not a matter of if but when: brief records of a time in which expectations...

Julia Meltzer, David Thorne

2006 | 00:17:33 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | Video

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: Middle East, Performance

...were repeatedly raised and lowered and people grew exhausted from never knowing if the moment was at hand or was still to come A project of The Speculative Archive "Peace. I don't want it. Justice. Why? Victory? Makes me sick! Love? What a pity. Freedom? Ugly! Friendship? My ass!" Rami Farah, a young Syrian performer, uses various modes of address such as a promise, a threat, a curse, a joke, a lament, and a premonition in order to speak to the current state of affairs in Syria and the Middle East. "not a matter of if but when was developed in 2005-06 in Damascus, Syria. This period of time was marked by momentous events: Rafiq Harriri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, was assassinated, the Syrians were pressured to withdraw from Lebanon after a 30-year occupation, the "Cedar Revolution" came and went, elections were held in Iraq and were followed by a descent into civil war, and Hezbollah strengthened its position in Southern Lebanon.  These events reverberated in Syria and gave rise to widespread anxiety and anticipation around the potential for imminent change, regime change, internal reform, internal collapse, civil war and the increased power of fundamentalist Islam. Over a period of several months, we worked with Rami Farah to record short sequences in which he responded to a prompt or a written text. Through a combination of direct address and fantastical narrative, Rami's improvisations speak to living in a condition of uncertainty, chaos and stasis. A longer version of this work was originally produced as an installation for the 2006 California Biennial." --Julia Meltzer and David Thorne (The Speculative Archive) "...the video's sequence of short, independent yet related scenes is a knockout...It's a rare video that successfully builds on Bruce Nauman's classic camera works exploiting body language. Featured is a young, bearded, dark-eyed Syrian man, seated before a white screen and facing the camera. In one scene, he begins by seductively blowing kisses at the lens, and through it to the viewer. Slowly, the hand gestures become more insistent until finally they're flat-out violent. It's as if he will literally love you to death. In another, his hand swipes his face to close his eyes, almost in the manner of a mortician with a corpse. But soon the eyes pop open again?only to have the highly ritualized sequence repeat, over and over. The repetition becomes a commanding but poignant image of mortality and renewal over time. An insistent will to live meets the inescapable fact of death. In the context of today's Middle East conflagration, a wholly unexpected social-political resonance bubbles up." --Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, October 7th 2006

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Prizes + Awards

First Prize, Transmediale Awards 2008


California Beinnale

Exhibitions + Festivals


Transmediale Festival (Germany), 2007


Athens International Film and Video Festival, Ohio, 2008