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Rasha Salti
on Sobhi al-Zobaidi
"Red, Green, Black and White Indians," 2007

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Sobhi al-Zobaidi, Red, Green, Black and White Indians,
Camera: International Solidarity Movement (ISM) Video by: Sobhi al-Zobaidi 2007

Thoughts on "Red, Green, Black and White Indians" , a video by Sobhi al-Zobaidi

Much has been written and said about the democratizing effect of the increasing spread and availability of video digital technologies on production, perhaps not enough about its impact in the Arab world. On the one hand, men and women whom ten or fifteen years ago might not have even dreamed of becoming filmmakers or video artists have been able to stake a claim in these fields. On the other hand the light-weight and remarkably lowered costs of production have enabled production, as well as staking a worthwhile degree of independence from structures such as the market and public support for the arts. This material independence has more often than not inspired an immaterial, creative freedom. The respective stories of video art and video as a substitute for film are slightly different, and increasingly so with the passage of time. I do not wish to dwell on either here. We are at the beginning of this revolution in “the means of production”, more time has to lapse before the depth or scale of its impact can be fully evaluated. In general, the texts that have attempted to understand the implications of the ‘democratizing’ impact of these technologies have been skin-deep diagnoses, possibly because it is premature and complicated to take a step back and reflect, but mostly because they almost systematically miss out on embedding their so-called analysis (or soliloquy) in a political-economic-social context, and in locating the practice of manufacture of image and narrative in the larger visual landscape.
I myself am not yet able grasp or explain how digital video is changing the manner in which representation, narrative, political action, and subversion find expression. Nor am I able to grasp the full implications of archives such as YouTube, GoogleVideo, or whatever else is out there on the internet in terms of storage and dissemination of videos, on our political, artistic, visual imaginary, the manner in which we write/represent our historical moment or place ourselves within it. Before I dwell on what I canstate with some confidence, I would like to express my aversion to all-too-easy celebrations of “the new”, although I am aware that I have used the words “new” and “revolution” liberally in the preceding paragraphs. Sadly, again, this post-modern bracket we are living today seems not to have fully repented from euphoric exaltations of all things “new” or “unprecedented”, which at best betrays a perverse anti-historical tendency, and at worst a silencing or erasure of knowledge of history. In other words, I am not really sure how making subversive, provocative or interpellative short videos and releasing them in spheres such as the worldwide web are radically different as an artistic and political act, from making posters in the same spirit and placating them on city walls some hundred or more years ago. The essential ingredients seem to be there: bringing into visibility what is sequestered and policed into invisibility, giving voice to what is silenced, reversing metaphors, and undermining the official or prevailing narrative.

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