all images are screenshots from Romain Gravas’ fim: Jay Z & Kanye West “No church in the wild” (2012)
The new videoclip of Jay Z and Kanye West, No Church in the Wild, directed by Romain Gavras is problematic to many extents. During 5 very aesthetic minutes of film, a slowmotion of a scene involving a violent fight between an angry mob (composed strictly of men) and a less angry -yet much more methodical in its violence- group of suppressive geared policemen. The scene is recognizably occurring in Prague and Paris, thus offering us a modern version of the various European revolutions and insurrections of the 19th century. The ‘aesthetization’ of violence is optimal in order to directly to address our testosterone which then helps us to identify to this hyper-male insurrectional standard which correspond in nothing to the various 2011 Arab revolutions or civic movements in various countries in the world. The society of spectacle is not interested in long pacific democratic construction and, through its various media (including the most serious and so called ‘liberal’ of them like the perfidious New York Times), prefers to capitalize on the violent side of the revolt imaginary in order to both discredit and co-opt a movement that was originally anti-capitalist. In this regard, it is not innocent that the rioters, in this video, do not seem to seek anything else than a simple fight with the police force (almost like a sport). It is Capitalism’s great strength to be able to include within itself its own antagonism, and furthermore to be able to capitalize on the latter. Jay Z and Kanye West are the perfect example of such phenomena as they represent the nec plus ultra of the anti-pro system components of a hip-hop music that was originally invented as a pure form of resistance against this very same system.
However, this short film is still interesting to look at, as it might touch a line of risk that capitalism is taking against itself. Capitalist’s cinema has been aesthetizing violence for quite a long time now; nevertheless when doing so, it is always careful to subject this violence against a tangible and specific form of otherness, whether the latter is embodied by aliens, enemy armies, gangsters, cops (but always corrupted and individualized in one way or another) or any other instance characterized by its binary mode of existence -it is either alive or dead, victorious or defeated. What a film like No Church in the Wild participates to, is the construction of an imaginary in which an intangible yet ubiquitous system is being fought against. Of course, the society of spectacle is still strongly present and the policemen are contributing to the anthropomorphism of an antagonism; nevertheless, it is clear that something outside of this visible fight is engaged and is therefore developed in our imaginary.
Let’s not forget that the opportunists tell us something interesting about our era as they carry more or less consciously the awareness of capitalism’s mutation at work. The fact that Jay-Z and Kanye West’s videoclips are no longer introducing phalocratic (chauvinist) orgies playboy style, but rather a more grave look (even if it is still chauvinist and still incredibly simplistic) on society is revealing the shift of what started in 2011 on people’s imaginary. Rather than rejecting absolutely the product of such opportunism, we should attempt to study how such good can be used against the very logic of its own production. Using the system against itself is probably the only mean to counter its faculties of mutation and adaptation. Inversely, all is done to convert this current political energy in favor of the very object that it was originally constructed against and it is up to us, on the contrary, to consolidate this same energy into a base for a new criticality within society.