Colourless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously
Guest Curators: What How and For Whom (WhW)
RT: 68 minutes.
Wall (Zid) by Ante Zaninović. Yugoslavia/Croatia, 1965, 35mm, Colour, 3 minutes and 32 seconds. (Courtesy of Zagreb Film).
The Unemployed (Nezaposleni ljudi) by Želimir Žilnik. Yugoslavia/Serbia, 1968, 35mm, Black & White, 13 minutes.
Black Film (Crni film) by Želimir Žilnik. Yugoslavia/Serbia, 1971, 16mm, Black & White, 14 minutes.
One Day, Instead of One Night, a Burst of Machine-Gun Fire Will Flash, if Light Cannot Come Otherwise (Jednoga dana umesto noći blesnuće svetlo iz mitraljeza, kad drukče svetlost ne može doći) (Oskar Davičo – fragment of a poem) by Milica Tomić. Serbia, 2009, Video, Colour, 10 minutes.
Socio-Fiction by Zbynek Baladran. Czeck Republic, 2005-7, Video, Colour, 6 minutes and 42 seconds.
The Break by Alexander Ugay. Kazakhstan, 2008, Video, Colour, 2 minutes and 25 seconds.
Post-Purchase Dissonance by Zanny Begg. Australia, 2010, Video, Colour, 7 minutes.
June Turmoil (Lipanjska gibanja) by Želimir Žilnik. Yugoslavia/Serbia, 1969, 16mm, Black & White, 10 minutes.
In 1957, Noam Chomsky used the phrase “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously” as an example of a sentence that has correct and logical grammar, yet is semantically nonsensical. For him, the point was not in the meaninglessness of the sentence, but in the fact that the grammaticality of the sentence is concrete, despite the fact that it was the first time those words appeared together in this way.
On the basis of the individual words (green, colourless, sleep), and the context in which the phrase was uttered, scholars repeatedly attempted to provide it with meaning.
By revisiting the sentence more than fifty years later, we are not interested in Chomsky’s challenge to cognitive-behaviourist approaches to Psychology, or in his contribution to Linguistics and Cognitive Psychology, but rather, we would like to ascribe some political sense to its nonsensicality. We decided to use it as the title for a programme of films and videos by artists and filmmakers from diverse generations including Zbynek Baladrán, Zanny Begg, Milica Tomić, Alexander Ugay, Ante Zaninović and Želimir Žilnik. Their work deals with issues such as the suppression of history, histories that might have turned out differently, social injustice, revolt, resistance and the possibility of futures, which are invisible, even impossible today. We propose to translate the phrase as follows: ideas that once lost their colour and never matured are asleep, but their sleep is furious and they will surely forcefully awaken.
Obviously, this ‘translation’ is highly arbitrary, not committed and possibly vague, but this is the purpose. It testifies to the growing frustration with the state of criticism that is currently at the heart of institutions, and is accompanied with a paradoxical urge within current political and cultural constellations of neo-liberalism to produce criticism in the form of temporary, self-referential and self-perpetuating spectacles. Perhaps this exercise in drawing sense from nonsense is an attempt to avoid a promise that delivers nothing but the confirmation of the current state of affairs, and ruled by the ‘culturalisation’ of politics as a substitute for the failure of direct political solutions.
On the other hand, in the noise produced by the tirelessly repetitive mantras around the limitless growth of capitalism as the solution for damages incurred by this capitalism itself, nonsensicality might be one way to open a door to collectively held and collectively produced new meanings “to be truly ‘realistic’ is to think what, within the coordinates of the system, cannot but appear as impossible.”¹
1 Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times, London-New York: Verso, 2010, p. 363