Susanna Helke: 
Estrangement and the Gestures of Emancipation

Susanna Helke: Carers (Armotonta Menoa) – A Documentary Film Couplet on the Privatization of Old People's Care in Finland. 90 mins.

(Work in progress).

At its very core, estrangement is an emancipatory strategy in art. Different techniques of estrangement have been employed to achieve a heightened awareness of, for example, the historical and political context addressed by a theatre piece or film. Debates on artistic strategies that would activate spectators, not to mention emancipatory aspirations within the theory and praxis of cinema in general, have been anchored in questions concerning the faculty of cinematic language to create ruptures in the identification- and empathy-driven and transparent flow of narration in order to activate the spectators. The concept of defamiliarizing emerged in the Early Russian Formalism, which informed the work of Sergei Eisenstein and others. Later, debates between thinkers and artists such as Georg Lukács, Bertolt Brecht, Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno addressed the potential of critical spectatorship. How valid are these debates for contemporary cinema? Jacques Rancière, one of the key figures in contemporary philosophy, contributed to the debate on emancipated spectatorship, scrutinizing the what the pursuits of emancipation in art entail.


Estrangement as Pedagogy


Emancipatory desires have emerged in two distinct forms in the history of theatre. Whilst some have sought to activate spectators to take a participatory role, others have placed their faith in the totality and violence of the rituals of the art form itself. Political art has taken the form of pedagogy and propagation, or – for example in the spectacles of the Theatre of Cruelty of Antonin Artaud – spectators have been assumed to deserve the annihilation of subtopian souls. Estrangement – or defamiliarizing – has been employed as a strategy of interruptions, in the Brechtian sense, to halt the cathartic pleasures of identification and shatter the transparency of the narrative flow. The excesses of formal elements interfere with identification and the representational context. Peter Gidal, for example, has referred to structuralist-materialist film as a “move towards form” in a “continual attempt to destroy the illusion”. Aparna Sharma reflected on Gidal’s notion of structuralist-materialist film: “Such cinema, non-narrative and materialist, claims to activate the viewer – s/he is not a passive recipient of stories and meanings” (2015, p. 140).


In Early Russian Formalist thinking, estrangement/defamiliarizing was understood as an ultimately evitable strategy of any art. Viktor Shklovski put forth the strategy of art thus:


“[...] life is reckoned as nothing. Habitualization devours work, clothes, furniture, one's wife, and the fear of war. [...] And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object: the object is not important [...]” (Shklovski, 1965, p. 12).


The original Shklovskian idea of estrangement was related in particular to the aesthetic qualities of art rather than to its pedagogical affinities.


The struggle against habitualization, the invisibility of the experienced world in which the audience was entangled, was an incontestable component in the Brechtian notion of estrangement. Brechtian epic theatre was based on the idea of using interruptions as a strategy to situate the spectators in the societal context in which they were living. Instead of a spectacle in which to be immersed, epic theatre created a pulpit for instruction in order to empower political citizenship, or a laboratory for a societal vivisection. Rather than empathize with the story characters, spectators were invited to actively form an understanding of and become experts on their own societal situation (Benjamin, 1998, pp. 4-16). The technique of vivisection was a gestural theatre of interrupted action. “Epic theatre, then, does not reproduce conditions but, rather, reveals them. This uncovering of conditions is brought about through processes being interrupted”, as Benjamin wrote (1998, p. 4-5). Nevertheless, the fantasy of the working class as a monolithic formation with unified desires – an idea that is contested in various post-Marxist theoretizations (e.g. Laclau, Mouffe, Negri) – was an undeniable constituent of Brecht’s proclamations of epic theatre. Without problematization of the tendency in emancipatory projects to use categorizations such as “poor”, “working class” or “immigrants” as voids that can be filled with any subjugated –and totalized – identities, minorities and groups, we end up concealing the fact that the power remains divided between those who denominate the desires of others and those who are seen as objects of the emancipatory passions of the emancipators (Helke, 2017, pp. 117-118).


Jacques Rancière has scrutinized the underlying assumptions embedded in the endeavours of emancipating the spectator – both the totalitarian and pedagogical affinities that these efforts entail. At the core of Rancière's thinking is a notion of equality as a point of departure rather than an aim; the given rather than something which can be given – donated by those whose superior agency is camouflaged as benevolence. “Equality was not an end to attain, but a point of departure, a supposition to maintain in every circumstance”, for “the same intelligence is at work in all the productions of the human mind”, as Rancière wrote (1991, p. 138, 18). This radical notion of equality as the given challenges progressive emancipatory aspirations such as the notion of giving voices. Rancière’s thinking can be seen as profoundly critical of and oppositional towards the didactic and paternalistic intentions of the political and progressive societal agendas in the arts, which have been fundamental for the social documentary project from the beginning. “Equality is not a goal that governments and societies could succeed in reaching. To pose equality as a goal is to hand over to the pedagogues of progress, who widen endlessly the distance they promise that they will abolish”, as Rancière wrote (2003, p. 223). Rancière's thinking radicalizes the conceptions of the emancipatory desires in art that have emerged throughout history.


In The Emancipated Spectator in particular, Rancière scrutinized core assumptions of the emancipatory strategies employed in theatre history, especially those of the epic theatre of Bertolt Brecht and the Artaudian Theatre of Cruelty. According to Rancière, these emancipatory desires insinuate the similar “stupefying” distance embedded in the operations of pedagogy. The underlying assumption is that there is an opposition between viewing/knowing, appearance/reality, activity/passivity; it is not acknowledged that the duality of these positions “specifically define[s] a distribution of the sensible, an a priori distribution of the positions and capacities and incapacities attached to these positions. They are embodied allegories of inequality” (2009, p. 12). The spectator is discredited as someone who does nothing and is therefore inferior and passive until the authors/directors/actors of the actions of art enable the redemption, camouflaged as an emancipatory gesture as this may be. Inspired by Joseph Jacotot’s ideas of the equality of all intelligences, Rancière instead positions the emancipatory authorship and spectatorship within the paradigms of this radical notion of equality: “Emancipation begins when we challenge the opposition between viewing and acting; when we understand that the self-evident facts that structure the relations between saying, seeing and doing themselves belong to the structure of domination and subjection. […] The spectator also acts, like the pupil or scholar. She observes, selects, compares, interprets” (Rancière, 2009, p. 13).


The social documentary project is a quintessential emancipatory endeavour. Since early on, the aspirations of social documentary have been interwoven with the progressive political agendas of the welfare state building-ethos in Western societies during the Great Depression of the 1930s. These ideas were explicit in the aims stated for John Grierson’s British Documentary Film Movement, as well as in those of the North American documentary film movements during the Roosevelt New Deal-era. The conception of documentary film as a new genre, demonstrated in the films made within the British Documentary Film Movement, was an amalgamation of the influence of Sergei Eisenstein’s Soviet montage; the poetic cinema language of the 1920s avantgarde; didactic inclinations of citizen education, and the state-funded filmmaking model which Grierson himself called ”propaganda for good”– epitomizing his idea of documentary filmmaking as a tool to enforce and fortify the commitment to the shared common good of the Welfare State apparatus. Earlier still, Jacob A. Riis and Lewis Hine’s documentary photography from the beginning of the 1900s embodied the parameters of the social documentary project: the subjects were mute bodies providing evidence, supporting the argument and promoting the progressive agenda of change. Photography was considered a tool to provide evidence of societal defects rather than a medium for aesthetic expression (Helke, 2017, pp. 117-119).


The social documentary project retains the heritage of the agenda of change, the emancipatory desires formulated as an instrumental relation to the medium and the subjects of the film. The voices, faces, and bodies of the Others are often mere vessels for the maker’s intentions, a codified message in the narrative texture of the film, however artfully and skilfully this message is delivered. “The socially oriented filmmaker is […] the almighty voice-giver […] whose position of authority in the production of meaning continues to go unchallenged, skillfully masked as it is by its righteous mission”, in the words of the filmmaker-theorist Trinh T. Minh-ha. (1993, p. 96). Within this predefined linear trajectory of cause and effect, the spectator is destined to remain at the receiving end, as the one to be educated. Trinh T. Minh-ha has called her own filmmaking an act of speaking nearby rather than speaking about: “[…] a speaking that does not objectify, does not point to an object as if it is distant from the speaking subject or absent from the speaking place. A speaking that reflects on itself and can come very close to a subject without, however, seizing or claiming it” (Chen, 1992, p. 87). In line with Trinh’s thinking, speaking nearby means acknowledging the possible gap between oneself and those populating one’s film, leaving a space of representation open and not claiming to be able to speak on their behalf. “You can only speak nearby, in proximity (whether the other is physically present or absent), which requires that you deliberately suspend meaning, preventing it from merely closing and hence leaving a gap in the formation process”.


