Museum of Non-Participation
Deep State
45 min HD Video
Close Window
  • Deep State is a science fiction inflected protest "training film" made in collaboration with author China Mieville which takes as its starting points different moments of political struggle, informed particularly by current revolutionary processes taking place in Egypt and close collaboration with the Cairo media collective Mosireen. The film takes its title from the Turkish term Derin Devlet, meaning state within the state. Although its existence is impossible to verify, this shadowy nexus of special interests and covert relationships is the place where real power is said to reside, and where fundamental decisions are made decisions that often run counter to the outward impression of democracy.

    Amorphous and unseen, the influence of this deep state is glimpsed at regular points throughout the film most clearly surfacing in its reflexive responses to popular protest, and in legislated acts of violence and containment.

    A powerful undertow in the ongoing tide of history, this push and pull of competing forces is illuminated in a vivid montage of newly filmed and archive footage. Collided together, past, present and future trace a continuum, in which the same repetitive patterns are played out. Against a backdrop of momentous, historically resonant demonstrations, an eternal rioter, or riotonaut, is picked out, as if by a searchlight, ever-present at each and every flashpoint.

    Nominated for the Jarman Award 2012

    Deep State is commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella. Funded by Arts Council England and London Councils.

  • Deep State, 45 mins, HD

  • Screen Grab: Deep State

  • Original Treatment for Deep State film by China Mieville

    What will look to its audiences today like an art film is, in fact, a popular mass-market multiplex mainstream offering. It is, though, an artefact from a future in which the mass of cultural consumers have been given the time and space to develop the critical tools to develop a wider conception of the popular/populist form than is currently possible. The analogy is with the early days of the Russian Revolution when large numbers of people, including the illiterate, crammed into halls to hear lectures about subjects as previously recherch� as classical Greek poetry.

    The film is an interruption into our usual transmissions, beamed back through time by film-makers proud of its success, and eager to have it break onto our screens.

    This film is structured with various still-recognisable appurtenances of the pulp movie. There is a 'goody', a 'baddy', the bare-bones of a three-act-structure, and so forth, but filtered through a more experimental and bricolage-based methodology.

    This is a history of riots told through the journeys of our protagonist, the 'goody', a time-travelling rioter, who passes through the holes in conventional history that are created by the irruptive power of riots. The timeline is broken by a scattershot sequence of holes, that such moments embody, and they become linked portals. The film will attempt to grant each such event its own specificity, so as not to succumb to some ahistorical romanticisation of violence, but at the same time to relate to these acts as inextricably related to each other by a common quiddity. The story is of the time-traveller's journeying through a two-fold movement: first, the motion from riot to insurrection; second, the move from insurrection to reconstruction. The time-traveller her/himself is inserted into transmissions from countless riots, appearing, not with the smooth CGI of a Hollywood film, but with the keloid edge of scar tissue, in footage from a variety of uprisings.

  • The antagonist, the 'baddy', is the Deep State. This entity, a heuristic borrowed from the Turkish situation, represents an invaluable model to avoid a reductive opposition, too-often evident in the writings of those who are interested in parapolitics, between the notion of the responsibility for various malevolent conspiracies lying with 'the state', in some abstract and monolithic way, versus that of it being the responsibility of some shadowy cabal of all-powerful overlords (the Illuminati, the Bilderbergs, the Jews - such theories often shade into anti-semitism - etc.). The Deep State, rather, in focusing on particular groups within a heterogeneous totality called 'the state', wings of the state, at depths of plausible deniability, from which other equally loyal state elements may be excluded.

    In this film, the Deep State is precisely that submerged predatory leviathan presence that swims closer to the surface at moments of crisis, such as riots and insurrection. However, as the film progresses, the danger of exonerating the state tout court by focusing on the Deep State as the supposedly uniquely predatory element within the state (a fundamentally social-democratic conception) will be undermined, in the last stages of the narrative. This will allow us to indulge the narrative drama of the Deep State as a kind of political 'Jaws' swimming up against us, but not to collapse ultimately into concomitant apologetic politics.

    In what follows, all of the descriptions of the slow emergence of a narrative arc should not be understood to undermine the methodology of bricolage. The narrative is described her in reasonably straightforward terms, but it will be constituted by successions of images, rather than in any trite fashion, and not all of the images that we will see will in any overt or obvious way directly explicate that narrative arc. It will require the collaboration of the viewers. As presented here, it seems very literal this will be obscured by the collected images in the finished product.

  • Prologue.

