|Le cargo, 2013
Voice : Olivier Claverie
Video HD couleurs 16/9, 15'19”, son mono 9'.
Tirage : 3 + 1HC
|The image of a cargo ship gently moving along the horizon is projected on a screen in a silent room. Mp3 headphones are given to the audience. Whenever they wish, they can listen to the story that is narrated (see text below). It speaks of globalization, acculturation, and the cargo cult.
|Voir une version démo sur Viméo
|THE CARGO SHIP / VOICE-OFF TEXT
He was a vagabond, a dreamer.
One day while watching the ocean with boats crisscrossing the surface of the water, he thought of the curious millenarian belief born in the Pacific Islands in colonial days: the cargo cult.
The Melanesians saw cargo ships arrive laden with unfamiliar goods, odd and surprisingly elaborate utensils. These objects arrived in crates bearing the name of the addressees.
And, invariably, they were settlers.
Why were these white people, who were never seen actually making anything, the only ones to receive presents?
Clearly, the settlers were taking for themselves all of the valuable goods bestowed by the ancestors.
And so the Melanesians imitated the settlers: using makeshift radios, made of word and string, they ordered countless valuable goods from their forebears. And then they waited for the arrival of the cargo ship laden with their hopes.
The vagabond continued his reverie. He had the impression that he too was waiting for the cargo ship.
He recalled that the people of the islands had found a guide, a man named John Frum who invited them to destroy their property and throw the white man's money into the ocean. When the cargo ship would arrive, they wouldn't have to work anymore and all their desires would be fulfilled. Several times, the settlers thought they had arrested this dangerous prophet. But each time, a new John Frum popped up elsewhere with another face. Elusive enemy – they never knew if he was black or white.
The colonial days were long gone. The cargo ships were now “container ships” sometimes more than three-hundred meters long, transporting thousands of huge metal containers.
The vagabond knew that the invention of these sea monsters had revolutionized world trade, that the possibility of transferring the containers from a ship to a train or from a train to a truck had brought unemployment to dockers and delight to globalization.
That day, while the ocean seemed to be asleep, he decided to be John Frum.
After his years of wandering, which he justified without much conviction by his nomad origins, he had developed friendships with a few former coastguards who, out of bravado or necessity, had switched to ship docking.
These modern pirates attacked the supertankers, the biggest freighters, and the luxury cruisers that passed nearby ... For his part, he remembered Libertalia, the mythical city established on anarchist principles by pirates in the 17th century: communal lands, rotating leadership, equal sharing of booty ... But his acolytes were not there for political purposes. They were executing the orders of a local potentate and were just trying to survive.
Early in the morning, they arrived in inconspicuous fast boats, equipped with kalashnikovs and grappling irons, and seized the ship. And its 2,821 containers.
The expected ransom was substantial but he had other ambitions: this had to be the cargo ship sent by the ancestors.
He found the words to convince his companions. They abandoned the crew on a dinghy and restarted the ship's engines. Then right in the middle of the ocean, they emptied the containers. One by one. Thousands of touch screens, smart phones, hybrid cars, talking dolls, air shoes, and electric raclette makers were thrown overboard.
Now, the containers were empty and ready to receive the bounty from the ancestors.
They put objects that had been stolen in them: statuettes, masks, and relics, whose sacred vocation had been lost in the silence of museums and their storerooms.
“What a good move!” the pirates said, both proud and amused. But he knew that it wasn't enough. He observed the objects, despairingly inert. The treasures of the ancestors could not be this...
He stood up to speak. His tone was solemn. He declared that each container must hold a fragment of the cultures wiped out by the unification of the world. He said that all the immaterial treasures lost by humankind had to be recovered.
His acolytes remained speechless... But then all of a sudden a murmur arose. A multitude of voices, out of who knows where, brought back to life the infinite tumult of extinct languages: Abipón, Acroá, Adai, Ajawa, Aka-Bo, Alsea, Arára, Aribwatsa, Atsahuaca, Atakapa, Awabakal, Baga Kaloum, Baga Sobané, Baniva, Barngarla, Bassa-Gumna, Bayali, Cayuse, Chana and many many more ...
Do you understand, he asked them? But before they could answer, the air thickened with uncanny silent presences. Spirits, deceased or dying, huddled beside them at present: gods of leprosy, of small pox, of the tomato, of intoxication, of rain, of thunder... and in their wake, multitudes of impalpable beings: dwellers in heaven watching over their fallen fellow creatures; wives from the beyond, jealous and angry; invisible doubles following us step by step ...
The vagabond himself was surprised by the appearance of this strange pantheon. But this was only the beginning... For then came the forgotten vocations: healers of fear who ward off harmful winds and rectify destinies; bird men, protégés of the gods, for they knew how to take the egg from the sooty tern; heart thieves who furtively sneak into the entrails of children; soul eaters who turn into animals to assault sleepers; or straw men as chiefs, enjoying the prestige of deciding nothing.
The containers filled up little by little. The men witnessed with fascination old practices coming back to life: pacts of blood, milk, or saliva that build bonds and hopes; foot marriages that herald fortune and prosperity; extravagant gifts that oblige rivals forever; head thefts that mark the transition from childhood to adulthood; newborn skulls shaped to measure up to the beauty and wisdom of the gods; powers and virtues acquired by devouring the vanquished.
The ship continued on. Time was once again going to be behind or ahead of itself; the sun travel across the days; the storm spirit hurl the stone of thunder and give humans lightning and rain; the rainbow serpent stop the water from the heavens from falling to bury it with its head in water holes. Everything would thus be saved, thought the vagabond.
But was there really any point? Was he merely being driven by vain nostalgia?
He watch the men on deck speaking Pidgin or Creole as usual, throwing together beliefs, reconciling old and new gods, and going into trances to the sound of MP3s.
He told himself that ultimately, the ancestors had never ever really gone away.