English Text from the catalogue of the exhibition ‘Force’, Casino Luxembourgh, 09-2002.
Written by Doreet Levitte.
Peter Bogers’ video installation, Ritual 1, consists of twelve monitors placed in a circle. In precise sequences of one second each the monitors relay, clockwise, scenes of violence taken from films and TV action dramas. The spectator stands in the middle of the circle, in a position similar to the Panopticon’s guard and must submit to the circular movement in order to follow the images’ sequences. This movement disturbs his absolute position of power as an all-seeing entity and forces him to interact with the images, thus submitting himself to their hypnotic attraction.
Bogers orchestrates violence like an opera. He chooses the climatic moments of the aggressive action as seen on the screen, separates it from the narrative it originally belongs to and concentrates on the cathartic moment when aggression reaches its home target. The broken narrative of each video, the fragments that had a coherence while belonging to the cinematic experience, are assembled into a new text, which changes the essential characteristics that were built in the original story. Thus, whether the action was justified or not, moral or revengeful, aesthetic or ugly is of no importance. This spectacle of pistols and blows, blood and wounds zooms towards one target — it shows aggression to be the weakest link in the chain of power and reveals force as a last resource, where real power is subjected to a corrupted version of its potential. Force in Bogers’ video reveals itself to be both the most spectacular yet the least genuine manifestation of power.
Because violence is rendered in precise sequences, as opposed to its chaotic and random features, and since this timing creates order and aesthetics negating the essence of the subject matter, it becomes clear that Bogers has elevated violence to a ritual and has introduced the notion of a mythical time into the set of actions he presents. The very arrangement of a circular time and space corresponds with the idea of time outside the natural order, as characteristic of the duration of a holy sermon. By isolating the actions they become meaningless and enigmatic, as if another meaning was imposed on them for which we lack understanding. In doing so Bogers leads us back to the futility embedded in the aggressive act. While within the context of a story we could have excused it, considering motives and human reaction, violence, when isolated from any context, is always a weak and stupid act.
Ritualised violence is a phenomenon we are familiar with. Ritualisation in matters of aggressions has the purpose of giving meaning and decorum to atrocities of all kinds. Moreover, the very aesthetics of virility this ritualisation takes on covers the weakness suggested by acts of aggression. Bogers manipulates the ritualistic element to serve his ends and exposes both power and its celebrations to be the icons of a value they are supposed to negate.
The sound and light effects that go with each act in the video are like a physical attack on the onlooker. A double assault is created: one inherent to the image itself, the other produced through its presentation, i.e. while the images tell the story of the attack, they repeat it symbolically by the nature of their transformation.