White Balance

White Balance (to think is to forget differences), 2002
Single-channel video, 32:00 min
Courtesy of the artist

White Balance (to think is to forget differences) (2002) is an effort to uncover the geographies of power, the frontiers of privilege that are connected to racial stereotypes and the hidden notion of whiteness. It revisits these problems from different angles, creating short circuits of meaning which are hosted by improbable audiovisual matches. Media and internet footage is intermixed with images shot in downtown Manhattan before and after the 9/11 attacks. Opting for a poetic language, François Bucher’s video essay seeks to arouse thought by concentrating on the openings of the audiovisual experience, in the short-lived moment of the in-between.

White Balance Script

The perceived color of an object is affected by the color of the lighting under which it is viewed. The human brain is able to detect and compensate for such changes in perceived color. As a result, a white object will look white to humans, whether viewed in sunlight or under overcast skies or indoors under incandescent or fluorescent lighting. A digital camera must emulate the human brain and adjust colors according to lighting so that colors that appear white when viewed directly also appear white in the final photograph. This adjustment is called white balance.

an enslaved man in a plantation

what factor produces the unreality of this image?

this is not ethnic food

every story has a beginning

We treat them culturally in a lesser way in the sense of our movies and subconsciously. We have not engaged culturally or economically with them and they, on the other side, have not engaged with us. But we have drifted apart into two worlds.

who is we?

One specific world that the president was setting apart—and it seemed almost drawing a bull’s eye around—was the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. He was very, very direct in trying to make a distinction between the Afghan people and the strictures that they are under in this kind of fringe Islamic society, and the Islamic leaders themselves. Let’s listen to a little clip of the speech.

Afghanistan’s people have been brutalized. Many are starving and many have fled. Women are not allowed to attend school. You can be jailed for owning a television. Religion can be practiced only as their leaders dictate. A man can be jailed in Afghanistan if his beard is not long enough. The United States respects the people of Afghanistan. After all, we are currently its largest source of humanitarian aid. But we condemn the Taliban regime.

The audience rises to applaud that condemnation by President Bush.

Andrew Davis, director of “Collateral Damage,” interview on NPR, September 24, 2001

Politics and history have become a part of entertainment because that’s what our lives are about. It’s relevant to people. They can relate to what the issues are. They know all the movies that were made after Vietnam.

And basically it’s the story of the grief and loss of a fireman dealing with his family dying and what he has to go through to try to collect his life, and in frustration he goes after the man who did it.

Who are the terrorists in the movie?

Well, the story involves Colombia and our involvement in Colombia. It does not involve the Middle East at all. It’s a totally different area. My interest in making this movie was to basically try to prevent violence, not to use violence as entertainment: to say, let’s wave a flag here and please let’s not get involved in a war that’s . . .

What’s the body count?
Two dozen injured, nine dead. Colombian officials. American intelligence.

. . . that’s going to cause some innocent people to get killed. Colin Powell was on his way to Bogota when he turned around.

I’m wondering from the way you describe the movie if maybe this isn’t an argument for releasing it now, if it speaks to the moment.

Well, I think it’s inappropriate for people to go through the emotional wrenching that Arnold as a character goes through in the movie. This movie is much more significant this week than it was ten days ago, and it has the kind of reverberation emotionally and politically that it didn’t have before these events: the fact that the title talks about innocent people being killed. Collateral damage is a term that has been used for years now. It was used in relation to Yugoslavia, and Bosnia, and the Middle East, and all over the world this term has been used in terms of innocent people being caught in the middle of terrorist acts or acts of war. And I think it was just too close to home to release this movie right now.

We’re making global movies these days. So, when you make a movie that somebody can understand all over the world, sometimes you come back to . . . since people can relate to the story, the unjustly accused man, being chased. That’s a very simple storyline. That’s a very clear storyline. The subtlety of certain types of comedies just doesn’t translate.


censored trailer (October 5th release)

In 1997, USA Today reported that it had obtained an American Airlines document which advises employees to look carefully at travelers born in any of 27 Middle Eastern cities and those with Arab-sounding names who don’t carry U.S. passports.


State Department travel warnings, August 2001

. . . from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. As stated in the department worldwide caution public announcements of June 22, 2001, U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities have and will continue to temporarily close or suspend public services as necessary to review their security posture and ensure its adequacy. American citizens traveling abroad should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate by telephone or fax, for up-to-date information on security conditions. Also, U.S. citizens planning to travel abroad should consult the Department of State’s public announcements, travel warnings, consular information sheets, and regional travel brochures. To listen to travel safety information for all areas of the world, including travel warnings and public announcements, please press 2 . . .

