'Nazar told me about a situation in Angola in 1992; after 17 years of the civil war with countless lives destroyed between warring factions - the ruling MPLA agreed to hold an election. Politicians from militarised groups came to the capital Luanda for the election. Wary of the potential for it to be a lure to trap them in the heart of enemy territory, the UNITA party supporters helped stage and voted in the election. When the result was declared a victory for the ruling party it disintegrated into claims of a rigged vote. MPLA troops began killing rival supporters all across the city, at voting stations and newspaper headquarters and in the street, in violence that would reignite another 13 years of civil war.
Two luxury hotels, the Tropico and the Turismo, usually the domain of international journalists in Luanda were the accomodation of the opposition parties staying in the capital for the election. When the election erupted into violence, the people staying in the hotels were forced to barricade themselves in their rooms to hide from the government army squads sent to kill them. The song is written from the perspective of someone trying to survive inside the hotel.
I wanted to create a line of flight through this situation. Initially I tried to create an accurate reconstruction of the actual spaces within the hotels, but through the process this changed. Through researching the Angolan civil war I wanted to create something that would create the emotional context for the song. A claustrophobia of ruptured rooms, skeletal remains of luxury hotels, the transformation of personal space turned into political no-man's land through extreme violence, the shifting centre of an infinite war. The camera moves as the memory of a soul on the breeze through a city experiencing a coup after an election.
Lebbeus Woods has written about the reconstruction of buildings damaged by war, how perhaps to demolish and rebuild would be to erase the memory of the action, and that architecture that preserves and highlights the scars of war might be a better way to proceed following a conflict. Architectural scars left as a pacifist warning for all to see. I wanted to make something that would bring this position into focus, through the buildings are woven military maps, paintings by exiled Angolan artist Viteix, Lusona patterns and models of period artefacts. Sections of the hotel are haunted by moments of violence and destruction; gunfire and collapsing areas looping endlessly through sections of the structure. In this piece all of the moments of action have been reconstructed into a spatiotemporal relationship that the presence of the viewer activates.
The idea of this is to give a sense of a feeling something like how a forensic architect would later read the patterns of destruction in an object. The scars left in the building makeup part of a sensorium, a hypertext of form and the history of actions, combined through research into a hybrid model of information. The concept of buildings being sensitive to the actions that happen within them also has a parallel in the paranormal concept of Stone Tape Theory. The artists are framed as sci-fi witnesses and haunting this space, protagonists in a holographic memory, the perpetual reconstruction of a nightmare moment living in the real world.
I wanted to create it as one shot for a number of reasons: The continuation of the shot provides direct context between all the areas and emotionally intensifies the piece as it progresses.
Walter Murch suggests that the reason editing works- cuts feel natural because they mirror the psychological purpose of blinking. When speaking, we blink at the end of sentences and points of punctuation, or when changing subjects. Murch filmed audiences watching his films in a cinema and found that the audience’s blinking often synchronises with cuts in the film they’re watching, which he also found would often also coincide with punctuation points in dialogue, and changes of physical subject. This correlation suggests that blinking could be shown to be a psychological tell of when people’s thoughts change. Films are often edited to a pace within the average blink speed - shots lasting between 2 - 5 seconds, shorter in action cinema. By extending your attention longer than this period the viewer is forced to blink without the subconscious rhythm of the cut. Creating a sort of hypnotic distrust with the film which puts you on edge but mesmerizes the viewer in a gaze inundated with collapsing structures, symbols and debris.
In development I discovered the storytelling of Lusona patterns which are a traditional narrative form in some parts of Angola. These drawings are ways of telling creation stories and spiritual moral fables and they take the form of unfolding a story while drawing a line around a structure of dots - the patterns revealed as the path of a hero in their dealings with god or ascendance to the afterlife. This sense of a line of flight as the path of a soul, creating a physical trail as a cultural memory device was something I was trying to echo while making this. The breeze carries the camera through the liminal states of life and death and the fight for political and historical representation within a state experiencing a coup after a failed election.' Rob Heppell
'The making of the Bunker video came from my need to materialise the concepts behind the album, Guerrilla, which comes from my practice of what I call the “artistic digitalisation of memories into soundwaves”, which is an audio narrative of my families experience of the Angolan war, in which my father was a general, fighting while his family lived in exile in Belgium. I wanted to take it further, to build these memories into animated imagery. And Rob was the perfect person to make this possible. The subjectivity of the source material - memories of human beings, in this case the members of my family - naturally transcended the fragmentary nature of the imagery generated throughout the video. Shattered and deconstructed like the sound of Guerrilla, for which I coined the mutant genre Rough Kuduro. Obscure and unstable like the past of my family. Bunker does a great job at stitching those narratives in a codified way that has all the clues in it. The more you watch it, the more you’ll understand." - Nazar
The film was shot in October 2019 at Studio GKZ, Somerset House London and animated over the next eight months while under lockdown in China and the UK.
C R E D I T S:
Song / Artists : Bunker : Nazar (featuring Shannen SP)
Commissioned by: Hyperdub
A film by Rob Heppell
Direction / Animation / VFX / Post Production : Rob Heppell
Clothing by Cottweiler
Special Thanks to : Ke Xu, Gaika, Matthew Dainty, Zara Truss-Giles
Produced by Rob Heppell Video Office