Speaking nearby acknowledges the necessity of refusing the hierarchical relation between the maker and the subject, as well as the very understanding of how knowledge itself is constituted, following the omniscient claims regarding what knowing about presupposes (Trinh, 2018). To assume that it is possible to tell about is to claim that totalized meaning is possible. “In the quest for totalized meaning and for knowledge-for-knowledge’s sake, the worst meaning is meaninglessness” (Trinh, 1993, p. 107). On the contrary, the voices and desires of subjects can be radically different than our own. The voices do not need permission to exist. The false assumption embedded in the progressive agendas of change is that there is a common and shared totality of belonging, something to which everyone yearns to be invited. History testifies the contrary: most often the emancipatory moments have been the result of violent ruptures with those who have no part demanding their share of rights, and not the result of consensual negotiations with predefined terms. The very terms of belonging have been renegotiated. In the words of Ernesto Laclau, “Society presents itself, to a great degree, not as an objective, harmonic order, but as an ensemble of divergent forces which do not seem to obey any unified or unifying logic” (1988, p. 15).


The artistic strategy coined as estrangement is entangled with emancipatory pursuits, and the underlying assumptions of those desires thus have to be reconsidered. The pressing question concerns whose agency defines the exchange and interplay between the subjects of the film and the maker’s agenda within the parameters of the narrative space. Is the exchange between the maker, the subject/s and the spectator seen as a linear process throughout which the filmmaker’s observations can remain intact? If the underlying assumption is that equality is a goal rather than a point of departure, the maker is positioned as a gatekeeper and enabler of the agency and voices of the film’s subjects, a promoter of a predefined objective using subjects whose ultimate role is to act as mere examples of societal defects, victim protagonists exemplifying the observations of the Documentarist. Instead, if the radical notion of equality as the point of departure is profoundly understood, I enter the exchange in and process of filmmaking from a fundamentally different position, accepting the undeniable agency and subjectivity of others.

Susanna Helke: Carers (Armotonta Menoa) – A Documentary Film Couplet on the Privatization of Old People's Care in Finland. 90 mins. (Work in progress).

A nurse working in the remote care unit leads a remotely shared lunch gathering, interviewing the “clients” about their meals etc. One elderly lady comments, with a hint of irritation: “it would be nice if I could hear something!”

PART II Alejandro Pedregal: Testimony as Resistance

The Invisible Political


Yuri Tsivian has discussed Shklovski’s, Sergei Eisenstein’s, Dziga Vertov and Aleksandr Rodchenko’s revolutionary aesthetics of turning things upside down as “the gestures of revolution”. The idea of estrangement, making strange, ostrannenye (or, as Shklovski misspelled it, ostranenye) emerged in the context of the formal camera art experimentation of the early Russian leftist revolutionary formalist art movements (Tsivian 2010, pp. 22-32). These artists celebrated the novel forms of the mechanical arts of photography and cinematography as a possible way to go beyond the limitations of the mundane, everyday perspectives of the human eye, the habitual ways of seeing surrounding realities. The gestures of turning the world upside down, looking at it – literally – from new angles using the new media of photography and cinematography, was a fascinating novelty for the artists of the Russian Avantgarde. In our contemporary, saturated media reality, the enthusiasm for the mechanical possibilities of camera devices in creating exposure to new realities seems obsolete. But can estrangement still be considered a valid strategy? What could the artistic gestures be in making the habitual seem strange, to be observed in a new light, to be employed for creating ruptures in spectators’ relationship to common-sensical reality?


Even if the power of the arts is considered as a means to create ruptures in the ways of experiencing the pre-existing order of common-sensical reality, the question remains: how can reality-material based art – such as documentary film – employ strategies that reach beyond the constraints of documentary realism? In the context of social documentary, the question is particularly pressing. When burdened by the legacy of pedagogy, expository tendencies and affinities for the agenda of change, how can poetic ruptures in the distribution of the sensual in the Rancièrenean sense be created? How can the existing world be illuminated differently, not merely as proof to support an argument, but as something that creates frictions in how reality is experienced? When understood as a gesture of redistribution of the sensible, defamiliarization/estrangement is not merely a pedagogical stance aiming to activate the presumably passive consumer-spectators, but an aesthetic strategy in its own right. By making the depicted objects of life sensed, it can also make the ordinary be sensed differently and rendered visible; the experienced everyday reality as we know it is made to seem strange. It can create ruptures in the ways in which the experienced social or political reality is represented as normal, for example. The new order, the dislocated meanings, the ruptures in the consensual may emerge, although the ends to which they do this cannot necessarily be anticipated.


