Mediamatic Off-Line Vol. 10#3

For a Better World - winter 2001

Following on from Cesare Davolio's Annunciation (on the Red Brigade's kidnapping and eventual execution of the Italian politician Aldo Moro), this is the newest contribution to our irregular series of CD-ROM and DVD publications. Once again, it looks at an emotionally-charged subject with a political background.

Mathilde ter Heijne's For a better World is a virtual essay on some of the public self-immolations to have been carried out in recent decades, illustrated with video footage and the spoken commentary of subjective and objective witnesses. The whole is comprised within, and coordinated by, a digital drawing through which the user navigates with the mouse.

While self-immolation may originally have been the declaration of an individual standpoint, since the attacks on the WTC in New York and the Pentagon in Washington it has become clear that a well-coordinated collective suicide mission also constitutes a political act. Ter Heijne's CD-ROM is a contribution to the ongoing debate: an unintentional one, in actual fact, as it was completed before these attacks took place. Moreover, her vision is an artistic one. Rather than make political statements about them, she prefers to let the objective facts speak for themselves. Ter Heijne is a visual artist, not a politician. She tackles her subject with disregard for the consequences on public life, and is equally disinterested in the current tendency to public emotion and identification.

To play this CD-ROM is to realise that Ter Heijne has immersed herself deeply in the material. With a critical director's eye she presents the various players (including the Buddhist monk Quang Duc and the Czech student Jan Palach) with both empathy and a respectful distance. Ter Heijne's For a better World is an important CD which gives voice to a group whose lot she clearly cares about a great deal.

The CD-ROM has introductory articles by Arie Altena, Gerrit Gohlke, Paul Groot and Mathilde ter Heijne herself.

Translation Ralph de Rijke