. . .
. . . the municipality has to continue. It cannot run away. I’m thinking of . . . 76 years of turning people’s savings into the nuts and bolts . . .
. . .
. . .because . . . the challenges that might . . .
You are with us or you are against us. And those against us, those who side with terror, are going down. Tonight, we are digging into the president . . .
. . .


The Tower
(La Maison de Dieu)
XVI, Major Arcana

Tarot Deck

The Tower I
Misery, Distress, Poverty, Catastrophe, Death, Imprisonment, Awakening.

The Tower II
When the tower appears it is necessary to remember that it can lead to freedom: the explosions are clearing away some situation that has built up intolerable pressure.
They can lead to new beginnings.

The Tower III
The tower represents the ancient principle of full spectrum domination.
A will to match the eye of God.

. . .

What it is is something that has absolutely astounded American law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Computer software in the hands of the bin Laden terror network allowing secret plans and messages to go back and forth on the internet undetected. Something just like this . . . with a few clicks and the right password, this picture of the Mona Lisa, downloaded on the internet, can also be found to carry a secret coded message: the seating chart of a 757 airplane, in this demonstration. Since September 11, Chet Hosmer and his company have been helping the FBI and military intelligence detect all kinds of such hidden communications on the internet. (This is the image that contains the hidden data.) Here, an aerial photo of a B-52 base hidden on his company’s own website.

Even mp3 music files . . . this stirring rendition of the national anthem hides the list of flights out of Boston. It is the internet version of invisible ink. The technical term is steganography, the Greek word for covered writing. As obscure as it is, startled intelligence officials have discovered it is being taught in the remote Afghanistan training camps of Osama bin Laden, not so far, it seems, from the civilized world.

. . .

New York Times 09/30/01

A picture caption last Sunday, with an article about rumors on the internet after the terrorist attacks of September 11, referred incompletely to a photograph of a cloud of smoke at the World Trade Center. While some people perceived the face of Satan in its details, the image itself was not altered by the photographer or by publications to suggest that.

. . .

September 18th
“What does the American flag mean to you?”

It means liberty, honesty, justice, equalness for all Americans. It means peace. It means happiness. It means justice, brother. It means the American way. That’s what it means to me. (Equalness for all Americans?) For all people, all people, whoever they are; any nationality, any color, any race. That’s what it means to me.

. . .

The future of space depends a great deal on how we describe it, a struggle that is largely metaphorical. Is space merely an extension of the air and therefore the province of the Air Force? Or is it an entirely separate medium for power, like the land or sea, in need of a new doctrine? The first comparison more easily allows a militarization of space as just more of what we already have, while the second challenges us to debate space as the frontier it still is.

beyond the limits of the image

full spectrum domination


The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war—and we know that God is not neutral between them. Fellow citizens . . . [applause] . . .

. . .

revised trailer (February 8th release)

What’s the difference between you and I?

The difference is: I’m just going to kill you.

. . .

Fellow citizens, we’ll meet violence with patient justice, assured of the rightness of our cause.


PBS Panel Discussion
October 4, 2001
How will the Sept. 11 attacks change the way Hollywood does business?
Bernard Weinraub of The New York Times

“Well, I think it’s interesting. Certainly after . . . When the Berlin Wall fell and Communism collapsed, I think there was a sea change in the way Hollywood looked at villains. Certainly before, when the Bond films and plenty of other films the villains were Russians or Eastern Europeans; after that there was a real hunt for villains. The villains became these vague, amorphous people, generally Middle Eastern. And that happened for years, you know, for a long time. What’s going to happen now, I don’t know. I think for a while at least villains will not be Middle Eastern.”

. . .

. . . when the wolf is back in Colombia . . .

censored trailer (October 5th release)

. . . that’s the case in recent years, the West paying much more attention to Russian views, in return for some genuine Russian help in key areas—and that means not just in the struggle against terrorism but also, for example, in the Balkans.

Until the September 11th attacks, the United States was treading very cautiously when it came to tighter relations between Europe and Russia, but now America needs Russia’s help in fighting terrorism, just like Europe needs Russia’s help in finding a lasting peace in the Balkans. And while the U.S. may not be ready right now to consider Russia as a candidate for NATO, analyst Anatol Lieven says that after the terrorist attacks, anything is possible.

