Unknown Quantity
Black background: View from above of a man and a woman in conversation
Thu, October 16, 2003

A film by Andrei Ujica - an installation by Johannes Fischer

In the immediate aftermath of the 11 September Paul Virilio suffered from a malaise found very seldom among philosophers, which was caused by an excessive degree of confirmation on the part of reality. He broke off work on his book »L'accident Intégral« to put together an exhibition that was designed to illustrate the concept of the global accident in all its topicality. The outcome was the much-vaunted Ce qui arrive, which was housed in the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain in Paris from 29 November 2002 to 30 March 2003. The cinematic installation, Unknown Quantity, which was a key part of the exhibition, features the staging of a discussion between Paul Virilio and Svetlana Alexiyevich, the author of the book »Chernobyl. Chronicle of the Future«, the essential witness's statement on the conversion of history in catastrophe.

Andrei Ujica is known for only accepting invitations to exhibitions if they place cinematographic debate in the realm of art. Hence the images in this project are reduced to essentials, on the one hand because they can thus do justice to the traditional genre of philosophical dialogue and, on the other, because they are intended to recall the early days of cinema. Johannes Fischer has designed an installation that incorporates the projection into the production and integrated an auditorium, which is desemanticised as far as possible and, en passant as it were, provides a direct link between Virilio’s interpretation of the cinema as a machine de vision and Mélie’s assumption of the emergence of the same from a box of tricks.

The only intended association with the cinematic past is Tarkowski’s »Stalker«. It begins with the spatial vagueness of the installation between the corridor and the waiting room before moving on to the protagonists, who are talking outside beneath the window surrounded by the dark. It gradually becomes clear that Svetlana Alexiyevich is a stalker by profession. She comes from the dead zone to pay Virilio a visit. And what is Virilio himself other than a stalker who fled to the city years ago?


With: Svetlana Alexiyevich and Paul Virilio 
Design: Martin Langewitz - David Caspar Schäfer MiR Design Karlsruhe
Camera: Nico Hain 
Sound / Sound Design: Thomas Sauer - Volker Schmitt 
Production: Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain Paris - ZKM Karlsruhe – Geyer / von Vietinghoff Film Berlin DigiBeta, 30 min., looped

Organization / Institution
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie