Encounters in Columbus, Ohio

Klaus Wyborny

From September 1978 to June 1979, I was a professor in the cinema department in Columbus and also met Skip two or three times. But it was little more than brief small talk because I had never met him in Germany and his name only indistinctly meant something to me (per Helmut Herbst). My memory, at least, is extremely vague. In any case, he never came into the bar where I would go in the evening. And I’d also say that he was not studying film at the time, but English (or something else?). Can that be? It seems very unlikely to me that he was doing a PhD in the cinema department. I think they didn’t have a PhD program. Although there was enough intellectual potential going around with Ron Green and Thom Andersen, with whom I spent a lot of time back then, and also later with Noël Burch, who I helped get in the door for my job when I left—since one year in Ohio was enough for me. Most of the students were likely undergraduates.

Photograph by Skip Norman, c. 1982

Be that as it may: we weren’t so close as in the video that Gerd Conradt made with him on Cyprus (and that I just watched). Which I now regret because I also got to know Holger Meins for a few weeks in his early phase and Skip’s description of Holger’s openheartedness is accurate. He was obviously very observant and could describe things with nuance.

I can now recall how I first encountered him in Columbus. It was at the school and, in fact, at one of those dull meet-and-greet events. Yeah, he was sitting there. Which is why I initially thought he had an assistant teaching position in the documentary film section. Since it had extremely luxurious facilities: The entire department lived off of college football. College football: At Ohio State, that meant 100,000 spectators every week and there was a lot of money in it. Therefore, all of the games and all of the training sessions were filmed with 16mm cameras so that the trainer could optimize the plays using an analytic projector. To this end, a small film lab was even constructed where 16mm reversal could be processed night and day. Good for our students. There were 15 or more professors in the department, some with a misty Hollywood past—Robert Redford stopped by once when he was shooting Brubaker (1980) nearby. But also an Egyptian who, because I shared an office with him, at some pointed offered me a job in Tripoli under Gaddafi, although he had never seen any of my films. Well, with the rise of video, all of this probably disappeared. But in 1978, it was still going strong.

At this get-together, I joked around with Skip—Helmut Herbst, Bitomsky, Farocki, etc. etc.—and it consequently took me completely by surprise when he said that he didn’t have a job there but was in Columbus—to study! And I—this is why I remember this so well now—simply did not get why someone who had finished at the dffb and already directed multiple films, was then pursuing a silly BA in a subject that still sounded like nonsense to me at the time. Well, since then I’ve changed my opinion about visual anthropology, but I still remember that—shock. That someone who was over forty would begin such a degree. I myself was only 33 and did not yet have any feeling for urgently necessary strategies to ensure one’s existence.

Today, I think that he had understood that the dffb was useless for him in America, that it had led him down a one-way street, as nice as it had been. And that he saw more realistic chances in a new degree. It’s admirable, then, that he even managed to finance it all the way to a PhD.

From e-mails from August 27 and 29, 2020

Translated by Ted Fendt. German version available as a PDF.

Klaus Wyborny has been a prolific filmmaker, theorist, and teacher since 1967. In 1968, he was one of the founders of the Hamburger Filmmacher Cooperative. His films have been screened at numerous international festivals and his theoretical writings on film have been published in three volumes in 2012, 2013, and 2016. For more information, see his comprehensive websites www.typee.de and http://wyborny.cinegraph.de.

[Suggested citation: Klaus Wyborny, “Encounters in Columbus, Ohio” Rosa Mercedes 03/B (April 2021), www.harun-farocki-institut.org/en/2021/04/30/encounters-in-columbus-ohio/]

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April 30th, 2021 — Rosa Mercedes / 03 / B

The Reconstruction of Ukraine. Ruination / Representation / Solidarity, online symposium, September 9-11, 2022. “The Reconstruction of Ukraine: Ruination / Representation / Solidarity” devotes particular attention to cities, architecture, art, culture and psychological trauma – but the scope of the conversations it aims to start is broader. In due course, the discussions held during the symposium may coalesce into myriad projects, initiatives and experiments undertaken by government institutions, municipalities, educational and cultural bodies and other more interstitial actors. The ambition of this symposium is to establish a platform for dialogue, facilitating communication, collaboration and constructive argument between diverse actors and initiatives.

George Edwards (Zetkin Collective) on war, nationalism and the “anti-climate lobby” (via Arts of the Working Class): “The latest prognosis of this particular war was spelt out in a flurry of reports from the IPCC; the most recent, described as ‘an atlas of human suffering’ by the chief of the UN, demanded ‘rapid, deep and immediate’ emissions cuts in all sectors to ensure an inhabitable planet for all. In step with the science, many wish this conflict to mark the beginning of an intensified programme of decarbonization, ridding economies of not only Russian, but all fossil fuels, wherever their geological source. But whilst political leaders scramble abroad to secure new sources of fossil fuels – sweet-talking sheiks and summoning LNG terminals from the ground – a resourceful and committed cohort, let’s call them the anti-climate lobby, refuse to accept this diagnosis. The partakers in the fossil industry have seized upon this crisis, sensing it as an opportunity to enlarge and entrench economic interests rooted in fossil fuels. As the course of action prescribed by the IPCC imperils this line of business, the attempts to secure fresh investments in fossil fuel infrastructures, to lock-in production and secure profits for the coming decades may feel all the more pressing. The solutions they pose also fit within the national frame and it is with nationalist political forces that they find their most ardent allies.”

