"General Dynamics European Land Systems Steyr": These words can be read towards the ending in Johann Lurf´s EMBARGO. The film has a telling, almost ominous title, and it is accompanied by the information that it deals with arms industry and its locations. In this way, the film demands of its audience an investigating type of look – a perceptual apriori which EMBARGO´s spatial arrangement folds into paradoxical textures.
The image is to be read in paranoia mode. Other films made by Lurf show us a postmodernist multi-purpose hall (Picture Perfect Pyramid) or a torpedo testing site (Reconnaissance) as if these buildings were mysterious temples. In EMBARGO, industrial containers and façades, bathed in floodlights and displaying bits of writing here and there, are turned into uncanny spaces carrying enigmatic inscriptions.
In geopolitics, the word "embargo" most often refers to the interdiction of arms exports into zones or countries – lands – of crisis and conflict. European corporations often skirt embargos, in quite systematic ways. "European Land Systems". And then there is the traditional urban location, at the same time a renowned brand of Austrian arms manufacture: "Steyr", versed not least in the remote control-based steering of optical devices with a military purpose – "Camcopter S 100 unmanned air system", as another of the inscriptions in EMBARGO reads. These words designate what is commonly called a drone. A drone allows you to look into spaces for which an embargo on perception is in force. It serves a purpose of observation known as "reconnaissance". In Lurf´s images, observing means testing – a scrutiny that places the image-space under pressure; this goes for places of arms industry behind fences as well as for our perception of these places.
EMBARGO´s montage arranges views in an all-encompassing play of forces – "General Dynamics" – that problematizes movement. Spaces are displayed in camera travellings in a gesture of dis-play as playful disturbance, which is emulated in the techno score by Jung an Tagen. First there is micro-movement in frozen nightly long-shots that have an air of picture puzzle; then, there is precipitation in the image-movement, to the extent of an explosion that rips apart foreground and background.
If you sometimes deal with film criticism, you know the word embargo as a reference to blocking periods for film reviews, especially in the case of spectacular big budget productions. This kind of embargo resembles the notorious "spoiler alert" as much as Lurf´s films of industry display unexpected affinities with the dynamics of the film industry´s mindgame and SciFi movies. The music to EMBARGO is reminiscent of Vertigo. After all the observation, things end up in a "rush", and the background races past – as if the secret buildings behind the fences were pushed away by aliens or other monstrous powers. (Drehli Robnik)
Using elaborate recording technology, Johann Lurf breathes life into Austrian arms manufacturers – more precisely, the surface of their architecture, which is visible from a distance and therefor contradicts the information embargo inside. Set to a driving gaming sound, levels shift and signal lights glow in rich contrasts. In our midst and yet seemingly from another world. (prod note)
In his films Johann Lurf often explores very particular places. In RECONNAISSANCE this is an area in the USA surrounding the spectacular ruin of a dam that was used up until the 1990s as a military test range for torpedoes. In contrast, Picture Perfect Pyramid is concerned with a piece of architecture close to Vienna in which events are held – a glass pyramid which because of its artificiality reminds one of Las Vegas. Using a sophisticated process of recording Lurf inspects the terrain and, at the same time, evokes the power of these images. In his newest film, EMBARGO, he deals with the Austrian armaments industry or, more accurately, the visibility of this sector. The position of the filmmaker in relation to the subject can be deduced from the title. For the first time there will be a soundtrack composed for EMBARGO which was produced by Jung an Tagen. Naoko Kaltschmidt
Diagonale 2015: Avantgarde-Rundschau, von Rainer Kienböck, Jugend ohne Film, 04.04.2015 (Article)
Diagonale 2015: Avantgarde-Rundschau, von Rainer Kienböck, Jugend ohne Film, 04.04.2015