Without Human Connection


February 2020




When politicians become highly televised — are they themselves?


Public speeches are a central aspect of political campaigning in America. Millions of dollars fund debates, talks, caucuses, and conventions allowing voters to learn about their candidates’ views, policies, and stances. Since these means of communication are broadcasted on national television, the act of speechmaking has become a major strategic opportunity for candidates. The enormous airtime of these speeches has led to candidates providing, in the name of efficiency, staged and repetitive one-liners and rehearsed phrases. This begs the question: when the Democratic front-runners partake in these speeches, who do they really represent: themselves, or a mechanized version of themselves?

In Without Human Connection, Altmann and I explore this dehumanization that the 2020 Democratic speeches exude. This topic is critical for all Americans to explore as one of the current four front-runners — Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders, Warren — is likely to become the next U.S. president. Altmann and I, through a series of seemingly unrelated speech splices, create the aural effect of a single and continuous run-on sentence. Mixed with oversaturated and computerized images near the film’s conclusion, the uncanny, robotic nature of these speeches is revealed.

In the fashion of William Wees’s collage, Without Human Connection uses seemingly disparate clips to create a new meaning, one that is greater than the sum of its parts. The precedents set in visually-driven collage films, such as Stan Brakhage’s Window Water Baby Moving (1959), are extended in Without Human Connection through the use of a humanizing collage of sound, influenced by my close relationship with the musique concrète genre. My interest in both this genre and the reconfiguration of public material has driven my work in this project. It is absolutely clear that the speeches of the Democratic front-runners, just like the edits in Without Human Connection, are inherently constructed.


MAC 240 Projects: No. 1



A film by — Manny Rothman
A film by — Sebastian Altmann


Manny Rothman, 2024