RozO at PAV

Archive 2
Blending in with the vegetation - Vegetation is an anticolonial weapon.

The archive images presented here are from the film Chiến thắng Tây Bắc' (The victory of the North West) shot in 1952 by the military forces in Viet Minh during the war against French occupation. Here vegetation is a tool employed in the struggle by the weakest against the strongest. We do not refer here to the art of camouflage, nor to a return to a primitive state: rather it is used as a subordinate weapon for the preservation of autonomy. Vegetation is often used as a political agent in asymmetrical or revolutionary wars, as theorised by Mao Tse-Toung and Ho Chi Minh. These images also demonstrate a form of counter-planning of the land that allows topography (plains and mountains), geography and the ecosystem (the forest or the savana) to be used as a weapon. These images depict the strength of the soldiers who become one with their territory. I am the territory. They inhabit it, and reconstruct it as something else. Thousands of soldiers travel across the country without using the established infrastructure. Instead they use pathways that allow them to avoid detection by the French occupiers. In this way they invent a new map. This map subverts the relationship between city and countryside, and the new territory is built from nature (the countryside) towards culture (the city). Where, previously, bamboo rafts were used to cross rivers, here Giap built invisible bridges, along the Ho Chi Minh route, made from bamboo and positioned 10 centimetres under the surface of the water to allow them to escape the enemy's bombardment of the infrastructure. As well as the refinement of these particular inventions, what stands out is the use of vegetation to support the resistance effort.

Archive 3
The deconstruction of the indigenous landscape Vegetation as a colonial weapon

These archive photos were taken by the French Army. They were taken between 1956 and 1958. They document harvesting in Algeria. In this case, it is the French Army that are doing the harvesting, protected by elite soldiers and armored units of the French army on behalf of leading colonisers. These images clearly depict the yield obtained from the land, and the exploitation of agriculture for the benefit of the coloniser. But these images also show the critical aspects of the transformation of the landscape. On the one hand, we note the radical planning of this territory in terms of the intense cultivation of cereals. The intensive monoculture is designed to produce the maximum possible yield. On the other hand, a process of transformation of the territory is under way. Aside from the word "Algeria" written on the grain sacks, it seems that we are witnessing a French cereal farming region. Here vegetation is clearly used to assimilate and acculturate. Vegetation is employed by the attacker and coloniser of a country or region, to deterritorialize its inhabitants. Rendering the natives foreigners in their own land was a technique that frequently used by colonisers. In the 20th Century, following the invasion of Poland, Nazi Germany implemented a wide-reaching process of “Germanisation” of the territory, to render it German. 

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