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This World We Must Leave: The Burning Archive

The Unrealized Revolutions
The perspective for This World We Must Leave is contemporary and forward looking. But the project also includes a historical dimension in the form of 'the burning archive' where we collect a series of revolutionary historical events - the Paris Commune, the Russian Revolution, the Watts uprising, the Iranian Revolution and the Genoa G7 protests - as examples of how the desire for another world has broken through the thin surface of the existing order and has been allowed to float freely for a short period of time before being crushed by a counterrevolutionary wave intent on preventing a radical perspective from taking form.

The revolutionary events are integrated in an archive consisting of documents from the Situationist movement - paintings and printed matter - that is structured around six core concepts: The artistic revolution, self-organisation, critique of the spectacle, play, the lost children and the liberated city. In the 1950s and 1960s the Situationist movement attempted to launch an aesthetic transformation of the spectacular commodity society where images were holding a divided capitalist society together. Following Karl Marx and Georg Lukàcs the Situationists described capitalism as a reified and self-legitimating system controlling people who unconsciously were producing and consuming goods. The capitalist mode of production not only impoverishes the vast majority of the population but also creates a veil of fog it wraps itself in making it impossible to see that the capitalist mode of production is causing alienation and poverty. The capitalist system does not think in terms of free people, but only in goods. The commodity form is the constitutive principle of the social organization. Continuing the negative work of the revolutionary tradition and the avant-garde the Situationists wanted to abolish this misery.

The perspective of the historical events and the Situationist project is not unambiguous, since they have not only been an expression of a genuine emancipatory potential where another world became visible, but are also defeats in so far as the revolutionary intentions were never realized. The archive thematizes a series of historic defeats, where revolutionaries threw themselves into the flow of events and risked everything in an attempt to escape from this world and its addictive and alienating structures. The numbing bombardment of the society of the spectacle paralyzes the human consciousness, but fails to completely shut it down. As the German sociologist Oscar Negt and the German filmmaker Alexander Kluge write, there is always a kind of obstinacy that capital is constantly trying to expropriate and mediate but which remains outside of capital’s reach. These short and intense revolutionary moments are living on as non-realised potentials constantly haunting the prevailing order and frequently returning as the 'aimless' aggressions and self-destructive outbursts this world is so full of. There is thus a residue left that is manifesting it self in the small violent excesses of the everyday – when stones are thrown at the police or when supermarkets are plundered – or once in a while as revolutionary moments, where the misery of this world is challenged.

The revolutionary projects highlighted in the archive are not only historical defeats, they are also fundamental breaks with the prevailing socio-economic order and form in their own way the emergence of new forms of life practices and desires. They are, in other words open unresolved historical moments filled with utopian impulses, which were met with violent repression by the ruling order. In this way the archive outlines an underground history consisting of a series of revolutionary potentials that were never realised. The archive establishes the background of the three films, which represent stages in the revolutionary departure from this world.

Mikkel Bolt and Jakob Jakobsen