Pretty Short War

Luis Cerveró
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“If we have our wishes come true, consumer society will collapse.” (Zygmunt Bauman)
“Each and every still life is, ipso facto, a vanitas.” (Ernst Gombrich)

In "Pretty Short War" Luís Cerveró spends the length of the video killing insects with honey covered candy. The piece, in the style of an advertising clip, with its corresponding time frame, editing technique and mis-en-scéne, presents idyllic still lifes of sweetness where the artist’s inner crawlies are killed. The pressure of the mass media suppresses all reflection on the most trivial everyday actions. The welfare society in which we live imposes a form of consumerism, from whose grips it is impossible to escape. And so, those who cannot choose, fall into the margins of progress. Our consumerist utopia sends us all into a voracious, yet unfruitful, search for joy. An artificial and ephemeral pleasure.

Just like any good still life, "Pretty Short War" is a feast for the senses, and, because of its illusory nature, it perpetuates an utopian pleasure beyond our ephemeral time. And yet, this pop vanitas is interrupted by the eruption of strange beings. On the idyllic setting of the short video insects emerge and begin to bite at the fruits of the candy artifice, and so contaminate the advertising clip. Before they are able to try the sweets amongst which they are moving, they are, thanks to the heart-shaped lollypop, killed by syrup, chocolate and honey. We hereby witness a sort of infantile enjoyment with candy still lifes, framed by advertising’s aestheticism.

Honey does suffocate. Sweetness does kill. The systematic extermination of the insects with sweetness, the liquidation of the intruders that erupt among the affable artifice of happiness, remind us of Zygmunt Bauman’s “gardener’s metaphor”. Bauman compares the refined cultures to the uncultivated ones and demonstrates that rationally designed power structures (such as last century’s totalitarianisms) need to eliminate the other out of their garden. “On the last instance, genocide is the highest concretisation of social gardening, the clearing of bad weeds depending on the specific concretisation of the image of what the garden should be like.”

In "Pretty Short War" Cerveró constructs a perverse variation of the “memento mori” translation, implicit in all still lifes. The memory of death (remember that we are all mortal) comes to signify the act or moment itself of death. This is a meaning closer to the “vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas” (vanity of vanities, all is vanity) which warns us of the futility of worldly things, as death might be just around the corner.

Technical datasheet

  • Title: Pretty Short War
  • Direction: Luis Cerveró
  • Production: Luis Cerveró. 2001.
  • Duration: 00:01:42
  • Languages: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Original format: Quicktime
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: PAL
  • License: Copyright