Decline and Fall

Los Angeles–based artist and writer Erika Suderburg returns to Filmforum with her latest video, Decline and Fall (2007), a provocative examination of power and destruction that brings together World War II archival footage with more recent peace protests in Rome and Los Angeles, as well as imagery drawn from everyday life. We see old black-and-white footage showing the devastation of Berlin, the work of Trümmerfrauen — women in long lines relaying buckets of rubble — and the haunting green shadows of troops photographed with night-vision cameras in Iraq. Rather than rendering a cohesive argument, Suderburg relies on juxtaposition and the associations generated by seeing patterns of power, oppression, destruction and rebuilding. Dubbed “parataxis” in literature, the technique allows ideas to build not necessarily through hierarchical sequence, with point A leading directly to B, but through connections that weave a dynamic texture of insights — ideas you might not have except through this collision of disparate clips. The closing image, of the night sky swirling above an ancient observatory atop a pyramid — the end credits reveal that it is El Caracol in Yucatan — underscores the video’s sweeping temporal horizon; an easy conclusion would surmise that the ritualistic cycle of power, decline and fall will continue in the movement of history. However, Suderburg’s images are striking for the sharp differences they suggest between the imperialist order that was shaken in World War II and the contemporary call for shock and awe. It’s clear that the regimes taking shape now, which wield enormous power, demand new modes of resistance — a project undertaken by Suderburg’s engaging video and its call for active, thoughtful viewers to step forward and make sense of our world. Filmforum at the Egyptian Theatre; Sun., Jan. 28, 7 p.m. (323) 466-3456 or

—Holly Willis

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