Johan Grimonprez, Shadow World (2016) (still). Courtesy the artist, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, kamel mennour, Paris, Flatland Gallery, Amsterdam, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, Louverture Films, Dillywood and Shadow World inc., New York.
In addition to its ample cruelties and endlessly confounded sense of 'it can't go on like this much longer, can it?', 2017 has also been a year of profound historical torsion, marked by the return of speciﬁc ﬁgures and fears wrongly presumed to have been left in the present's wake. Consider, for instance, the starkly renewed appearance of fascists on the American scene alongside perennial varieties of white supremacists, provoking an uncanny sense of having looped back 80 years. Or, perhaps even more striking, is how the Donald Trump presidency has reactivated a distinct apocalyptic anxiety that cast long shadows over the second half of the 20th century: the prospect of atomic annihilation. The past three decades, especially following the collapse of the Soviet bloc, have witnessed the slow re-ordering of a global existential threat, with catastrophic climate change claiming increased visibility and political urgency. In this way, two timescales of doom have been made to overlap and coincide, with cold war reboot and a hot arctic competing for pride of place in the attention economy of gnawing fear.
This November, Belgian artist and ﬁlmmaker Johan Grimonprez's 2016 documentary Shadow World, based on Andrew Feinstein's book of the same name, will air in the US on PBS. This would be welcome news in any context, given the strength of the ﬁlm, which traverses the ample deceptions, mechanisms and consequences of the global arms trade.