    A succession of images, found footage from everyday television, including ads and the distillation of ads shots of commodities motionless, lit in glorying fashion. This discordant succession of scenes is broken, interrupted, in staticky and distressed intervention, by the broadcast from the future, like a cross between Max Headroom and a broken television. There a certain sense of inevitability, almost embarrassment, about this interruption-trope. Nonetheless, inserts and broken voices, indicate to the viewer that this is a unique opportunity to view an award-winning film, that has picked up strange-sounding prizes such as (for example) Peoples Cinematic Academy Award for Truth. This information emerges in scratchy, interruptive images. This kind of interruption is juxtaposed with moments of interruptive strategy in other situations, most particularly Verges in law.

    Act One.

    We start with the Egyptian uprising of 2011. Footage can present a condensed version of the events more or less as they happened. The sense will be given very clearly of a city growing ever more restive and ready to explode. Footage of Egyptian comrades explaining certain issues of the background must be used to grant the situation its specificity. At the same time, the thesis of riots as language can start to be expounded, by use of a juxtaposition of certain repeated and typical acts of insurrection the thrown stone, the outstretched arms, a certain chant with a mouth speaking a particular phoneme, so that such phonemes and certain particular actions become inextricably linked. In the first instance, at this early point, these are simple sounds: buh; thuh; gah; and so on. Each as if in a training film for children painstakingly stated by an Egyptian mouth seen in close-up, and pinned to an image, until the image starts to intrude on the moments of the speaking, and the sound and image is tied absolutely together. Slowly, over this first part of the film, these phonemes are strung together into non-real but plausible-sounding collections of two and three sounds, with their images also spliced together, so we might end up for eg seeing two or three brief snips of footage cut together, over the spoken nonsense word they represent.

    This should be interspersed with some of the more toxic crap spoken by Blair and Biden and other Western rulers about the revolutions. By the juxtapositions, their fluent language should be harsh and jarring gibberish, whereas the careful and slow exposition of the riot language is an attempt, faltering, to speak something new.

    In this section we are introduced, through scattered and occasional footage, to the protagonist. For a long time this figure is wearing a red headscarf in such a way that it is ambiguous whether it is a hijab or a revolutionary bandana or both, and the gender of the protagonist is either unclear or shifting. We see him/her as they move through the crowd, in constructed shots of them alone, and spliced an obvious intrusion onto real footage of the protests and the riots.

    This footage will obviously include real footage of people looking, seeing police coming, running, fighting, running again. Images will start to appear of the figure that was circulated by the revolutionaries before the riots, of a member of the shubaab spraying in the face of a riot cop. It is a still image, but it could even in various ways be animated, for brief moments.

    The slogan of that figure Hold your ground, Egyptian! becomes a repeated leitmotif of the film. Over the course of the film, the phonemes that make up that phrase in Arabic and in English will be slowly constructed from the riot-language of sound-signs that is developing.

    Our protagonist is part of the crowd, but is also distinguishing him/herself by their constant looking around, either as if followed and/or as if looking for something. As the action of the riots and insurrection heats up, the footage begins to be intercut, barely perceptibly at first, with footage of other riots, other uprisings. At a certain critical-mass moment, when Tahrir Square is taken, the camera finds a succession of doors, through one of which, the portals, the protagonist walks. Does lots of meandering walking through the city and in the rest of the film, through whatever city s/he is in.

    After several seconds there is also the hazy passage of the Deep State, some hazy presence, through the doors, following the protagonist.

  • Act Two.

    This act will be the longest of the three.

    The act will open over a long silence and darkness, broken at first tentatively then more and more by searchlights. Illuminating and reconfiguring bodies. These searchlights become like antennae, periodically feeling their way through scenes from now to the rest of the film. They are like the mindless parasite grubs on the body of the state.

    Over this opening, a discussion/exposition of the Deep State, Gladio-style strategies of tension, and so on can occur. Snips from books, interviews, etc.

    Over the course of this act the riot-language is developing, being spoken more and more quickly and complexly, so that this section is broken by increasingly complex-sounding sentences, like an intermediate language class, of more and more fluidly cut rioting moments.

    This act is the most chaotic, featuring an overlapping palimpsest of riot and uprising footage, interspersed with doors and portals, for the protagonist to pass through. The footage includes reconstructed shots and/or images of things going back at least to Paris 1871, and possibly more, and up to and including the London Riots of 2011, as well as scenes from across the 20th Century of urban insurrection Kwangju, poll-tax, etc. As well as this, footage can be created to represent the riots that will occur on the moon, when wages are cut: images of searchlights illuminating people in space-suits in a lunar landscape performing all the traditional rioting actions, but in slow-motion due to low gravity. The riot language is spoken slowly as these occur. The footage will come from all around the world, and each of these specificities will feature a moment or two of explanation, so that the particular causes dont get lost. As images from these uprising plays, the concomitant words will be spoken, in various accents, in the growing riot language, so that a conversation is being held in this obscure and hidden language, between different speakers. So that the riots speak to each other, in different voices.

