showing his particular method of working on stage (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet at Work on a film based on Franz Kafka's 'Amerika'). The specificities between the four are diverse, but their works establish the abstraction of critical theory in the audiovisual filmic mode. Farocki's cinema evolves along this path, as it moves towards the end of the century, possessing the particularity of a sensitivity impressed by the empty texture of postmodern simulacra, seen as great control devices in the realization of value. The Marxist trinity of the new German cinema occupies the most radical side of this generation, with the proposal of dealing with alienation in advanced capitalism, deepening options that, in other directors of the group, appear closer to traditional dramaturgy, although always in the modern cut, as in Fassbinder, Herzog, Syberberg, and even Wenders.

The audiovisual Marxist theory of Farocki, Straub/Huillet and Kluge is far from being unitary, but it brings the bond of working the representation in the horizon of late capitalism and the expanded reification of the commodity, in its way of influencing the machinery of the camera-image, particularly in its filmic disposition. At the core is Frankfurt's critical theory and its vision of the ambitions of the Enlightenment and instrumental reason. Their mode of expression basically departs from the filmic format although, at a later time, they evolved into museum installations (mainly Farocki) and into the format of a television 'programme' (particularly Kluge).

The heavy conceptual load of this cinema is, initially, flexed in the pragmatic way of utilitarian praxis. It seeks to clarify consciousness to unveil alienated representation, understood as a poetic pedagogy. The rawest Brechtian touch is clear mainly in the Straubs (until the end), in the first Kluge and also in the initial Farocki. However, the more contemporary times of the end of the century and beginning of the millennium, to which they are actively linked, demand the questioning of outside thought, even destroying the understanding of didactic praxis, in a way in which Brecht does not arrive . In Farocki, the abyss of an intuitive essayistic subjectivity gradually emerges. It is what bends, in its critical status, the apprehension of the merchandise alienated by a rarefied conscience. It pushes self-consciousness to the limit, showing how, in the end, it is swallowed up by abstraction in a large homogeneous device that realizes value, casting its diffuse shadow over society. The forms of liberation are then engulfed by simulacra of post-modernity and no longer appear as clear and didactic as in the Maoist Farocki of the 1960s. strongly marked by the cinema of Jean-Luc Godard, particularly the 'Dziga Vertov' period. Godard, an explicit and implicit reference, is a kind of older brother of whom everyone is a close admirer and who outlines paths similar to the ones they are following.

The representation, through image, of the process of rationalized production of value is the challenge posed by Farocki's narrative of maturity. In other words, it is to the extent of the value-image relationship that technology manifests itself, as a device simultaneously inherent to the camera-image and to the production of value, integrated by violence in historical-social configurations. Farocki is a director of wide and diversified work, with dozens of titles, working mostly with archival footage, made by third parties. Explored in the form of assertion/audiovisual expression, the violence/value-technology/image relationship runs through his filmic narratives and installations, with a focus on advertising (Images and Sales or: How to Depict a Shoe/ 1989; Still Life/ 1997; A Day in the Life of a Consumer/1993); in consumption itself (The Creators of Shopping Worlds/2005); in pornography (As You See/1987); at Soccer (Deep Play/2007, installation); in digital image and video games (Parallel I, II, III, IV/2012-14, installation); on the factory assembly line (Workers Leaving the Factory/1995); inside the prisons (Prison Images/ 2000; I Thought I Was Convicted/2000, installation); in the audiovisual representation of the story happening (Videograms of a Revolution/1992); in the value of napalm merchandise in Vietnam (Inextinguishable Fire/1969) and the images of Vietnam after the war (Before Your Eyes Vietnam, 1983); on the war itself and the emergence of fascism (Between Two Wars/1978); in the images of death and war represented in military training games (Immersion/2009 – installation); in media reproduction as a technology of war (Eye-Machine/2000 – installation, War at a Distance/2003); in the suspension in which the horror on the field of Westerbork hangs (Interval/2007); in the rationality of genocidal violence (Pictures of the World and War Inscriptions/ 1987).

