Monday, March 4, 2013

An Afternoon in a Dog Day

Upon the Nixon reelection ceremony in 1972 teh attentions of the great public were paradoxically diverted by the media to the occurrence of a paralel happening. That happening, despite being bank robbery, wouldn't have anything special about it if it wasn' for the robbers mobile: John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturile rob the Brooklyn branch of  Chase Manhattan bank to pay for the sex change operation of Ernest Aron, alias, Elizabeth Debbie Eden, girlfriend of Wojtowicz. Nevertheless, thanks to the unexpected rapidity of the police response, what was predicted to be a 10 min heist escalated to a 14 hour duration kidnapping situation, being the bank workers at the time of the heist held hostage. On his side, Richard Nixou didn't like, to say the least, to see his protagonism being robbed by that happening and personnaly sends FBI agents to murder those two bank robbers. The policial protection on site managed to avoid John Wojtowicz death but not Salvatore Naturile's.
The events on that day were adapted to cinema by Sydney Lumet in 1975 with the title Dog day Afternoon, with Al Pacino in the leading role. Curiosly, john Wojtowicz conceived the plan for the robbery after watching the movie The Godfather in the cinema, where Al apcino also stars in one of the main roles...
In 2000 Pierre Huyghes does a video called The Third Memory in which, through a bi-channel display, it's shown a mix of scens from the movie with Al Pacino, TV news records of the time and reenactements of the events of that day by John Wojtowicz himself. (In the following link that video can be seen).

Pierre Huyghes, "The Third Memory"

This is what I consider to be one of the finest examples of contemporary art. It's a well defined, coherent and powerful work.
The video refers to the "first memory", corresponding to the memory of John Wojtowicz himself that begins in his own perception, free from influences, of the events in which he was intervener and of what all that came afterwards; the "secind memory" it's the colective memory - or the public memory if you prefer - of the happening still associated to the remembering of the movie Dog Day Afternoon; the "third memory" it's the "remastered" version that Pierre Huyghes show us of John Wojtowicz's memory by now influenced by the media and more particularly by the language of Dog Day Afternoon. This is the concept with the most direct aprehension in this work: the memory. Nevertheless, if we scrape a little deeper, perhaps we may find that still underlaying to the concept of memory is the notion that that a culture with no memory has no identity, may this being the ultimate concept of the work.

To know more:

The Renaissance Society

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