July 31st, 2022

The fundamental difference that we face in Europe at the moment between the Western approach characterized by the pursuit of peace and the Eastern one focused on liberation and independence poses a dramatic challenge – in order to survive and progress, democracy as a political regime has to be capable of defending itself also in a military way.” Armed Democracy revolves around the concepts of imperialism, liberation, fascism, autocracy, revolution, and militarization in pursuit of the world to come on Europe’s burnt out land. Conceived by the Kyiv Biennial and Biennale Warszawa from the East Europe Biennial Alliance, this special public program, curated by Vasyl Cherepanyn within the 2nd edition of Biennale Warszawa, the program is a first part of the series organized by the East Europe Biennial Alliance discussing Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine and taking place in Warsaw, Prague, Kassel, and Riga over the summer and fall of 2022.

Olena Lyubchenko on Whiteness, Expropriation, War, and Social Reproduction in Ukraine (via LeftEast): “[…] when we hear on the news that ‘Ukraine is fighting a European war’ and ‘Ukraine is defending Europe’, amid images of fleeing ‘poor white’ women with children prioritized over racialized ‘Others’, ‘Ukraine’ is being made ‘white’ in the global imaginary. That is, “the injunction to ‘return to Europe’ by way of Europeanization is enabled and conditioned on the mythologies of Western civilization, and that Europeanization at once marks (promulgates) and unmarks (naturalizes) racial whiteness” [Nadezhda Husakouskaya and Randi Gressgård]. The paradox is that Europe’s existence as such has only been possible precisely because of the exploitation of global working peoples through expropriation of resources and today neoliberal economic reforms and reproduced by feminized labour.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn about the “inertness, hiding behind the European Wall” (via L’Internationale): “Many Western institutions that have been claiming ‘radical political engagement’ for years, have simply resorted to a white cube radicalism and self-satisfying humanitarianism, too afraid of acting politically beyond their comfort zone and unsettling their publics and authorities by attempting to affect the decision-making process regarding the Ukrainian cause.”

May 28th, 2022

Tatsiana Shchurko on the War in Ukraine, Entangled Imperialisms, and Transnational Feminist Solidarity, via LeftEast (May 2, 2022): “[An] uneven knowledge production and the many implications of the war against Ukraine reveal the dire need to develop a feminist anti-capitalist critique of multiple imperialisms. This language should grow from within the occupied and suppressed communities of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. An anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist feminist positionality grasps that the local is part of a global in an effort to build transnational connections of mutual aid and support against state and corporate violence. For example, statements of solidarity with Ukraine expressed by the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia and Native American communities along with the anti-war feminist march in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) on March 8, 2022, pointing out that the war in Ukraine should be of concern for a broad transnational community, may serve as instrumental examples of alternative anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist solidarities that stretch beyond state regulations and macro-politics and foreground decolonial perspectives, necessary in addressing entanglements of multiple imperialisms. Such solidarities also bring to light hidden interconnections of the past that allowed for distant communities to survive and support each other against the violence of imperialist intervention and its attendant capitalist exploitation. Thus, the march in Bishkek reminds of the socialist roots of the International Women’s Day to call for internationalist, intersectional, class solidarity against imperialism and militarism.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn on that “It’ll take more than tanks to ease Germany’s guilt” (via Politico): “Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, Germany has been imposing neocolonial optics on its Eastern European ‘peripheries,’ and on the post-Soviet space in particular, where Ukraine was long considered a gray buffer zone about which the EU was ‘deeply concerned.’ Germany didn’t bother itself much with differentiating between former Soviet countries’ pasts. Even until recently, any Ukrainian agenda in Germany was often ‘balanced’ with a Russian perspective, so as to not exclude the latter by any means.”

An unnamed anarchist and art scholar, who joined the Territorial Defense Forces, quoted by Olexii Kuchanskyi in an essay on “Digital Leviathan and His Nuclear Tail” (via Your Art and e-flux notes): “At dawn, Dima and I talked about cinema. Dima believes that cinema is inferior to literature as a means of expression because you spend much more time with a book than a film. It’s a really interesting point, something to dig into. I studied at the department of art theory & history and I never thought of it. Dima served in the military after school and worked at the factory all his life. He listens to rap, smokes pot, and tries to have fun. He is thirty-eight, his child was born last year. He likes Wong Kar-wai and is a fan of Asian cinema in general. Dima communicates by quoting Omar Khayyam, Confucius, and other awesome guys.”

April 20th, 2022
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