The documentary Pictures of the World and War Inscriptions became known for portraying the issue of what one looks at and what one sees as a technology of the gaze, based on aerial shots of Auschwitz taken during World War II. The narrative thinks the technology of imagination, or the image that permeates the perception of the phenomenon through technique. Image of the imagination, because Farocki's thought believes that it, image, is a technique of the imaginary, a device that swallows the sensitive and its intuition in contemporary society, through dense technological mediations. It is as if, from a 'de-si', we were eternally looked at from there, without ever hitting what comes out of oneself (or me), because from where one sees oneself, one can never look at oneself. When this 'self' sees itself, in reality, it looks at its mirror image, disembodied technological constitution that, before us, exposes us. Perception is then reduced to the technological 'self' of the phenomenon that spreads its wings over us through technology and in us 'if' comes – through successive mediations. Farocki's cinema seeks to unravel this: it dissociates, analyzes, intuits, and does so in a style that escapes drama and approaches the historical modes of reflective documentary, opened in film form and in the 'loops' of the installations. He deals with the embrace of this audiovisual encounter in which the being collides with the world, in a 'ritornello', as the philosopher would say, through abstraction and thought.

The most notable clash in Pictures of the World and War Inscriptions, is in the series of aerial images of Auschwitz that runs through the film in two great moments, reified from any original expression or understanding, but charged with the tragic humanity, that of horror, that the unveiling provides. Automatic aerial cameras filmed Auschwitz without knowing it, but with intention, as security cameras do in malls, prisons, or public places. The first images that revealed the existence of Auschwitz were casually taken by North American bombing planes, toward the end of World War II, on April 4, 1944, with the aim of locating industrial targets for destruction. As already mentioned, the network of camps in the Auschwitz complex incorporated several industrial plants in the vicinity, maintaining direct links with the activities of the death camps, mainly for the use of slave labor that yielded resources for the SS, paid by the industries. . The eyes of the time, the eyes of the US military who examined the aerial photos in London, located as a target in these aerial images the plant of a chemical industry, IG Farbens, which produced the compound 'Buna N', synthetic rubber, important for the Germans for their connection with aviation. In a significant geographic proximity, pointed out in the film with the palm of Farocki's hand, the aerial photos also revealed the structure, architecture and daily functioning of Auschwitz next to the Monowitz camp, where IG Farbens was located. At the time, however, Auschwitz, in its detail and scale, was still unknown to both the Allies and the Soviets.

In the images of the revealed world, the photos are clear, despite the height. You can see the barracks for the prisoners of Auschwitz with the characteristic layout of German camps, the commandant's house, vehicles, the kitchen, the firing wall, the location of the gas chamber and crematory ovens with chimneys, trails in the snow and even a queue of human beings cutting through space like little dots lined up on the path to identification. In a second moment of the shots (in January 1945), contemporary eyes analyze an abandoned medical research pavilion and the gloomy reasons for its abandonment. Details such as the identification of the camouflage of a disguised bathroom for the use of gas appear. Recognition, however, only drew attention when these photos were examined, three decades later, in the mid-1970s, in a routine archiving procedure by the CIA military, with a direction of gaze that the film credits to the exhibition of the series 'Holocaust ' on American television at the time.

Now, on view, the image evidence of Auschwitz, with its gas chambers and crematoria, comes into view. The inscription, as the title of the film says, makes the field appear in the world, that of war and value, a social thing unveiled by our intellection. In the military action at the time of the seizures, 1944/1945, the circumstance did not exist, its appearance was that of a rubber chemical factory, IG Farben, and other industrial plants. Although intrinsically linked to the assembly line of death, they were seen without forming a concrete totality. Blocked by the attraction concentrated on the mounting of commodity-rubber value for war, they prevented death from entering as the ultimate evidence, cruel but never gratuitous, of the cog in the wheel of the engine.

