Close

Andree Korpys and Markus Loffler

The Nuclear Football, Germany, 2004

Video, 30:30 min.

Courtesy of the artists

The point of departure of the movie "The Nuclear Football"is the official visit by US President George W. Bush to Berlin in May 2002 (a few months after September 11). As accredited journalists, Andree Korpys and Markus Loffler were able to document the event, from the moment the presidential plane landed at the Tegel Airport, by way of President Bush’s visit to the Bellevue palace, the official residence of the German president, up to the departure of the plane and president two days later.

But the focus of the film is not upon the American president, wrote Inke Arns, curator of the “History will repeat itself” exhibition; rather, it hinges upon a valise of plain appearance known as The Nuclear Football, permanently at hand to the president and enabling him at any moment to proclaim nuclear war in the event of an attack upon the United States.

A sense of discomfort and tension grows as the movie proceeds. These sensations do not stem merely from the photographic choices that enclose unconventional frames; they derive also from the artists’ choice of content. Ostensibly, they seem to focus upon the margins of the formal visit, such as the organizational and logistic preparations for the ceremonies by the security officials. But when one links the theatricality and precision marking the preparations, and the threat contained in the president’s suitcase, a different picture emerges: the ceremonies constitute the other side of the obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) that dictates international relations. If the obsession represents concern surrounding the president’s suitcase and the fact that the fate of the world lies in the hands of one individual, the ceremonies accompanying the meetings between nations and leaders symbolize the obsessive activities whose purpose it is to camouflage and bolster this concern.