In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Marx: The Video (A Politics of Revolting Bodies)
  • Laura Kipnis

A note on the mise-en-scene: There are large projections —stills, film clips, etc.—behind the action (referred to in the text as KEYS) in many scenes. There is also a Greek chorus of DRAG QUEENS (or DQs) who pop in and out of the action (or are KEYED over the action) in other scenes.


1. MARX’S ROOM, he is lying in bed, carbuncular, in pain. ROLLING TEXT OVER:

Karl Marx was born in Germany in 1818, and died in London in 1883, having been deported from numerous European countries for revolutionary activity. Throughout his life he suffered from chronic and painful outbreaks of carbuncles—agonizing skin eruptions—particularly during the years he was at work on his magnum opus, _Capital_. His 30-year correspondence with Frederick Engels, his friend and collaborator, deals regularly and in great detail with the state of his own body.


2. CLIP _La Marseillaise_ King: What is it?
SUPER TITLE: 1789 Minister: Sire, the Parisians have taken the Bastille. King: So, is it a revolt? Minister: No sire, it is revolution.
FREEZE on king V/O: Once power resided in the person of the King. The people’s task was clear. Get rid of the king.
3. CLIP: Berlin wall going down.
V/O: Once power resided in repressive state bureaucracies. The people’s task was clear. Smash the state.
4. STILL dead Ceausescu V/O: At certain moments in history power is centralized and visible, the sites of repression are clear and identifiable; resistance movements arise out of those relations of subordination and antagonism.
5. STILL Postmodern urban landscapes V/O: At other moments the task is less clear. Power is entrenched, but dispersed. Where does power reside? Who are the agents of change?
TRANSITION EFFECT going back in time
6. STILLS: 1848 uprising
TITLE: 1848
V/O: In 1848, Toqueville warned: “We are sleeping on a volcano. A wind of revolution blows, the storm is on the horizon.” That year Marx and Engels completed The Communist Manifesto. Jean Martin Charcot, who would later devote himself to the study of hysteria, enters medical school. The same year, revolution swept Europe. Students and workers united, but three years later the revolution was toppled.
Time passing TRANSITION
7. STILLS Paris, May 68 V/O: France, May ‘68. Students and workers united in a three week general strike, demanding radical democratic reforms. Momentarily, revolution seemed possible, but once again that possibility was soon dispelled. In the decades following ‘68, like the aftermath of 1848—the defeat of forces of change left traces, absences, an unfilled place where something is wanting. Where is the repository of those absences—where are they buried, embodied, misrecognized?
TITLE: MARX: THE VIDEO A Politics of Erupting Bodies 1848–1990
8. SUPER: 1863 over first image of MARX; he lies in bed V/O BIOGRAPHER: Looking back, fifteen years later, to the failed revolution.
SUPER: Trotsky waving from a train
looming supers of Stalin, Lenin
Stalin looms over body
Mao looms over body
MARX: Dear Engels: One thing is sure, the era of revolution is now once more fairly opened in Europe. And the general state of things is good. But the comfortable delusions and the almost childish enthusiasms with which we greeted the era of revolution before February 1848 are gone to the devil. Old comrades are gone, others have fallen away or decayed, and a new generation is not yet in sight. In addition, we now know what role stupidity plays in revolutions and how they are exploited by scoundrels...Let us hope that this time the lava pours from East to West and not vice versa.
V/O BIOGRAPHER: He writes with nostalgia and longing for something thwarted, for something that didn’t happen.
9. DOCTOR KEYED over examining room STILL. Addresses camera DOCTOR: His body just erupted...It became like a battleground. The only cure at the time was arsenic. Terribly painful, like a body trying to turn itself into another body. I think it started shortly after his mother died. It continued throughout his life.
10. STILLS, 19c...

Additional Information

Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.