The understanding of the image is related to Farocki to the unveiling of its panoptic statute, which appears intrinsically hidden from the outside, reified in the geometric nature of the device of automatic conformation, emptied of humanity. Machines to produce and machines to represent are, in themselves, devoid of autonomy, embodied by instrumental machinery. The unveiling will be affirmed by the overlapping of the conceptual audiovisual series in the open montage mode that the film proposes. The figure of an eye being made up crosses Images of the World and summarizes this provision. It is carried by the ornament which empties the organ of sensation and sight when it sustains the cool thought.

The look-to-see programming accompanies the ordering of machinery and the ghost of autonomous technology haunts the director. The machinic 'see', already in his work from the 1980s, brings with it a first insight into the comprehensive dimension that logarithms will historically have in directed programming (watching, punishing, consuming), by composing the image of alternating digits. The alienating dimensions of the new image of digital automatism are impressive, but Farocki still seems to believe in the power of a contradictory shock. The perception of the sensitive at some points expands, opening its inscription in the contingent, giving body to an eye that was previously only machinic, whether in the archive camera-shot or in the logarithm of the imagination machine. This theme composes a hidden core of his films and installations, a gap or gap in the opacity of simulacra of the postmodern world.

Em Interval it is what the film itself seeks when reproducing the expression glued to the empirical immanence of the archive image. Its form is a movement of suspension, an interval, in the horror that inhabits what the automatism of the machinery captures. And the hole appears in the expression of the look: the face of the gypsy girl who, from inside the wagon, already on the death train leaving for Auschwitz, stares fixedly at the camera, in the only close-up of the film. This shot is a kind of black hole where the narrative converges. Also, as a gravitational center, it pulsates in Pictures of the World and War Inscriptions, the photo that is reproduced from the so-called 'Auschwitz Album', in which a gaze returns and bounces off the camera-machinery in control of the scene by the photographer (probably a Nazi SS), focusing on the Jewish girl at a glance. It is another challenging look that crosses the void, a particular way of marking the device's confrontation in the expression, when it wants to impose a relationship of dominance. Still in Images of the World, the identity photographs of Algerian women, taken by Marc Garanger, uncovering the veil of her face for the first time, serve a similar function. They cross the machinery through the intensity of the scene: steady eyes and trembling mouths expose the defiant tension to the device in the unveiled expression. Farocki's hand appears on the scene, cutting out and varying the figures in his blind spot. The examples of these black holes are diverse and around them the narrative swirls like a fly in a lightbulb, attracting the whole to a fatal center of gravity.

Em Videograms of a Revolution it is the hand (or tripod) of the official camera that trembles and marks the moment when the official discourse receives, and begins to sustain, the intensity of the 'outside' as the wind of history; in Inextinguishable Fire it is the very flesh on Farocki's arm, burned by himself with a cigarette, which expresses, in his body, the idea that it is ignoble to burn another's flesh with napalm, this being its value. In the interstices, the narrative wants to deny the de-subjectivation and totalization of identity, closed from the outside by the device. They are fractured in the film by the montage structure in series that, in opposition, exercise the domain of ideas. One of them is that the potentialized sensation of the body strengthens the individual against the predominance of schema abstraction, an alienated modality of power action. There is a counter-power, which begins to assert its autonomy in the figuration of the subject's experience of himself.


Farocki wants to show that the machinery of the camera and that of the assembly line have the same abstract operating structure, incorporating the power of the device through technique. This is repeated in the arrangement of both (camera and factory) carried by enlightened, 'enlightened' understanding, which unravels the structure of matter for the system (world revealed in photography and work concretized in merchandise), but makes a fetish of value. In the Nazi camp, Zyklon B gas has its veiled appearance in Red Cross trucks, but is unveiled by analyzing the automatic device of representation in aerial photography. The chemical formula of 'Buna N' and carbon, as the image of its diagram suggests in the film, stamps the understanding of nature through the scheme of the structure of matter, but this does not reveal its use, its value for exchange, which is incorporated hidden in the gas death chambers. The thought of the film, however, is didactic. He knows how value is realized and explains when building the idea. And his idea is that there is contradiction, and therefore synthesis, between the unveiled image of the gas in the truck and the structure of matter unraveled by the Enlightenment understanding that, taking advantage of the knowledge of the scheme of its atomic composition, concretizes the work force transformed by the factory machinery in rubber goods. The diagram of this process is called a device.

