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Thomson & Craighead: A Short Film About War

Thomson & Craighead engage with the Internet as both subject matter and material. A Short Film About War (2009) explores individual responses to contemporary conflict. The video contains a split screen: one side displays photographs found online, the other reveals the data associated with them. This includes the URL, date and location taken and name or pseudonym of the creator. Drawing attention to Internet images illustrates the greater ease, speed and decreased cost of disseminating visual culture. These changes enable it to reach a wider audience; though, by no means a universal one. A large portion of the world is without Internet access or appropriate hardware.1

The different URLs illustrate the multitude of perspectives explored by the film. A Short Film About War presents different voices and experiences in a variety of languages and geographical-political positions. The spoken words belong to online bloggers. They are empowered by their Internet connection, able to share their story. The proliferation of online publishing is able to contest grand ideological narratives, such as jingoistic mass media propaganda. The Internet has profoundly changed our experience of war. Conflicts now unfold with real-time Twitter updates.

However, the myriad of voices present on the Internet is also chaotic and confusing. In A Short Film About War photographs rush past the screen at great speed. Their location can radically change in a split second, to a whole different warzone. The viewer isn’t given enough time to digest each snapshot before they disappear. It is hard to appreciate the unique situation of each different site of conflict. This reflects the experience of the Internet user, inundated with words and images. Each individual must sift through the data on offer, to select their own information. Such an activity is part of Thomson & Craighead’s role as ‘authors’ of the film. The piece does have a collaborative element, using found material. Ultimately though, the artists have chosen the particular visual and textual depictions, and imposed their own sequence. They are not without their own bias, agenda and ideological position.

Edwin Coomasaru

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1 Julian Stallabrass, Internet Art: The Online Clash of Culture and Commerce (Tate Publishing: London, 2003), p.48-51.

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