October 25, 2010

Massive Attack Distills GWOT/Wikileaks Apache Attack/Rendition Flights

I know the drill, Got cells to burn,
I’m dressed to kill, A mortal coil,
And time is still, On secret soil.

Yeah pay the bills, Cells to burn, Mouths to fill
On Boeing jets, In the sunset make glowing threats.

Yes shall we take a spin again in business,
This time is fixed lets sweeten our facilities,
It took all the man in me.

— Lyrics from Massive Attack’s “Atlas Air”

The animated video for Massive Attack’s Atlas Air, directed by Edouard Salier is a tour de force.

Rampaging and amorphous, what can only be described as a Donnie Darkoesque were-bunny, rips it way through and across blackened territories of prismatic violence. Against and allied, it runs with commercial jets into explosions. Apparently, this is a second appearance for the satanic leporid; it previously romped around Massive Attack’s last video Splitting the Atom.

The randomness of it all, sometimes seen through a gun-sight, recalls the Wikileaks Apache Attack video. But other things are going on too – burning oil fields (the first Gulf War); shattering buildings (9/11); Prestwick airport gets a mention (not the most well known airport but it was the site of a botched car-bomb attack in 2007).

Ultimately, this is a video about extrajudicial rendition flights, the absence of law and the suspension of human rights. The screen grab above – which flashes by so quickly you’ll be forgiven for missing it – deals quite clearly with the involuntary movement of humans, only in this case that of slavery.

Just as the 9/11 plotters usurped commercial airliners for their ideology, the US military adopted commercial jets for its murky logistics. Salier doesn’t miss the opportunity to point out the hypocrisy in the visuals. 737′s get a mention in Atlas Air‘s lyrics.

Salier shows us the negation of order and, perversely, the power-distorted dominance and slick allure of disorder.

By strangling any reason out the compressed annihilation, the Atlas Air video is, for me, one of the finest visualisations of REAL terror. Massive Attack and Salier are not describing anything that relates to the rhetorical usage of the word ‘terror’ pushed on us by war-mongering politicians; they are dealing with pure destructive force as and when it is sent out against an equal force.

This is not a narrative of us against them or of us against them and their allies, or even us and our allies against them and their allies, it is about how fucked it all is … and about the terrifying, beyond-human-scale to which violence escalates. By relying on images of man made cities and theatres of war, Salier reminds us that these crushing vortexes are of our own creation and our own instigation.

I’ve admired Massive Attack’s intelligent use of video before.

— Pete Brook

(cross-posted from PrisonPhotography)

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Pete Brook
See other posts by Pete here.

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