Gulf Watch

Images and sounds I recorded in San Francisco early in 1991 form the raw material of Gulf Watch. The material is divided into two parts. One part of it is a 3-minute cut from local television news, the other is an 80-minute film I recorded myself on video. Both parts refer to the same event: a big (perhaps the biggest) peace/ anti-war demonstration during the so-called Gulf War between Iraq and Kuwait and international allied forces (practically) led by the USA. The cut from the newscast looks like a newscast, and is presented in the form of a constantly transforming loop as element A of the installation. “My“ shot (B) shows the line of demonstrators passing the camera without any interruption or cut. The camera was positioned at right angles to the train of demonstrators and was never moved. The shot lasts exactly as long as it takes the train of demonstrators (approx. 200,000 people) to pass the camera completely.

The installation presents elements A and B simultaneously, one on a colour wall projection and the other on a black-and-white monitor. A crossways switch gear makes the images jump between the two apparatuses/ forms of representation. The switch gear itself is controlled by a movement sensor somewhere in the gallery but not directly beside the installation. The monitor and the projection screen are placed in the room in such a way that it is possible to watch the images on the monitor and the images projected on the wall separately, or, to a certain extent, both at the same time. Hence it is possible to jump between the two, just like A and B jump between the monitor and the projection screen. Several small loudspeakers in the room emit the soundtrack of B, not too loudly, so that it is not heard equally everywhere in the room, but rather at selected points. The soundtrack of A is only available via headphones plugged in somewhere near the monitor, even while the images of B are on the monitor and the Images of A are projected on the wall. I don’t remember anymore if the title Gulf Watch was coined by television or by the press. Anyway, it gave a resounding name to the daily soap-like information about the Gulf War. There are no images of the Gulf or the Gulf War itself.

The emphasis is on the observation of “real things“, as well as the reconsideration of the absent.

Both were made impossible by the constant live satellite transmissions during the war. Expecting certain events you were in a way captivated by broadcasts blindfolding you with deceiving and little illuminating images.

The long shot, B (80 minutes), is an uninterrupted and potentially contemplative gaze, but can only be perceived and experienced by following the jumps between the monitor and the wall projection. Though the long uninterrupted gaze is there as such, it is still cut up.

Television is the level in-between. As already said, it pretends to bring something nearer to us, but in truth it removes.

My “own“ images and the "foreign" ones are organised crosswise, and shifted into each other. Yet they remain discrete. They constantly change their places of manifestation, touching each other in an imaginary space during this exchange.

Of course, to unmask television in all its atrocity and stupidity one could have employed much more spectacular TV images here. But I am interested in something different. I want to show something that one does not see because it is hidden in the structure. It is the exciting surface that diverts most from it.

Isn’t it true — to pick out a by no means new, nevertheless highly topical aspect — that television with all its mobility, diversion, and speed, and in all its abundance of stimulants bombing its audience, finally generates nothing but passivity?

“Must it be like that?“ I ask myself, letting the images jump, and interfere with my own, not so rapid images, which might open up some depth to the gaze.

What is basically most interesting for me is that imaginary space where things and images, as well as images and other images, remain in a perpetual exchange, in an infinite state of flux. With Gulf Watch I want to actualise, describe, and arrange my way a small cell of this usually invisible space, which entangles us, always and everywhere, in ever tighter webs.

Thomas Korschil

Translation O. L.