If there are more terrible terrorist attacks on the West, or if America gets embroiled in really long-running military campaigns in the Muslim world, then, of course, things might look very different—and then it might be so important to have Russia in a close alliance that, yes, Russia could be brought into NATO.

The U.S. is choosing to deal with Russia one-on-one in a relationship driven by mutual concerns.

. . .

“The Hate That Hate Produced,”
Village Voice, October 1999

“But in an uncanny twist of events, others, blacks and Jews—who hours earlier had locked arms in outrage at the Klan’s presence—suddenly broke into separate fight clubs, opposing pockets of anti-Klan resistance that began to menace each other with racist and anti-Semitic chantdowns . . .”

. . .

The diplomatic pieces are falling into place. Under Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, the old Cold War foe has historically repositioned itself, emerging now as a pro-Western power in this changed landscape.

. . .

He remembers seeing a Nazi swastika welded onto the metal of a bridge in Chicago, like a keloid scar, unerasable.

. . .

She even showed me how to dance . . . and well, we was like family, Jenny and me—and it was the happiest time of my life.


Radio New Zealand
Interview of Robert Fisk
September 19th
Beirut Airport, Lebanon

Kim Hill: There are narratives going on and the narratives are of different pages, different books, different libraries, and they are getting increasingly different. I can’t see how we can ever align those narratives, and it’s getting harder and harder.

Robert Fisk: Well, I think this is wrong. I think I disagree with you. Look, you can’t say that you don’t understand the narrative of children dying in Iraq. Nobody’s going around claiming that they are not dying. They are. They clearly are. And if they were—and I’m going to stick my neck out—if they were Western children, believe me, they would not be dying.


what does the American flag mean to you?
September 18th

American flag means freedom of America, to me.

what does it mean to wear it after recent events?

To show that we still can be tough, we have pride in our country, and we’re still free no matter what happens.

Can you expand on the question of toughness?

Tough means that nothing would let us go down. We have the strength. We have the courage, we have the power to do whatever we want.


We generally act the way we think we’re supposed to act. What you’re looking for are the people who don’t act the way they’re supposed to act.


revised trailer (February 8th release)

Conklin says the FAA has considered making unusual behavior detection part of its standard security. When he teaches it, Conklin tells people to trust their instincts. The same skills that get you a date, or let you know when a conversation is going poorly, will tell you when something is awry, he says.

It’s probably relatively easy to tell somebody who’s working really hard to blend in. I mean they send off indicators.

There are lists of things to watch for. Clint Van Zandt is a former FBI profiler. He doesn’t want to talk about the specifics for fear they will end up in the next edition of bin Laden’s training manual, but he says there are some things he can talk about without revealing too much; clothing, for instance.

I always try to match up where a person says they come from with their dress. There are certain shoes that are more European than American. There are certain jeans that come from outside the United States, as opposed to in. Americans may wear undershirts under their dress shirts, where others don’t.

For the record, Van Zandt and I are both wearing undershirts beneath our dress shirts  . . .


State Department travel warnings and issue dates, August 2001

These are the current travel warnings and their issue dates: Indonesia (June 27), Macedonia (June 26), Yemen (June 9), Libya (June 6), Liberia (May 31), Algeria (May 31), Central African Republic (May 30), Tajikistan (May 29), Pakistan (May 14), Solomon Islands (May 1), Guinea-Bissau (April 30), Colombia (April 17), Bosnia-Herzegovina (April 13), Democratic Republic of Congo (April 11), Somalia (February 16), Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (February 13), Israel, West Bank, and Gaza (January 12), Afghanistan (December 12, 2000), Sudan (December 12, 2000), Yemen (October 4, 2000), Angola (September 8, 2000), Lebanon (August 28, 2000) . . .

But the behavioral technique is admittedly crude. Someone who doesn’t make eye contact, for instance, may just be from a culture where it is considered rude to stare. Still, he says, it’s a remarkably powerful technique. One that is probably not used enough.

Concealing a weapon or something else is not the hardest part per se. The hardest part is to look into the eyes of a law enforcement officer who’s really trying to look into your soul, so to speak, and decide, do you present a threat or not, and looking him or her back and with your eyes saying, no, I don’t, but have a good day. Most people are not that poised to do that.

. . .


. . .

