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Installation view of Fear Defence Disappearance (2011) a moving image work by Isabel Rocamora at Videoformes 2012.


"Contemplating the half-buried mass of a bunker, with its clogged ventilators and the narrow slit for the observer, is like contemplating a mirror,

the reflections of our own power over death, the power of our own

mode of destruction, the industry of war.”

Paul Virilio, Bunker Archeology

Fear, Defence, Disappearance questions established positions on the necessity for conflict by looking at the mental and physical structures of defence built around it. Inviting reflection through a comparison between the solid casemates found on the Normandy beaches – disused vestiges of WW II – and the young, fierce bodies of today's soldiers in training, this moving image diptych looks at the body of the soldier as fortress. From this perspective, weare invited to contemplate how the forms taken by these military structures reflect our existential fear of death.

There is a certain resonance in form and function between the bunker and the sacrophagus. The bunker is a place of safety, a type of burial house (or blockhouse) from which we observe danger and which guards us from actual death. Studying this phenomenon, Paul Virilio ironically points out: "The bunkers of the European Littoral were from the start the funerary monuments of the German dream". Although now forgotten, strewn along the European coast, these blocks are a premonitory reminder of our own perverse death wish.

In Fear, Defence, Disappearance, the artist’s voice guides us through an ennumeration of "structures of protection" and "architectures of defence", alluding to the extensive terminology in our bellic vocabulary. This proliferation of terms reminds us of our historical need to label and distinguish between strategies of military action – strategies which ultimately are undergirded by one and the same principle: "Protect, Defend, Attack".

The words “munition” and “ammunition” derive from “munitio”, latin for “fortress”. From wall to weapon. A parallel can be drawn between hand-to-hand combat training – where the enemies are face to face, using their bodies as armour – and the construction of a fortress. And yet in the closeness of the fight, clasps, holds and bites evoke an intimacy, an immense humanity, that announces the possibility of an opening. Installed like a sculpture in the void, the dual projection invites the viewer into a Sisyphean world where repetition, time and expectation play out the destiny of history in the making.

Rocamora spent several months interviewing and observing ex-soldiers who are experts in the defence system Krav Magà developed by the Israeli Army, and now practiced by many armies worldwide. Quoting from this military form of combat, she then created a mise-en-scène by placing actors (ex-soldiers) in the historic landscapes of Normandy, its beaches and its only remaining landing strip (today Cherbourg Airport).

Film stills of Fear Defence Disappearance

Installation views of Fear Defence Disappearance at Arts Santa Monica, Barcelona 2011, and Videoformes, Clermont Ferrand 2012. Documentation by the artist. © 2012

This film is part of The Intimacy of Violence exhibition, a solo show that examines the nature of military training in a series of interrelated moving and still image works, at the core of which is Body of War.

Fear Defence Disappearance and The Speed of Violence elaborate on Body of War's themes of fragility and repetition by quoting from the film to further interrogate the existential implications of conflict and its defence systems.

The Intimacy of Violence premiered as an expanded exhibition at Senda Gallery and Arts Santa Monica in Barcelona in 2011.

An artist essay on the making of Body of War and Faith is published in Cinematic Intermediality, Eds. Marion Schmid and Kim Knowles, Edinburgh University Press, 2021.

Written and directed by: Isabel Rocamora • Featuring: Nick Maison, Robert Gajewski, James Hobson, Krzysztof Szczenpankski  • Cinematography: Nic Knowland BSC, Alessandra Scherillo • Film editors: Nicolas Chaudeurge, Isabel Rocamora •  Sound design: Chu-li Shewring, Paul Cowgill, Isabel Rocamora • Sound recordists: Sean Millar, Mick Duffield • Additional sound recording: Greys • Costume design: Matt Price, Susan Gurley • Camera operator: Tim Sidell-Rodríguez • Steadycam: Simon Wood • Commissioned by: SED •  Funded by: Jerwood Foundation, Esmee Fairbairn, Arts Council England • Supported by: Amister Collection, Mairie of Néville Sur Mer • Executive Producers for Body of War: Vicky Bloor, Isabel Rocamora • Produced by: Stella Nwimo, Stealth Films and Isabel Rocamora for the Isabel Rocamora Studio. Year of production: 2011. 

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