Regardless of its mode or method, a documentary film is always an inevitably materialized expression of something particular, something that happens in corporeal history; otherwise the definition of the term documentary becomes entirely meaningless. By the same token, this distinction is arbitrary, and its foundation is in the naming, as well as in the conventions shared in the community of practitioners; the performative turn, the emergence of hybrid forms within creative documentary filmmaking, mixing fictional elements and strategies, experimental or subjective perspectives which have become integral parts of the contemporary creative documentary field. Nevertheless, as long as we agree to the epithet "documentary", we inevitably enter the realm of dialectical tension between pre-existing experienced history and the representation of it as an act of framing. This permanent tension can only be eradicated by disowning the designation. The historicity of the moment is more viscerally present than when we are not sheltered by the other designation, that of “fiction”. Nevertheless, the proclamations of early practitioners of direct cinema tied the observational mode of documentary film to a false confidence in objectivity in its reliance on noninterventionism as an imperative. This imperative becomes particularly flat when trying to capture something which is not essentially present in any particular spontaneous occurrence, in any event or process as such – something happenstance. If the nature of what is being expressed is unperceivable, something concealed and hidden, the act of mere observation becomes an obsolete instrument.


The documentary genre carries forth certain persistent signifiers of documentary realism, or the style of authenticity. The prevalent methods in the mainstream documentary film industry continue to be the authentic effect created by the spontaneous, handheld camera style of the observational mode of documentary, and the on-camera testimonies of those bearing witness to experienced history, grounded on the habeas corpus rule – much like the legal system’s reliance on the necessity of the presence of the witnesses in their body and identity. Rather than being understood as imposing the mechanics of pedagogy on the film apparatus, the possibilities for estrangement can be seen as a strategy for radicalizing the very poetics of cinema. Whilst the immersion in the flow of the illusion, transparency of the medium, and character identification are predominant in narrative drama and within the conventions of fictional storytelling, within the paradigms of documentary realism, the non-transparency of the film medium and the lack of narrative fluency have been more or less the norm. Therefore, in the context of documentary, rather than halting the immersion in the flow of narration or character identification as such, the effect of estrangement could emerge by disrupting the codes and modes through which the feel of documentary authenticity is created – the very documentariness of documentary expression.


I am currently working on a documentary material-based film that aims to capture the privatization of the elderly care sector in Finland. Carers (Armotonta menoa), (Work in progress) is a feature-length documentary film that utilises songs composed and arranged as choir music. The songs’ lyrics are based on “documentary” material: neologisms from economics, the "newspeak" of our era. Some of the songs are based on material from interviews with people who work in the elderly care sector, who spoke about their work experiences under the pressures of efficiency and budget cuts. The lyrics play with the banalities of the economic neologisms, but also, by concealing the real identities of the actual people, are a tongue-in-cheek testament to the experiences of the health care workers. The film is being made in the context of Images of Harmony and Rupture, an artistic research project I am leading at Aalto University’s Critical Cinema Lab. The research project aims at rethinking the conventions stemming from the traditions of "political" and "social" documentary, and, as an artistic and practice-led research project, at catalysing new methods for capturing the paradigm change in the Finnish welfare society via documentary film. A current challenge for documentary filmmakers is how to depict the political crises in contemporary wealthy societies such as Finland. How can, for example, an abstract and multifaceted phenomenon such as the "neoliberal paradigm change" be made cinematically experiential? What are the possibilities of documentary film practice as a reflexive and critical endeavour beyond the narrative models and modes stemming from the emotional economy of the hegemonic film industries that are increasingly dominating documentary film production culture?


Big multinational corporations have taken over the elderly care sector in Finland, without any major public political debates or democratic decision-making, and the magnitude of this takeover was the fundamental observation that led to this film. During the last few decades, Finland has followed the Scandinavian welfare state model. Nevertheless, the economic and political undercurrents have been dominated by the emergence of the neoliberal paradigm since the deep recession the Finnish economy experienced in the 1990s, and this paradigm has more or less vanquished the political landscape. This has gradually resulted in a new framework for addressing the relation between society’s private and public sectors. With its promises of "freedom of choice" and the notion of citizens and patients as consumers and clients, privatization has been increasingly celebrated. At the same time, the public sector has grown increasingly synonymous with inefficiency, deterioration and a threat to economic growth and the dynamism of society. The pervasiveness and simultaneously undramatic nature of these operations relate to what Fredric Jameson has described as the essence of late capitalism. “What 'late' generally conveys is [...] the sense that something has changed, that things are different, that we have gone through a transformation of the life world which is somehow decisive but incomparable with the older convulsions of modernization and industrialization, less perceptible and dramatic, somehow, but more permanent precisely because more thoroughgoing and all-pervasive” (Jameson 1991, xxi). This “less perceptible” nature of the econo-political reality of the present is what creates the very challenge of making these operations perceivable.


