9 Scripts from a Nation at War

9 Scripts from a Nation at War

2007
Collaboration with David Thorne, Katya Sander, Ashley Hunt, and Andrea Geyer
Ten-channel video installation, color, sound;
5 hrs, 22 mins (total running time)

9 Scripts from a Nation at War is a 10-channel video installation that responds to conditions and questions that have arose in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. While 2003 marks the beginning of the invasion of Iraq by U.S. military forces, it is a conflict reaches backwards and forwards in history and memory, as a “long war” that has few, if any, boundaries.

This work is structured around a central question: How does war construct specific positions for individuals to fill, enact, speak from, or resist?

9 Scripts from a Nation at War considers the processes by which we are positioned as certain kinds of “individuals” in relation to war — artists, soldiers, students, prisoners, detainees, citizens, Iraqis, Europeans, Americans, and so on. A student or a detainee or a journalist is formed not only in relation to political and ideological conditions, but also by the agency of the individuals themselves, always struggling in response to how they are positioned.

In its current incarnation, 9 Scripts from a Nation at War is presented as a constellation of videos. Each video stages the speaking of a script. The figures who speak — a veteran, a student, a citizen, an actor, a blogger, a lawyer, a journalist, an interviewer — are performed by actors and non-actors alike, some re-speaking their own words, others learning the words of others. These stagings allow inquiry into the recording, reporting, learning, and understanding of the present moment, and to reflect upon how we account for ourselves within it.

Andrea Geyer, Sharon Hayes, Ashley Hunt, Katya Sander and David Thorne have been working together as artists, organizers, researchers, and writers on and off and in varied ways for the last seven years. Our collaborations were prompted by the geographical dislocations inherent to contemporary art practice, in which exhibitions, teaching jobs and our other means of support as artists have an individualizing and dispersing effect. We responded by developing projects that allow for our relationships as colleagues, collaborators and community to continue. 9 Scripts from a Nation at War expands the scope and methods of our previous collaborations and marked the first time we worked together as a group of five.

For more information: http://www.9scripts.info/

Combatant Status Review Tribunals, pp. 002954–003064: A Public Reading

Combatant Status Review Tribunals, pp. 002954–003064: A Public Reading was originally conceived as one part of 9 Scripts from a Nation at War—a collaboration between David Thorne, Katya Sander, Ashley Hunt, Sharon Hayes and Andrea Geyer—which is a multi-channel video installation that responds to the conditions and questions that have arisen during the military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Combatant Status Review Tribunals, pp. 002954–003064: A Public Reading is a four-hour public reading of unedited transcripts from 18 Combatant Status Review Tribunals held at the U.S. military prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba between July 2004 and March 2005. This 118-page excerpt is but a small fraction of the massive collection that documents 558 tribunals, released in 2007 on the Internet by the U.S. Department of Defense in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The Combatant Status Review Tribunals, or CSRTs, were established following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Hamdi v. Rumseld, in order to provide the appearance of allowing Guantanamo detainees to contest their status as “enemy combatants.” During each tribunal, the U.S. government would present unclassified accusations against the detainee, and the accused would be permitted to rebut these specific charges. The detainee would be given “personal representation” but not legitimate legal counsel; he would not be allowed to see, or therefore rebut, any classified information, which made the majority of information justifying their imprisonment unavailable to their defense.

This public reading utilizes a unique staging in which 9 readers rotate through the 8 roles including that of the Detainee, the Tribunal President, two Tribunal Members, the Recorder who represented the US government, and a Personal Representative who acted as the so-called assistant to the Detainee. As a gesture to making the tribunals public, this event simply and powerfully presents these tribunal transcripts word for word. In doing so, it offers information into the complicated and contentious geo-political landscape in Afghanistan and Pakistan between 2001 and 2005 and exposes US governmental and military responses with respect to capturing and detaining so-called enemy combatants to be highly problematic.

Combatant Status Review Tribunals, pp. 002954–003064: A Public Reading  brings these important texts to the consideration of an audience. The event was originally performed at Judson Memorial Church in New York on March 11, 2007, in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics; followed by a German language presentation at Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany in the summer of 2007, and another at the Tate Modern in June 2008. It was performed again at REDCAT in Los Angeles, CA in 2008 and then twice at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC in 2012. It has also been performed in Glasgow, Scotland and Ohio, U.S.

The reading takes approximately four hours, including three 10–minute breaks. Readers are culled from the local community and have included lawyers, journalists, television news anchors, legal activists, artists, community organizers and ordinary citizens.