The Credit X Film Programme, presented by Modern Forms, is a 12-month, 12-film series of video artworks shown via galleries in the Credit X network, curated by Mazzy-Mae Green, Nick Hackworth, and Greta Voeller, with each film to be shown alongside a text from one of the curators.
The programme’s inaugural screening was of Ted Le Swer’s ‘Storm Arnold,’ which was available to watch from 1 – 30 September.
Text by Greta Voeller
Storm Arnold is a short film reenacting the ending of American Sci-Fi blockbuster Total Recall (1990), by Chelsea College of Art and Design graduate and co-founder of Collective Ending HQ, Ted Le Swer.
Interrogating notions of memory and knowledge structures, Storm Arnold aims to actively employ a rupture system that deconstructs the ending of the cult film by recruiting ecological memory and subverting relations of thought, matter, and narrative.
Disrupted by their own memories, Le Swer catapults four film extras of the original movie into a seemingly novel context. Set within the parameters of an imagined movie set, the main stunt double (of Arnold Schwarzenegger) is caught in an anthropogenic setting amongst his co-actors, being two mutants and the atmosphere, attempting to reestablish the preordained narrative the ending of the original movie presented.
In the 1990 cult film, the director Paul Verhoeven constructs the following setting: it’s the year 2084 and the location is set as Mars, where a former construction worker turned voluntary spy through the purchase of a commercial package serving alternate identities, erased his previous memory. Ingrained in this new knowledge-system he is led to the red planet, not as a common tourist, but as a secret agent. He is both the protagonist and secondary antagonist of the film and joins the Martian resistance against the dictatorship on the planet, which hold the monopoly over air distribution, forcing the population to pay for breathing air. This results in the poorest members of society receiving little supply of oxygen and experiencing genetic mutations passed down through generations. Throughout the film, a psychological secondary narrative is interwoven into the adventures of the hero, showing the suppressed memory of a man named Hauser resurfacing, and manoeuvring the man’s choices. Through a series of events, he is offered a pill (yes, Matrix – but that came nine years later) that could take him back to reality, and that otherwise would cause him to be lobotomized and his mind being trapped to live in an alternate reality forever. Choosing the latter, he finally manages to activate a subterrain reactor, and opens the oxygen gates for wider society, saving the population as well as himself. It remains unclear which narrative, his former life as a construction worker or as a secret spy, is actually the real one.
Le Swer iconoclasts the ending of the movie by enlarging the spectrum of ethical questioning in relation to memory and human interaction with ecology and terraformations. The existential angst presented in the short film is enforced by the use of cryptic choreography, live-action improvisation and computer-generated imagery/animation. Not solely through the integration of human and non-human agents, but also a temporal and spatial multiplicity, does the artist employ alternate perceptions of the reality we encounter in the film. In Storm Arnold, a rupture in narrative is created through the combination of the film extras occupying a large space and presence, working in tandem and revolting the attention from the protagonist to an extended cast.
Historically, the dynamic unity developed by Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus foretells the thought process that things and identities change through active and dynamic meanings during the process of being related to one another. This seems pertinent here, as Le Swer uses dynamism to actively compose a new combination system where the extras regain or re-organise their memory by working collaboratively. One way he does this is by anthropomorphizing all the components of the film.
Whilst being a chance of escapism to other worlds, Storm Arnold is most and foremost an ode to reimagining society’s relation towards ecology, offering an opportunity to corrupt the dominant narrative that prevails.