The film Carers employs strategies of testimonial parody and satire to capture the essence of the “unperceivable” through choir songs, sung by anonymous female care workers or retirees, in the tableau vivant settings of real workplaces. In one scene, a group of retirees sing “We are the sustainability gap”, staring straight into the camera while working out at the gym. The lyrics have a darkly humorous tone; the econo-bureaucratic language of the newspeak is transformed into the faces, bodies and voices of those who are concealed by this very language. The demonized public sector consists of all those underpaid workers – mostly women – who sometimes must literally run at work in order to meet the required quotas, shouldering the unbearable burden of having to negotiate with their work ethics for fear of the possible repercussions of speaking out about the mistreatment of the “clients” because of the omnipresent exploitative corporate culture. These tableaus are juxtaposed with observational documentary material depicting various experiences in which the paradigm of efficiency and austerity become concrete. For example, the promises of digitalization have become an integral part of facing the challenges of the growing population of elderly citizens. The care workers working in the call centre of a digital remote care unit go through hundreds of video calls with the clients every week, giving them instructions regarding daily medications and facilitating virtual physical exercises via the video call device. The dislocation of meaning is intended to be catalysed cinematically by juxtaposing the abovementioned incommensurable and conflicting elements, as well as by breaking the neutralized documentary realism that stems from the convention of spontaneous observation as a persistent ground zero of the style of authenticity of the genre.


In both the artistic research project Harmony and Rupture as well as the film project Carers, there is an important question that concerns scrutinising the possibilities of absurdity and laughter in the documentary context. Could absurdism and parody enable a more accurate capture of the complexities of the present political normalcies to which we are accustomed in order to represent an abstract reality such as the societal paradigm change described above? The definition of documentary film as a discourse of sobriety (Nichols, 1991, p. 3) reflects the fundamental heritage the genre has borne since its early forms, such as the documentary photography of the early twentieth century, which marked the inception of social documentary as a new form, using the photographic apparatus to witness societal defects. The social documentary film tradition particularly has relied heavily on the serious and solemn. To this day, the mute and serious victim protagonist remains a firm part of the socially concerned documentary industry (Helke, 2017, pp. 117-118).


The film Carers aims to portray the incompatibility of the ethics of care with the logic of profitability. The clash of these incompatible paradigms is an abstract notion, and the question is how to make it cinematically perceivable. As the politico-economical rhetoric has normalized the paradoxical idea of generating profit from caring for the elderly, the cinematic strategies in this film seek to render visible – through dark satire and the defamiliarizing effect of the tableau vivant flash mob scenes with choir music – the absurdity of this logic. The aim is to make the normalcy of the bureaucratic language reveal its nonsensical nature, creating a satiric undertone with the assemblage of the incongruous elements of choir music, everyday settings, the newspeak of economics or the absurd details of the care workers’ experiences and the seriousness of the singers. The choir music is a quintessential embodiment of a community: something is shared and sung together. The testimony of those who are made invisible by the pervasive econo-political language becomes heard.


Elizabeth Cowie has addressed the ephemeral and contingent nature of the brute reality and the ways in which documentary expression can exceed the limits of the factual, enabling the imaginative speculation of the “unpresented”. “What arises is a ‘seeing anew in an estrangement through which the everyday and the taken for granted is re-presented” (Cowie, 2007, pp. 204-205). My aim in Carers is not merely to bear witness to the victims of the paradigms of elderly care system as such, but to make visible the taken for granted nature of the way “we” as a society have naturalized the needs of the economy at the cost of other values, such as the decent care of those who are no longer productive members of society and thus no longer useful to the economy. Exceeding the limits of the mere factuality is necessary, because the essence of what is being shown is not the “reality” of the elderly care as such, but that society has naturalized the aims of austerity and efficiency in the care sector. In Carers, the imaginative speculation takes the form of playful songs, aimed at creating a parodic relation to the experienced econo-political reality.


Jean Rouch embraced the process of filmmaking and the presence of the camera in his etno-fictions of the 1950s and 60s, as well as in his formulations of cinéma vérité in the 1960s, as a catalytic process. Cinéma vérité was – apart from the non-interventionist imperatives of direct cinema – based on a method that relied on the capacity of camera presence to intensify the latent potentiality in historical moments. “One enters a realm that is not reality but its provocation, which reveals reality”, as Rouch stated (Téchine & Fieschi, 1967, pp. 18-19). The similar ideas of participatory approaches to documentary making have emerged in contemporary creative documentary scenes, filmmakers using methods employing collaboration, performative elements and re-enactments within the documentary film context. Joshua Oppenheimer’s Killing Pictures (2013) employ the re-enactments as an homage to Rithy Panh’s method of remembrance of genocide and political atrocities by making those involved with the traumatic historical experience re-engage with the very locations in which the traumatic history had occurred; the way Mads Brügger triggers “truth” by “lying” in his film The Ambassador (2011), using himself as an agent – a character based on a camouflaged fake identity as a Liberian ambassador – to provoke situations in front of the camera, revealing the grim and corrupted reality of the blood diamond trade in the Central African Republic; the fake performances of the activist artist collective Yes Men, and many other contemporary creative documentary makers who have entered into the realm of performative documentary. These films exceed the idea of documenting as the mere observation of spontaneous occurrences; they rely on performances, fictionalized role plays, to catalyse and reveal what lingers behind the normalcy of business as usual – what is hidden from plain sight. What Dara Wallron has coined as new nonfiction film “comes out of skepticism toward forms of documentary seen to engender hegemonic relationships between director and subject, knowledge and sense, story and reality, and finally, time and space” (2018, loc 3869) is cinema made in collaboration and in conjunction with those who live their lives in history, but whose “stories” are not said to be captured in simplistic paradigms of documentation.


I can also personally relate to embracing the idea of the cinema apparatus as a catalyst of heightened meaning, rather than emphasizing the noninterventionist ideals of direct documentary as a way to access crude and authentic reality. My doctoral dissertation Nanookin jälki (A Trace of Nanook, 2006) was an exploration of the margins in the imagined in-between borderland between fictional and documentary production conventions, tracing the filmmaking methods related to what French film theorist François Niney termed documentaire joué – documentary of playing and acting (Niney, 2000, p. 120). Such filmmaking is based on catalysed rather than observed reality: a collaboration and co-play between the filmmaker and the film “models”, re-enacting and intervening as a deliberate strategy. It is not a cinema of fiction as it is known in the mainstream, hegemonic dramatic film industry, nor does it document the indexical traces of reality as a transparent form of knowledge production.


Within the documentary context, my attempt in Carers is to create tension between observational documentary moments interrupted by tableau vivant choir settings, with lyrics stemming from the econo-political newspeak which has become a superimposed “reality” in present-day society, with songs sung by people rendered invisible by that very language. The singers also represent those whose experiences the songs bear witness to, even though the real identities of those people remain concealed. The singing tableaus are used as interruptions which aim to trigger ruptures in the ways reality is addressed and experienced rather than find identification within the victim narrative. What the technocratic newspeak presents as rational and sound is made to appear absurd and nonsensical. The catalysing element in Carers lies in the collision between the strange and the familiar, everyday experiences and scenes made strange. The heightened meaning is embedded in the strange and estranged feel of the flash mob-like scenes, revealing the absurdity of the paradigms concealed by politics as technocracy. The film creates a playful but serious proposal for an alternative perspective on reality. As McManus has stated: “knowledge of the world can no longer be fallaciously conceived via various epistemologies of the ‘given’, and becomes, instead, a creative epistemology of the possible”(McManus, 2003, p. 2). The spectators are invited to laugh – and it is in this laughter that ruptures may occur.

The translation of the lyrics (watch the video clip):


Ghost nurses sign the rosters/

the brooms are swayed by the dead souls/

This free labor comes mighty cheap/

but even the non-existent can’t fast enough sweep.


The hygiene jumpsuit is handy for the stripper/

the wearer cannot reach the zipper/

the brilliant booster diaper/

keeps them even dryer.


Soon the robots lift them cripples/

remotely working caregivers/

By smart device pills are calculated/

Mom, it’s digi fever believe it!


When the going gets tough/

the tough get going/

When the going gets tough/

the tough get going.

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