This hauntingly beautiful video, a collage of found material, is a poetic evocation of the first Gulf War. After a title which announces “North West Iraq 1991,” the video begins with a slow motion image of tall, ripe ears of corn waving in a gentle breeze. The camera moves slowly forward, into a rolling, verdant and peaceful valley. Pulsing electronic music is mixed with fragments from a somber Baroque aria. It is an image of peace and abundance, and seems almost American. Indeed, we soon hear a voiceover narrative, running throughout the video, in which a paratrooper tells of jumping into a landscape which reminds him of Kansas, filled with men, women and children working the fields. This imagery also serves to remind us of the relatively prosperous, advanced nation Iraq was before we began our attacks.
Soon, however, in the paratrooper’s narrative, we hear how the children and the women, as well as the men, are bearing arms and are willing to kill the soldiers in order to defend their land. We see grainy, slow motion footage of several paratroopers jumping from a plane, and massive, endless bombardments and billowing smoke, while hearing descriptions of the cluster bombs, reminding us that the aerial bombardment in the Gulf War was the largest such assault on a civilian population up to that time in history, surpassing all the years of the Vietnam War.
The war images are interspersed with several shots of the revolving sun, with all of its surface detail visible in brilliant orange and green. (I assumed from the title that this was a radio image.) The sun is seen close up enough that it is larger than the (letterboxed) image frame, making its shape resemble the rounded rectangle which most people associate with a TV screen.
The final sequence shows another bucolic scene of slow motion waving wheat, while we hear the paratrooper tell of being in a field full of hidden Iraqis, ready to kill him, and being sure he will die soon.
What makes this collection of images and sounds, the spinning sun, the peaceful countryside, and the bombs and smoke, such a powerful and evocative emotional experience? It could be that, like many poetic works, “The Frequency of the Sun” reveals the yin inside the yang, and evokes a whole spectrum of existence. The video evokes war and its opposite, all in one set of images and sounds. The sun is the nurturing source of life, but also a destructive nuclear conflagration, like the bombs. The peaceful farmers are also warriors, defending their home from invasion. The hiding, frightened paratrooper is also an invader. These disparate elements are expertly assembled by Boughton, with flawless timing and visual composition, to create an almost peaceful meditation on the terror and horror of war.