Neil
Sanzgiri

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All That Is Solid
Melts Into Air

The Production of Belief

(installation view)

- Production of Belief (film)
- Alternative Views
- The Dust Never Settles

Distortions

Spiral Cinema

 
  Writing  
 

 
The Production of Belief is an installation centered around the events of the 1991 Persian Gulf War crisis and the first invasion of Iraq, the rise of the 24 hour live news broadcast, the effects of instantaneous communication in a globalized society and the residues of the past as they continue to haunt the present.

The installation consists of a ten minute rear-projected screening of a video piece
titled "The Production of Belief", interweaving a debunked 2009 conspiracy theory about falsified live coverage of the Gulf War from a CNN corespondent and monologues addressing my birth in 1989. The video is installed inside of a large re-created film set featuring a broadcast of a 1958 speech from American journalist Edward Murrow and overlapping media artifacts from the Gulf War era. Radical public access television shows from 1991, featuring notables such as Edward Said and Douglas Kellner with “Alternative Views TV”, and more collaborative efforts such as Paper Tiger and Deep Dish Television’s “Gulf Crisis TV project” are paired next to each other to explore deeper investigations into the subject through issues of oil, imperialism, representation, and dissent.

 
I repositioned these original works into the present by working with CC-TV (Cambridge Community Television) to re-broadcast these episodes on local cable television without context, leaving viewers to draw their own connections between 1991 and 2015. Additionally, I invited curator and artist Alia Farid to contribute to the installation, whom added a text by Lebanese poet and feminist, Etal Adnan. The audience navigates the spatial terrains of the installation through different stations featuring commentaries and texts, construction sites and recreated film sets - all adding to the complexity of this particular moment where post-cold war military censorship, media spectacle, and the entertainment of new broadcasting technologies were all mobilized to gain popular support for an invasion of a region where U.S. forces have not since left.
 
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"in Parallel" installation shot, displayed on a three-channel Trinitron VHS editng suite

 

av_doc

(screenshots from the three chanel video piece)

"Alternative Views" (left), Etal Adnan, "Of Cities & Women" (middle), "Gulf Crisis TV" (right)

Perhaps what remains in most American's minds of the 1991 Persian Gulf War is not just the war itself, but the images that were portrayed on screen under the weight of time. The introduction of new satelite broadcasting technologies enabled news outlets to report on live televison in "real time" from distant locations thus making the Gulf War the first ever "live war".

As the war unfolded, the thrill of live updates capitvated people's attention as CNN burst on to the mainstream media marketplace with the first ever 24 hour live news cycle. Yet the images and commentarues themselves were infact censored under strict control from the military, learning from the mistakes of critical journalistic exposure from the Vietnam War. Thus, swiftly taking advantage of viewers thirst for entertainment, the televised images of the war provided a spectacle of American military supremacy for the world to steer public support for the war itself.

Yet at around this same time, public access television, a concept invented some twenty years earlier by journalist Edward Murrow's producer Fred W. Friendly, was finally gaining popularity among critics of the Gulf War as the idea of "broadcasting yourself" became easier. Thus, programs such as Paper Tiger TV were able to pool VHS tapes that were mailed by the hundreds from all over the country to weave together profoundly different images of major protests and counter-narratives than the ones being fed to the majority of Americans.

 

Displayed on a three-channel Trinitron VHS editing suite, I paired radical public access television shows from 1991, featuring notables such as Edward Said and Douglas Kellner with “Alternative Views TV”, and more collaborative efforts such as Paper Tiger and Deep Dish Television’s “Gulf Crisis TV” project to explore deeper investigations into the subject through issues of oil, imperialism, representation, and dissent.

Additionally, I invited Kuwaiti/Puerto Rican curator and artist Alia Farid to contribute to the installation, whom added a letter by Lebanese poet and feminist, Etal Adnan, titled Of Cities and Women written at the time of the invasion of Kuwait. Alia contributed this text on the same week as the 2015 Paris Attacks, where she was currently residing, illuminating a result of the current world left by the vacuum of US intervention in Iraq. The letter written by Adnan is a meditation on many things such as ecological destruction, the French countryside as experienced by Cezanne and Picasso, the nature of woman, as well as exile - all conversations that exist "in parallel" as Alia says, to the invasion of Kuwait.

These three different works gradually go out of sync based on their different looped playing times, leaving a different combination between the works for each viewer.

 
 

The image above represents the average pixel color of a photograph of an incinerated Iraqi soldier whose body was burnt after an attempting to climb out of an inflamed vehicle. The photograph was taken by a journalist at the time of the war. After attempting to diseminate the photograph widely, the image was censored and never seen by American audiences until after the war.

 

I painted every wall and pedestal of the installation with this color.
 
 

"The Production of Belief (filmic installation)"

Audiences stand either outside of the film set on the 'contructed' side - forced to navigate in-between the 2x4's and drywall, grabbing headphones to experience the film - or inside of the room, sitting in the chair, blinded by the spotlight and listening to “The Dust Never Settles” while seeing the film mirrored on the other side of the screen.

 
Glimpses into the room appear momentarily during the black leader of the scenes allowing audience members to temporarily see each other through the screen.