Magazine article Artforum International

Sarah Morris: White Cube

Magazine article Artforum International

Sarah Morris: White Cube

Article excerpt

Tommie Smith and John Carlos changed my life. Beamed in monochrome from Mexico City to a white boy in the nowhere provinces of England in 1968, the athletes' silent gesture of graceful resistance under pressure--raising their fists in a black power salute at the Olympic medal ceremony--spoke loudly of the power of images to signify politically, economically, and ideologically. The Olympics matter. Four years later, everyone's eyes were on Munich when a hooded member of the Palestinian Black September group peered over the balcony of an apartment in the athletes' village. Inside were eleven Israeli hostages, all of whom would be dead by the end of the day. This incident is the subject of Sarah Morris's latest film, 1972, 2008. It features an extensive interview with Georg Sieber, the head psychologist of the Olympic Police at the time. Over the course of a number of sessions shot in a car and in his study, Sieber offers a description and analysis of the event that differs markedly from the widely accepted account. A large model of Pinocchio stands behind his desk throughout, the unchanging length of its nose suggesting, perhaps, that what we are hearing is the truth.

But Sieber insists that the desire for historical truth, for certainty about what really happened, can never be satisfied. All we have are varied points of view, experiences, and narratives. His own compelling version, delivered in an urbane, evenhanded style, is contextualized by Morris with police surveillance footage of demonstrators, archival photographs of the 1972 games, and panoramic shots of the Munich Olympic Stadium. Sieber (who had once been a member of the socialist German Student's Federation) and his colleagues in the police had developed a range of possible scenarios to prepare security forces for every conceivable problem. The Palestinian attack was "Scenario 26," and in its initial stages it played out pretty much as predicted. …

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