Labor power in the fields is extinguished in order to realize value doubly: by the death that consumes the gas and by the death that exerts the work, when it produces until the exhaustion of its vital force. Geographically, the work camp is located adjacent to the death camp. So, when the functioning of the value realization process is scrutinized and when the device is shown in the aerial image twice (as camera machinery and as an enterprise of power and value), we understand how, in Auschwitz, 'work frees': it is from life that he wants to liberate the productive force, through the necropolitics of work. When producing, one dies and the concealment of this unveiling uses contradictorily the understanding to realize value through the chemical formula of matter 'Buna N'. The diagram penetrates even the molecules of matter, so that machinery can, realizing the incorporation of work into objects and instruments, potentiate its way of absorbing, as negation, the vital force.

The social relations of this regulatory system are those of the great device, coupling death and value in a totalitarian society to make capital turn. The device of the camera-image, therefore, is just another diagram of abstraction by machinery, now representation of images. It is another face of the same great device that spreads over the rationalization of the understanding of matter. Either in the image that the digital algorithm makes appear; whether in the image of the Renaissance projection of the volumes on the flat base, in which the silver nitrate sleeps to be burned in the photograph; whether in the machinery of the factory that transforms the molecule and absorbs the work – in all of them, the imprint of the diagrams on the social structure pulls the Enlightenment understanding to horror. It's terrifying, but this is the great thought about the device that frightens Harun Farocki's work, the general abstract structure of a machine of violence and death condemned to alienation in order to generate value.

But is there no way out, or at least a crack, in this wall of regulatory systems, closed in the grid of power relations? Between the lines, one can see the opening to an aesthetics of sensation that, when it appears, manages to challenge and recover through immanence a surface that is once again glued to life. It is she who has the power to challenge the kidnapping of the will by the occult and omnipresent diagram. Thus, there is a brief gap in the subject's possibility of autonomy in this process. Art itself, the 'aisthesis', could pierce the device, opening it up in the sensorial-emotive dimension. Farocki is the filmmaker of thought and construction of the idea, of the vision revealed by the concept. In addition to denouncing the violence of those who see without being seen, he also glimpses, in an aesthetic of the sensitive, an organicity that escapes the kidnapped totality and can affirm autonomy. Then, the waves with programmed movement of the Hanover Canal, the throw of the dice thrown by the machinic arm of the automaton, the humanity of the gaze that escapes from the machine across the scene, reaching the Nazi executioner – will cease to affirm necessity and abolish chance, to sustain the freedom of the contingent in the praxis of history. Through sensitive intuition, a new form of value that is suitable for the expression of the spirit facing the planned world of the device must be figured in immanence. This is Farocki's thinking about the film and it crosses his work in a horizontal movement.

*Fernão Pessoa Ramos, sociologist, is a professor at the Institute of Arts at UNICAMP. Author, among other books, of The Image-Camera (Papyrus).



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  • A look at the 2024 federal strikelula haddad 20/06/2024 By IAEL DE SOUZA: A few months into government, Lula's electoral fraud was proven, accompanied by his “faithful henchman”, the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • Chico Buarque, 80 years oldchico 19/06/2024 By ROGÉRIO RUFINO DE OLIVEIRA: The class struggle, universal, is particularized in the refinement of constructive intention, in the tone of proletarian proparoxytones
  • Why are we on strike?statue 50g 20/06/2024 By SERGIO STOCO: We have reached a situation of shortage of federal educational institutions
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives