sábado, 30 de junho de 2012

Interview with Nick Pope - The Area 51 of Art (2) "A Trained Kafkaesque Witness": The Rendlesham Bentwaters Incident Revisited

When I first heard about the Rendlesham Forest incident in 1984, I thought it was sort of loyalty test, a tactic choreography, specially prepared by the Supreme NATO Command to measure how highly trained officers would react to a Warsaw Pact`s first strike. The Soviets had at the time more as 2 millions soldiers in the reserve stationed in Poland to overrun Germany through the so called Fulda´s gap till the Atlantic shores in less then 2 days. Germany and Poland as nuclear ground zero and those men, prepared to deal with chemical, bio and tactical nuclear weapons had also to face the remote scenario to deal even with “aliens”. Only the Bentwaters nukes would stop the Warsaw troops. But it was not. Even for skeptics, the Rendlesham Forrest Incident offers no rational final explanation. If a myth has the power to stimulate new narratives in our fantasy, the bureaucratic programmed institutional forgetting takes from us the last chance to bring the incident to a rational and scientific light. Rendlesham is our ”Rosebud”, a beautiful adult tale, and stuff for good Hard Science Fiction and for our dreams. 
José Galisi Filho 30.06.2012  

Mr. Pope, your work has often been falsely framed under the category of a skeptic who "switched sides" and taking into account the truly extraordinary character of the Bentwaters incident, we may, of course, understand a change of perception. But one of the key elements on your approach and how you address your speech, unnoticed in the public mind, and also critical and elegant ironic distance from the ongoing evaluations and judgments, is the role itself of bureaucratic inertia and the memory of the great institutions: the simple fact that they forget more easily than individuals.
  Accordingly, if there was a “cover up” of the incident, this is more a result of ignorance than of another fact. As in  the 9/11 aftermath, the cover up was intended to divert the focus of rivalry between the CIA and FBI, decisive in the success of the attacks. This basic truth can be an insult to the memory of the victims, but it is a historical truth according to the documents. This is what you have been always emphasizing as an "insider". Could you tell us a little about this “memory” and “forgetting” of the military bureaucracy in relation to the incident and also about the fact that we will likely not have the slightest rational explanation of what really happened in those three nights in December 1980.
 You approach to the stuff remembers a “trained Kafkaesque witness”, if you allow me a neologism. Kafka is a realistic author, just because he describes how the great bureaucracies at the end always forget their servers, their loyalty.

Nick Pope: Military officers and civil servants often fill a particular post for only 2 or 3 years, before moving on, on level transfer or promotion. The MoD official responsible for investigating the Rendlesham Forest incident was posted elsewhere shortly after the incident. MoD has grappled with the concept of 'corporate memory' and the need to retain information. The requirement to file documents electronically has been part of this, but the irony is that more we rely on technology,
the less likely it is that any people will retain a proper understanding of events and their context. Memory becomes simply a matter of pressing a series of buttons. It's the cell phone analogy; if you key your friends' telephone numbers into your cell phone and dial them by calling up their name, you're less likely to remember their number.

 Bureaucrats don't want to solve mysteries; they want what every government official wants: to move the problem from their in-tray to their out-tray. Most things in government work boil down to this essential truth: delegate it, pass the problem up the chain of command for guidance, pass it to an expert for advice. Sometimes the process becomes more important than the topic in hand. So with Rendlesham we have Americans delighting that the incident took place off-base, as it becomes "a Brit affair". MoD, however, note the delay in reporting and the innocuous "unexplained lights" title and allow themselves to become convinced that the American authorities have matters in hand and are unconcerned. Everybody gets the answer they want and it becomes 'somebody else's problem'. The truth
falls between the two bureaucratic stools.

 One day, when I was a boy in Sao Paulo in 1976 and went to the elementary school during the military dictatorship, we received a brochure for the discipline of Moral Education for young people, probably edited by the Second Military Regional Command South, which stated this incredible following story.
  By they way, these books were designed by the military to encourage us, young people, to defend the integrity of the Brazilian territory, the so-called “National Security Doctrine”, which the Brazilian military had incorporated from the American military Academies after the Second World War.
  You may find perhaps the story funny, because the teacher did not like the example and and in an outburst said it was all bullshit. Since we were "bad "and also “loyal” children to our great President Ernesto Geisel, who promised us we were a Great Nation and had our Manifest Destiny not only in South America, we could denounce him as a communist or red spy. The brochure simulated an invasion of UFOs in the Amazon territory! The teacher had told us that we would not need such silly example, i.e., ets alleged Cuban or Soviet extra-terrestrial guerrillas. 
I myself was obsessed with this concept of "national security" and as you know the Brazilian air space is filled with "black holes" as evidenced by the awful tragedy with the Gol 737 and the Legacy in 2007.
You truly believe that we can use Ufology to teach young children how to understand, and I'm talking seriously, without irony, that the air space is a matter of national security, the space you share with at hypersonic Speed. By the way, as long as I know, the only serious military incident between Great Britain and Brazil was the emergency landing of the Vulkan at Rio de Janeiro during the Falkland War in 1982.   