1997 FAA report

FAA officials say the Computerized Assisted Passenger Screening system (CAPS) that is set to roll out by December 31 will move decisions about whom airport security pulls aside to a more scientific ground. Criteria are understood to include flyers’ travel patterns and destinations. Flynn won’t elaborate but says the new system will “remove the opportunity for unconscious or conscious stereotypes.

. . .

Within this nineteenth-century intellectual context, Cesare Lombroso’s work greatly influenced how Europe’s criminologists and jurists perceived criminals. L’Uomo Delinquente (The Criminal Man), published in 1876, was the most influential of his many publications. Extraordinary amounts of documentation in the form of pages of statistics and illustrations strongly influenced readers to believe that “many of the characteristics found in savages and among the colored races are also to be found in habitual delinquents.”

pictures in the marketplace

“US buys up all satellite war images,”
Wednesday October 17, 2001
The Guardian

“The Pentagon has spent millions of dollars to prevent western media from seeing highly accurate civilian satellite pictures of the effects of bombing in Afghanistan, it was revealed yesterday. ( . . . )
Under American law, the US defense department has legal power to exercise ‘shutter control’ over civilian satellites launched from the US in order to prevent enemies using the images while America is at war. ( . . . )
Instead of invoking its legal powers, the Pentagon bought exclusive rights to all Ikonos satellite pictures of Afghanistan off Space Imaging, the company which runs the satellite. The agreement was made retrospectively to the start of the bombing raids.
The US military does not need the pictures for its own purposes because it already has six imaging satellites in orbit . . . ”


September 13 above Houston Street

America under attack, New York.

I want the one that says, “I got out.”

Oh, I got out?

Medium, medium. Ok. Give me an extra-large.


September 16th

We’ll buy one for Elsie and . . .

Your brother.

We’re buying so many, can you give us this stuff for eight dollars?

We’re buying so many, can you give us this stuff for eight dollars?

No, no. Ten dollars. Last supply.
No more. Nobody have this one . . .

No, no. Ten dollars. Last supply.
No more. Nobody have this one . . .

Eight dollars. We’ll all buy them.
No, no, no . . . Nine dollars. Last.

Eight dollars. We’re buying.

This is no Mickey Mouse. No Mickey Mouse.

Come on. Eight dollars.

You shouldn’t be making money out of this anyways!

You shouldn’t be making money out of this anyways!

You shouldn’t be making money out of this anyways!

You shouldn’t be making money out of this anyways!


to tease / a teaser


“Collateral Damage,” censored trailer soundtrack (October 5th release)

Let me first say, we do not tolerate attacks on our citizens.

Hi daddy!

What’s the body count?

Two dozen injured, nine dead. Colombian officials. American intelligence.
A nurse and her little boy. That’s the father over there.

I’ve talked to him! I told him I was picking up my son!

The wolf has been linked to more than a dozen bombing in the last decade.

I will not tell that grieving father that we let his family’s killer get away because of protocol.

We can’t allow the work of an anonymous criminal to unravel the partnership we’ve forged with the Colombian government.

Justice for your wife and son isn’t a priority right now.

You’re not going after him, are you?

Let’s say you did manage to get into the country without getting killed. You’d never make it into the guerilla zone.

The wolf is back in Colombia, but you cannot take the law into your own hands.

We know he’s here. The guerrillas damn sure know he’s here.

Only two ways he can go, and we control both.

That idiot is trying to commit suicide.


You saved my son.

And your husband killed mine.

Don’t even look at those guys unless you can kill them.

He’s a man consumed by hate. Just like you.

I’m not like him.

Not yet.

Claudio is going to Washington to plant another bomb.

Help me stop him.

Surveillance has sent this down. It was taken out in front of the Union Station monitors 13 minutes ago.

That’s him.

Oh my god.

. . .

A man walks down Canal Street. (He looks South American.)
Visibly upset, he shouts “Fuck the third world!” (Fuck the third world.)

. . . and the explanation that President Bush has given. He says things like that they hate us because we have a democratically elected government. And that may go down well with the American people, but I don’t think there’s ever been any doubt about the fact that America is a great democracy. And I really don’t think this has anything to do with democracy or the American way of life. I think America needs to understand that hate is a very powerful emotion. The sort of things that these terrorists have done, commit suicide; their hatred for the United States must have been enormous for them to have plunged into death, and in that sense, I think the United States must be a little introspective. There is a perception, and this perception is widespread—I think not just in the Muslim world but in the world of the have-not—that the United States is not fair in its dealings in specific instances that involve the Muslims.

Oxford Thesaurus

peaches and cream