Swallows on a Spit

Root Event

Werkleitz Festival 2011 ZOO
Film programme
Swallows on a Spit
15. 10. 2011
Schwalben am Spiess, DE 1958, © Bernhard & Michael Grzimek

The first human-made weapons, hand axes and spearheads, were probably directed at animals. The weapons were deployed in the hunt. That means that technical devices were part of the hunt from the start and that hunting is therefore a product of technology and not a natural urge. This is an important point for the current discussion on hunting, since a technology is never a fact of nature and is therefore, at least potentially, mutable or capable of being given up at any time. By the time of the emergence of film, the hunt, as a social as well as an animal-killing technique, had long since evolved into a majestic privilege involving rapid fire weapons. As His Majesty went hunting pheasants in 1913 he was concerned neither for the animals’ wellbeing nor with the necessity of securing nourishment. The pheasants were let out and driven before the rifles, which several servants stationed around the Kaiser constantly kept reloaded. The programme begins in reverse chronology with the outgrowths of the privileged aristocratic hunt and the colonialist hippo hunt in the ‘negro village’. Afterwards, film apparently turns away from high-tech animal killing. Schwalben am Spieß (Swallows on a Spit), from 1958, one of the early films by Michael and Bernhard Grzimek, condemns the hunting of migratory birds. In his 1966 film, Unsere Afrikareise (Our African Trip), Peter Kubelka juxtaposes the self-important safari-goers against the African locals in their relation to animals. In his ‘sync event’, as he calls it, it is obvious with whom Kubelka sympathises. In film, the hunt is technologically downscaled. In ethnological film in particular the hunt reverts to ritual and can remain symbolic.

Film programme

  • Court of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin – His Highness Going Pheasant-Hunting, DE 1913/1914, 2 min; Archive Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv
  • In the Negro Village – Hunting Hippopotamuses, DE before 1914, 3 min; Archive Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv
  • La Peine du talion Tit for Tat, Gaston Velle, FR 1906, 6 min [Piano]; Production Pathé; Archive Lobster Films
  • Chevrolet Leader News (Vol. 2, No.3): Fish Story, Jam Handy Organization, USA 1936, 2 min; Archiv Prelinger Archives
  • Swallows on a Spit, Bernhard & Michael Grzimek, DE 1958, 10 min
  • Our African Trip, Peter Kubelka, AU 1966, 13 min
  • Boar Stories, Heinz Meynhardt, DDR 1981, 14 min; From: Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv. By courtesy of Margot Meynhardt
  • Stalking (Camera follows Man Ray), William Wegman, USA 1975, 2 min

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