Nick Pope: Teaching - at any level - is often at its best when it's unusual and fun. I understand that organizations such as the NSA have occasionally incorporated the idea of an extraterrestrial language into a code-breaking exercise.

"Here's the ultimate irony: in a few decades time, Rendlesham will be indistinguishable from Roswell. A few documents and photos will survive, but the witnesses will be gone, leaving researchers to ponder what it all means"

Air Force Space Command and DARPA have probably war gamed alien invasion - not because they believe it will happen, but because some of the points about strategy, tactics, equipment, command and control, etc., will hold true in a fictional scenario.
Teaching in this way will probably embed the information better in people's minds. You may disagree with the premise, but if it makes you think, debate and even become passionate in your disagreement, then the teaching is probably very effective.

How do you evaluate the changes in the perception of the incident over these past three decades?

Nick Pope: I'll make some less philosophical points about memory and perception: they differ from individual to individual (traffic police will tell you that 5 witnesses to a car accident will give 5 different accounts) and they fade over time.

In relation to Rendlesham, we have people experiencing different things over different nights: some were closer to the action than others. Throw all these factors together and it doesn't surprise me that over 30 years after the events, accounts have changed and accounts vary. If they were unchanged and similar, I'd suspect collusion.

 Both Colonel Charles I. Halt and the Sergeant Jim Penniston could be thought as tragic heroes in a drama without happy end which closes itself as “Kane Citizen” forever in the secret of “Rosebud” in the realms of myth in a forgotten file in Washington. There must be a report out there for sure.

  Could you talk about your feelings in this context since they showed an extraordinary courage to go public, besides the fact that they honored also their military duties till the end. You recently paid tribute to both, and precise that role between military duty and the natural human desire to understand at any cost what really happened in those three nights is a tragic stuff. At end we will have only the “elegant” and “laconic” and almost literary report from Colonel Halt: “unexplained lights”.

Nick Pope: Here's the ultimate irony: in a few decades time, Rendlesham will be indistinguishable from Roswell. A few documents and photos will survive, but the witnesses will be gone, leaving researchers to ponder what it all means. The event will have passed from history into legend. And at some future conference, a sad-eyed old man will reminisce about his departed father, telling the awe-struck audience about the day the proud military man returned to the family home with a story that started with unexplained lights, 
but ended somewhere far more magical.

A last and ironical question, if the visitors form Bentwaters came from the future, is there a Britsh humor in these remote Era. Will they bring back the Python in a last and eternal season, perhaps Graham Chapman back.

Nick Pope: Time travel should be about science and discovery but will end up being about next week's lottery numbers. If you want irony, imagine if the Rendlesham Forest incident was caused by a TV crew coming back from the future to document what happened at Bentwaters.

See also:




terça-feira, 26 de junho de 2012

Crossroads of an American Mythology: The Art of Andrew Edwards

Crossroads: where American mythology meets its past, present and future. Bob Dylan looks at old cars with the George Washington. You meet Humphrey Bogart broken down on the roadside. A medieval demon appears at the drive-in movie. We’re at the county fair; the roadside attraction; the place where dreams collide with history. Danger is in the air—but you get the sense we’ll make it through.

I like to create highly realized visions—smooth surface, significant detail, altered perspective. I shy away from photorealism and embrace brushstrokes where it will add depth. Influences: Hopper, Vermeer, Turner, the Surrealists. Other influences: mid-century industrial design; film-noir. I work in multi-layered acrylic mainly and sometimes in pencil.

I consider myself a traditionalist in art, an avant-garde in spirit; find it wonderful and invigorating that, since the days of Giotto in Florence, pigment on a flat surface has offered a deeply satisfying, contemplative visual experience to the careful observer. I consider painting to be the richest and most rewarding of the visual arts.

My name for the type of work I’m creating: “Contemporary Mythic”.

Andrew Edwards