The Kosovo War Took Place In Orbital Space
Paulo Virilio in Conversation with John Armitage
Translated by Patrice Riemens
Paul Virilio is a renowned urbanist, political theorist and critic of the art of technology. Born in Paris in 1932, Virilio is best known for his 'war model' of the growth of
the modern city and the evolution of human society. He is also the inventor of the term 'dromology' or the logic of speed. Identified with the phenomenology of
Merleau-Ponty, the futurism of Marinetti and technoscientific writings of Einstein, Virilio's intellectual outlook can usefully be compared to contemporary architects,
philosophers and cultural critics such as Bernard Tschumi, Gilles Deleuze and Jean Baudrillard. Virilio is the author, among other books, of Bunker Archeology (1994
), Speed & Politics: An Essay on Dromology (1986 ), The Information Bomb (2000 ) and, most recently, Strategie de la deception (1999). His analysis
of the Kosovo War is the subject of his conversation with John Armitage below.
John Armitage: Professor Virilio, to what extent does your intellectual and artistic work on the architecture of war, and architecture more generally, inform your thinking in
Strategie de la deception? Is it the case that, in common with other so-called 'postmodern' wars, such as the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the architecture of war, along with
architecture itself, is 'disappearing'? How did you approach the question of the architecture of war and its disappearance in Strategie de la deception?
Paul Virilio: Well, let me put it this way, I have always been interested in the architecture of war, as can be seen in Bunker Archeology. However, at the time that I did
the research for that book, I was very young. My aim was to understand the notion of 'Total War'. As I have said many times before, I was among the first people to experience
the German Occupation of France during the Second World War. I was 7-13 years old during the War and did not really internalise its significance. More specifically, under the
Occupation, we in Nantes were denied access to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It was therefore not until after the War was over that I saw the sea for the first time, in the
vicinity of St Nazaire. It was there that I discovered the bunkers. But what I also discovered was that, during the War, the whole of Europe had become a fortress. And thus I
saw to what extent an immense territory, a whole continent, had effectively been reorganised into one city, and just like the cities of old. From that moment on, I became more
interested in urban matters, in logistics, in the organisation of transport, in maintenance and supplies.
But what is so astonishing about the war in Kosovo for me is that it was a war that totally bypassed territorial space. It was a war that took place almost entirely in the air.
There were hardly any Allied armed personnel on the ground. There was, for example, no real state of siege and practically no blockade. However, may I remind you that France
and Germany were opposed to a maritime blockade of the Adriatic Sea without a mandate from the United Nations (UN). So, what we witnessed in Kosovo was an
extraordinary war, a war waged solely with bombs from the air. What happened in Kosovo was the exact reversal of what happened in 'Fortress Europe' in 1943-45. Let me
explain. Air Marshall 'Bomber' Harris used to say that 'Fortress Europe' was a fortress without a roof, since the Allies had air supremacy. Now, if we look at the Kosovo War,
what do we see? We see a fortress without walls