    It is this riot-dialogue, rather than images, that push things forward. Where there are images of image-takers, images of photographers, their traction is limited they are part of everything, but without any transformative power, their clattering lenses a buzz that cant be decoded.

    Among the footage are shots of our protagonist. S/he intrudes on archive footage, partakes in the rock-throwing, the surges and runnings away. Because of their bandana, an echo of the red hood in Dont Look Now and though snarkily Schindlers List, this intrusive figure is always visible. S/He is also growing more and more active and participating more and more in the actions. But conversely s/he is also more and more being tracked by the Deep State, manifesting in snatches and images of something submerged, as well of course as the cops and army that are overtly attacking people. The protagonist is passing quickly through portal after portal, aware that s/he is being followed, and a cat-and-mouse game begins. At times, sometimes, when at the crest of a wave whether in Tehran in 1979, Brixton in the 80s, or whatever the protagonist is able to push back against Deep State, but generally has to run again.

    This section will contain moments of rumination on the nature of the state and the Deep State. This might contain footage from marine biology movies, including some by Jean Painlev, and snatches of the Torture Memos of John Yoo et al (in the folder). This section includes the brutality and deaths of actual moments of confrontation, and as well as the political horror of those actions, there should be a sense that our protagonist is in personal danger from the predator following. We realize that our protagonist is trying to find a way through the portals opened by riots back to Tahrir Square, maybe seeing glimpses but never being able to touch it.

    We start to see footage of the community committees that arise during revolutions. The Shuras in Iran, the soviets, the workers committees, the discussion groups in Tahrir Square. Where previously the protagonist had been intervening transhistorically in the riots themselves, now s/he is participating in these reconstructive revolutionary discussions. Now it is these discussions that create portals, through which s/he continues to walk, gathering a growing group of other participants, from across time and riots, so that the constituencies of the uprisings blurs, while the Deep State follows and grows closer to the surface bringing in elements of the neoconservative imagery but also of more everyday politics.

    This is where the moment of greatest danger comes, when the protagonist is captured, trapped by the Deep State in a box, with an insect, as in the torture memos.

    Among the elements this section might feature alongside the riot footage, a few are:

    The Turner picture Sunrise with Seamonsters;

    Images of breaching from underwater (including if feasible some kitschly iconic ones, like the whale in Pinocchio);

    Images of explosions, separated into three moments the precursor, a statically rendered explosion-flower, and the ruined aftermath.

    The speaking of the riot-language by various bodies, in various contexts, with various elements of their identities obscured and visible.

    Notions of translation, both from other languages and from codes like Morse.

  • Act Three.

    The riots continue, and the riot-language continues to be spoken, with absolute fluency now, and it speaks something like a spell that at last frees the protagonist into a new situation. S/he emerges from the box to continue their role in the discussions.

    In this shortest act, which largely represents triumph, but interwoven with footage of the London riots underscores that the struggle is still ongoing. Its through the interweaving of those discussions with the rioting, and also through the translation, perhaps by subtitle, of the riot-language that certain discoveries are made. The riot-language says: Hold your ground, Egyptian! and Not the sea-monster kill the sea.

    The irruption of emancipatory coincidence occur. There are car-crashes (as in Susurluk scandal), computer crashes, lost and found documents, that shine a light on something.

    Comparison is made between the fluent language of the insurgency, and the inarticulate silence of the state. (I know thats not quite the notion of rioting as language that was contained in the notes you sent, but Im tweaking it here, as I think it can work better, and I think this is more polemical.)

    The final moments can feature pieces from the Youtube video where the faceless man so brilliantly explains the riots, and in that youtube video, our protagonist has, Zelig-like, intruded.

    In this section, images of lost and quiet areas of London will feature heavily, as will repeated lines from Dambudzo Marecheras poem Smash, Grab, Run , the lines accompanies with various moments and images as appropriate (like ivy barbed wire).

    Also important will be moments of Verges in court.

    The close will not be on the protagonist, but of searchlights clambering laboriously over a scene of rioting, but the scene is frozen, into a tableau, and only the searchlights move, investigating it. The ambient darkness increases so very quickly the riotingness of the moment is lost, and the strangeness of the shapes and solidity of the architecture remain.