First Citizen

In “First Citizen (House of the Deaf Man)” Søren Thilo Funder takes “guilt” and “debt” as his starting point, as a potential downside of the “idyll”. Through cinematic narrative and sampling, he weaves a pattern of ideas arguing that citizenship consists partly of inherited debt and that this debt is something that a citizen unconsciously desires. Using, for instance, psycho-dynamic therapy’s idea of unconscious motives, he reflects upon guilt/debt as something necessary if one wants to be part of a community, and that the initiation ritual is about implantation of the inherited guilt/debt.

Now I’m going to tell you something that happened to you when you were six years old. One day, when you were walking through the park on your way home from school, you found a small red purse, which you recognized as belonging to one of your little friends. The purse contained two shiny coins. You knew that the right thing to do was to return the purse and money to your little chump and that was your intention. But when you passed by the candy store the temptation was too great. You stepped inside and bought your favorite kind of gum with the money. Worried, you threw the purse away. You thought that you could hide the gum at home but your mother caught you with it. When she asked where you got it, you were so confused that you said you found it. Your mother took the gum away from you. She said that you could have it back when you told her the truth. You were so worried that you never talked about the incident again. You felt that you had not only stolen the money but lied to your mother. This worry continues to bother you and exhibits itself in devious ways in your adult life today. You understand?
(Unconscious Motivation, 1949)

You could say that Adam in the Old Testament was the first citizen. Or Eve. The “first” emerges from the relation to “the second”. Without “the second”, “the first” does not exist; rather, “the second” is then “the first”. Or perhaps Cain, the first man to be born. Or Abel, the second, hence “the first”, and the first man to possess something to murder for. Or Cain, again, the first man to murder for something somebody else possesses and to incur guilt or debt.

A citizen is a person with citizenship – membership in a political community such as a country or city.
(“Citizen”, Wikipedia, 2013)

The first time I met Søren Thilo Funder we were taking part in the Qui Vive? biennial in Moscow. It was in summer 2010. We shared a hotel with artists from countries such as the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, China, Turkey and France. The hotel had a lounge, a bar, a Wi-Fi and a buffet breakfast, and it was located close to the city centre. The artists who came from the former Soviet republics had to contend with accommodation in barracks outside of Moscow.

Debt cannot be reduced to a simple economic mechanism, for it is also a technique of “public safety” through which individual and collective subjectivities are governed and controlled. Its aim is to minimize the uncertainty of the time and behavior of the governed. We are forever sinking further into debt to the State, to private insurance, and, on a more general level, to corporations. To insure that we honor our debts, we are at once encouraged and compelled to become the “entrepreneurs” of our lives, of our “human capital”. In this way, our entire material, psychological, and affective horizon is upended and reconfigured.
(Maurizio Lazzarato, The Making of the Indebted Man, 2012)

It was a cold January day when I began my military service at the Lapland Ranger Regiment in Kiruna, Northern Sweden. During a period of almost a year and a half we were trained as rangers, soldiers capable of advanced guerrilla warfare in an arctic environment. The mountain landscape was idyllic. The threat came from the east. It was our duty to defend our country. We were considered to possess something to murder for.

The next day, Sledge puts on a suit and goes to register for classes at Alabama Polytechnic Institute. The registrar asks him if he attended any special schools in the Marine Corps. Sledge tells her that he went through boot camp and specialized in the mortar squad. She runs down the list of skills: Journalism? Accounting? Engineering? He replies no to them all. She politely puts the paper down and asks him if the Marines taught him anything that he could continue at Alabama Polytechnic. He pauses for a moment, then leans in and whispers, “They taught me how to kill Japs. I got pretty damn good at it.”
(“The Pacifics”, Internet Movie Database, 2010)

“Duelo a garrotazos” (Fight with Cudgels) like the other so-called Black Paintings, (Las pinturas negras), by Francisco Goya were painted in oil directly on the wall of his house, “Quinta del sordo” (House of the Deaf Man). The painting is assumed to allude to the control policy “divide and rule”, divide et impera.

To catch the rats you have to fill all their holes with water, leaving only one open. In this way you can catch 35 to 45 rats.
You have to make sure that you choose only the males.
You put them in a cage and give them only water to drink.
After a while they start to get hungry, their front teeth start growing and even though, normally, they would not kill members of their own tribe, since they risk suffocation, they are forced to kill the weak one in the cage.
And then another weak one, and another weak one, and another weak one.
They go on until only the strongest and most superior rat of them all is left in the cage.
Now the rat catcher continues to give the rat water.
At this point timing is extremely important.
The rat’s teeth are growing. When the rat catcher sees that there is only half an hour left before the rat will suffocate, he opens the cage, takes a knife, removes the rat’s eyes and lets it go.
Now the rat is nervous, outraged and in a panic. He faces his own death and runs into the rat hole and kills every rat that comes his way. Until he comes across the rat who is stronger and superior to him.
(Marina Abramovic, How we in the Balkans kill rats, 1997)

Homo sacer, both “the accursed man” and “the sacred man”, was expunged from society, banned, and deprived of a citizen’s protection. He could be killed by anyone without the killer being regarded as a murderer, resulting in neither guilt or debt. Homo sacer was outside the law, vogelfrei, varg i veum. He did not possess anything to murder for.

Johnny’s got his gun
And he’s on the run
But he don’t care
To him, the shit’s fun
Now that he’s an outlaw
Sort of like Robin Hood
The hard-rock hero
Of the whole neighborhood
If they catch him
He’ll wind up in court
But it ain’t a crime if you don’t get caught.
(House of Pain, “It ain’t a crime”, Same as It Ever Was, 1994)

On 11 April 1961, the then President of France, Charles de Gaulle, made a promise of Algeria’s independence. The promise was considered treachery by the French military, and a coup was put into effect with the support of the Foreign Legion parachute regiment. The coup was, however, suppressed and the paratroopers were imprisoned. When led out of their barracks, they were singing Édith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien”. Their participation in the attempted coup resulted in the regiment being disbanded. It was replaced by the creation of the 2nd Foreign Legion Parachute Regiment which was situated in Corsica, banished from the continent. But still today, the paratroopers sing “Non, je ne regrette rien” when marching on parade.

Oscar Guermouche, 2013

Text on Søren Thilo Funder’s “First Citizen (House of the Deaf Man)” (HD Video, 12’30”, 2013).

For Idyll, the Turku Biennial 2013.