CAN DIALECTICS BREAK BRICKS? (1973)

René Viénet

“The trajectory of (La dialectique peut-elle casser les briques) is quite complex: (René) Viénet has appropriated an entire Hong Kong martial arts flick originally named The Crush (directed by Doo Kwang Gee and Lam Nin Tung (1972)). He added Maoist subtitles to it and thus transformed the story of a single Chinese kung fu fighter saving a school full of Koreans under Japanese colonial oppression into a situationist narrative about the fight of proletarians against bureaucrats. While the original color version in 35mm featured the original Chinese soundtrack with new French subtitles, a later version was subbed in French, subtitled in English, letterboxed, and transferred to B/W video. A VHS tape of this version was given to me by Viennese friend and archivist, who apparently got it from a American colleague via a Hamburg-based film historian. The tape was so worn down that it was impossible to transfer it into any other format. So I ended up filming the quote I needed from the TV screen, and if looks closely at this image, one sees a faint mirror image of myself and the camera in the image - a trace of a quite difficult transfer, a material imprint of the film’s complicated journey… a richly layered history of translation, alteration, appropriation and recontextualization within the most diverse media economies. It is almost impossible to assign any geographical provenience to this material, let alone authorship. Who is the author of this work? The Chinese directors of the visual track, the French director of the audio track or the anonymous person who transferred the film to black and white video? To whom does this work belong?”


Steyerl H “The Essay as Conformism? : Some Notes on Global Image Economies” (2011) Essays on the Essay Film Alter N and Corrigan T (eds.) New York, NY: Columbia University Press (2017), 279-280.

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