Vol. 3, Number 1, March 2007
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The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Current:
Notes for a Possible Timeline
Julia Meltzer and David Thorne produce videos, photographs, and installations. From 1999 to 2003, their projects centered on secrecy, history, and memory. Current works focus on the ways in which visions of the future are imagined, claimed, and realized or relinquished, specifically in relation to faith and global politics.
Recent projects have been exhibited at the Walraff-Richartz Museum (Köln), Argos Center for Art and Media (Brussels), the Wexner Center (Columbus, Ohio), the 2008 Whitney Biennial, the 2006 California Biennial, Akbank Sanat Gallery (Istanbul), Apex Art (New York), and as part of the Hayward Gallery's (London) travelling exhibition program. Video work has been screened at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, The New York Video Festival, the Margaret Mead Film Festival, and the Toronto International Film Festival, among many others.
> “WE DON’T LIKE IT AS IT IS BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE WANT IT TO BE.”
Since 1999 The Speculative Archive has developed two bodies of work consisting of installation projects, photographs, and films. The first focused on state secrecy practices, memory, and history. Our current projects focus on the use of documents – images, texts, objects, bodies, and physical structures – to project and claim visions of the future in a time of war on terror. Much of our recent work is based on a year spent living and working in Damascus, Syria. We are currently in post-production on a film, We don’t like it as it is but we don’t know what we want it to be.
We arrived in Syria in January 2005 having done considerable research on “preventive war,” “preemption,” and “imminent threat,” with particular emphasis on how these concepts and practices affect the experience of time. Over a period of a year in Damascus, we became interested in the ways in which these concepts and practices affect the Syrian regime, and, by extension, the people they rule. While our starting point may have been the “Bush Doctrine,” it became clear that the Syrian regime, dominated by the Asad family, uses the concepts of imminent threat and preemption to their own advantage. The threats to Syria, according to the regime, are many – a possible US and/or Israeli invasion and occupation, the growing influence of political Islam, and the possibility that simmering ethnic and tribal divisions could erupt into civil war, Iraq or Lebanon-style. These scenarios – visions of things to come – become justifications for the maintenance of the status quo. “Better the devil you know.”