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Cult Vault #2: Johan Grimonprez on The Lone Gunman

Belgian artist Johan Grimonprez recommends an eerily prescient TV pilot

Taken from the May 2010 issue of Dazed & Confused:

Johan Grimonprez is a Belgian artist and filmmaker whose film essay DIAL H-I-S-T-O-R-Y traces the history of airplane hijackings since the 70s. His latest feature, Double Take, imagines Alfred Hitch-cock meeting his doppelganger on the set of The Birds.

“I want to recommend the pilot of a television series called The Lone Gunmen, which aired in March 2001. It was created by Chris Carter who also created the X-Files, and features the hackers from that show who ran a conspiracy theory magazine called The Lone Gunmen. The pilot was aired six months before 9/11, and it’s a very eerie premonition because in the episode, a plane is rigged to fly into the World Trade Center. In the show, it’s proven to have been done by the Government, who want to blame it on people from the Middle East to stimulate the post-Cold War arms trade. 

The philosopher Slavoj Žižek describes the events of 9/11 as a double take on things that have happened in films. The world is so full of images and stories that when something real happens, it can look like a copy of a film we’ve already seen. Žižek would give it a political spin and say the repressed politics of America created the desire for that event, and that what lives underneath is propagated in mainstream industries such as Hollywood. Fictions proliferate to become realities.

There’s an anecdote which ties in with my new film Double Take and its subject of Alfred Hitchcock and The Birds (and which also appears in the Double Take reader published later this year) – a very weird thing happened on September 11, 1948. Hundreds of birds flew into the Empire State Building and crashed. The next day’s New York Times headline read, ‘Tiny Bodies Littered 5th Avenue’. There were hundreds of birds, all different sorts.”