Renzo Martens

Episode 1, The Netherlands, 2003, Chechnya

Video, 44 min

Courtesy of the artist and Fon Welters Gallery, Amsterdam

In the film “Episode 1” Renzo Martens presents journalistic coverage of his journey to the war zone in Chechnya in 2002. But in this film, rather than training the camera on the war victims or combatants, as the media do usually, he trains it back on himself.

The film features the familiar characters of any war: armed soldiers posted on the border, and citizens standing in line to receive food after their houses and lives were destroyed and they were turned into refugees. Effectively this is not a film about war, but about the moral role of the camera in representing war.

In the charged environment of life under fire, the artist poses the question of what the photographed thinks of the photographer, and thus reverses the usual subject-object relations of the photographer and photographed. It is actually the provocative turning of the gaze back on the photographer which restores the individuality of the photographed, after they have been inured to accommodating the needs of the media and putting themselves at the service of its messages.