Kevin B. Lee
Bottled Songs 1-2
2023.11.23 - 2024.02.03
Bottle Songs is an ongoing media project depicting strategies for making sense of online terrorist propaganda. Filmmakers and media researchers Chloé Galibert-Laîné and Kevin B. Lee compose letters addressed to each other, narrating their encounters with videos originating from the terrorist group the Islamic State (ISIS). They use a desktop documentary approach to trace and record their investigations playing directly upon their computer screens. The writing of the letters is visualized on separate screens, to create a space of critical reflection in counterpoint to images of terror.
In Bottled Songs 1: The Observer, Chloé Galibert-Laîné finds a phone video showing hundreds of ISIS captives running through a desert. She is puzzled that the video is posted on YouTube by Les Observateurs, a French state-funded news channel as a work of “citizen journalism”. While the video has been removed from many other channels, the French news channel’s legitimacy allows the video to remain online and spread terror over several years. Further investigation uncovers multiple variants of the footage on countless other sites, leading her to despair.
In Bottled Songs 2: Looking Into The Flames, Kevin B. Lee analyzes a video described as the “first feature film” produced by ISIS. Struck by the mainstream media’s fascination with the video as a movie, he explores possible cinematic connections: Nazi propaganda movies, Hollywood, and early leftist revolutionary filmmaking. Afraid of facing ISIS images directly, he adopts interruptive viewing techniques to bypass the video’s terrorist qualities and uncover insights into its contents.
A critical account of the vulnerability of living in today’s online environment, the Bottled Songs project ultimately seeks to generate new ways to counter the terroristic qualities of online media. Central to this is engaging with diverse voices to make sense of the many dilemmas of engaging with the contemporary mediascape. Visitors are invited to the writing station inside the installation to compose letters to Chloé or Kevin, or to others brought to mind by Bottled Songs, to process what they’ve seen and share their reflections.