The General Line (2010) opens with a panoramic vista of Venice, its palazzos and churches, the vehicle causeway and the Dolomite Mountains. The vista changes as the camera traces a ship’s passage, leaving Venice and moving down the coast. Here, the motion is a result of the movement of the ship, upon which the camera is fixed. The film is accompanied by a voiceover in Italian by the philosopher Giorgio Agamben reading an excerpt from Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems published by Galileo in 1632 and banned until 1835. Reflecting on the relativity of velocity, the excerpt juxtaposes a ship’s departure from Venice for Syria with a pen that traces a visible mark of its voyage. The image increasingly blurs as the film progresses, vestiges of preceding frames lingering ghostlike in a present that contains the immediate past, while representing Venetian history through its architecture.
Significantly, the work is titled after Sergei Eisenstein’s The General Line (1926), a film bearing witness to collectivization in Soviet Russia. It was re-edited in 1929, after Stalin’s intervention, and retitled Old and New. The work alludes to the birth and passage of modernism and suggests that the present, and by implication the future, contains the past. It ushers in a reconsideration of the future in terms of the space-time continuum.