DIAL 911 for the New Middle East
A group exhibition with Nadim Karam, Penguin Cube, and Alfred Tarazi
September 11-30, 2011

Dial 911 for the New Middle East is an interdisciplinary project created by The Feel Collective that presents works by Nadim Karam, Pengui Cube and Alfred Tarazi that cover video, light installation, digital prints and drawing, in addition to performances by The Incompetents and Under the Carpet.


 

As the Iranian regime zealously enriches its uranium, Hezbollah and Israel feverishly prepare for their next deadly tango, the Americans spread more and more military bases across the region, and the old Arab dictatorships topple one after the other, we bring you: DIAL 911 FOR THE NEW MIDDLE EAST.

 

911, in remembrance of that day, September 11 2001, that day, when suddenly the American administration could divide the world between an Axis Of Evil (rogue states and organizations supporting global terrorism), and a Coalition Of The Willing (the countries that embarked with the US on their global crusade against bearded terrorists). After 911 the Americans could impose a dichotomy of good and evil on the entire world with a clear emphasis on the Middle East. 

About ten days after 911, retired general Wesley Clark visited his ex-colleagues at the Pentagon. One of them hurriedly asked him to step into his office to share some thoughts with him. He informed him that the decision was already taken and that they were going to go to war against Iraq. No proof had been found linking Saddam to Al Qaeda, and anyway they were already bombing Afghanistan. Visiting the Pentagon to follow up two weeks later, General Clark was then informed by a memo from the Secretary of Defense Office that a plan had been developed to take down seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and finishing with Iran. 

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Dial 911 for the New Middle East is an interdisciplinary project created by The Feel Collective that presents works by Nadim Karam, Pengui Cube and Alfred Tarazi that cover video, light installation, digital prints and drawing, in addition to performances by The Incompetents and Under the Carpet.


 

As the Iranian regime zealously enriches its uranium, Hezbollah and Israel feverishly prepare for their next deadly tango, the Americans spread more and more military bases across the region, and the old Arab dictatorships topple one after the other, we bring you: DIAL 911 FOR THE NEW MIDDLE EAST.

 

911, in remembrance of that day, September 11 2001, that day, when suddenly the American administration could divide the world between an Axis Of Evil (rogue states and organizations supporting global terrorism), and a Coalition Of The Willing (the countries that embarked with the US on their global crusade against bearded terrorists). After 911 the Americans could impose a dichotomy of good and evil on the entire world with a clear emphasis on the Middle East. 

About ten days after 911, retired general Wesley Clark visited his ex-colleagues at the Pentagon. One of them hurriedly asked him to step into his office to share some thoughts with him. He informed him that the decision was already taken and that they were going to go to war against Iraq. No proof had been found linking Saddam to Al Qaeda, and anyway they were already bombing Afghanistan. Visiting the Pentagon to follow up two weeks later, General Clark was then informed by a memo from the Secretary of Defense Office that a plan had been developed to take down seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and finishing with Iran. 


 

The whole plan would start by taking down the regime of Saddam Hussein. “The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution”, declared president Bush on November 7, 2003. But for this global democratic revolution to begin the Americans had to adopt the most undemocratic practices: lying to the world about the alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, establishing Guantanamo Bay, bombing Afghanistan, invading Iraq, supporting Israel in 2006…How can democracy be spread through lies, wars, deception and blood?

Amidst the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared that we were witnessing the birth pangs of a new Middle East. More than a thousand Lebanese civilians had been killed at that stage, but pushing Israel to accept a cease-fire, she suggested, would not help because it would simply re-establish the status quo, it would simply not help create a new Middle East. But what is this new Middle East? 

 

No one defines it better than Samantha, the expanded nymphomaniac from Sex and the City upon the latest adventures of the Big Apple girls in Abu Dhabi. The other girls are stressed out about visiting an area so charged with negative stereotypes of violence, anti-Semitism, and repressive religious beliefs. Relax says Samantha to the girls…”It’s the New Middle East”. Taking the Emirate of Abu Dhabi as its vivid example, it is not a space where democratic practices have prevailed; it is simply a space where an American capitalistic consumerist template has been applied, a space where “malls are the new public squares, and suburbs the neighborless neighborhoods”. The New Middle East is then constructed around global markets rooted in consumption and profit. It is constructed as “image exports creating a common world taste around common logos, advertising slogans, stars, songs, brand names, jingles and trademarks”. This global consumerist culture has been coined by Benjamin Barber in a term: it is called McWorld. And in McArabia, we have already been granted the biggest malls, the highest towers, the most luxurious hotels, the biggest entertainment parks, the largest museums… consumers of the world unite, and come to the New Middle East.

 

But this new Middle East has a rabid enemy, the very same that allegedly struck New York and Washington in 2001: JIHAD. Pursuing a bloody politics of identity, based on religious and tribal fundamentalism, Jihad is a form we know all too well… it comes as a “response to colonialism and imperialism and their economic children, capitalism and modernity.” And jihad is we, Middle Easterners, with our complex ethnic and religious identities and our tribal identification. It is part of our culture, and in some countries – as Lebanon- it manifests itself in the form of an armed and unconditional struggle. 

Today, Jihad extremists and McWorld Fanatics are setting up the ground for their big confrontation. By examining the list of countries General Clark has mentioned, one can see that the plan was implemented with difficulty and bloodshed in Iraq, it is still looking for a voice in Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbollah managed to win season one, season two is still in preparation, Libya is now entering its Kaddafi-hunt stage, Somalia fell and is still falling, Soudan has been partitioned, and Iran is pretty much the number one villain on the agenda of all the military forces of the West. 

 

History becomes a reality show that can be manipulated and falsified, followed instantaneously by the whole globalized consumerist world through incredulous eyes. We were promised a global democratic revolution however both “Jihad and McWorld position themselves as potent enemies of democracy, for the dialectical interaction between them suggest new and startling forms of inadvertent tyranny that range from an invisibly constraining consumerism to an all too palpable barbarism”. In a seemingly unavoidable clash, “belonging by default to McWorld everyone is a consumer; seeking a repository for identity, everyone belongs to some tribe. But no one is a citizen. Without citizens, how can there be democracy?” How can we be witnessing a democratic revolution in the Middle East with no real sense of citizenship?

 

The battle for the new Middle East is happening, now. 

 

Get ready.

 

Dial 911.

 

 Alfred Tarazi