Foreign Respondent

Screenshot 2015-02-21 11.23.18

The below is an audio piece I wrote in response to Karen Mirza and Brad Butler’s film meditation on the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks, The Unreliable Narrator.

It was performed by my dear friend and collaborator Sangeeta Realspeak at Whitechapel Gallery in London last Thursday night.

I wanted to be able to share this with you, dear internet. In hopes you’d go see the film should you get the chance and that these words might chime even if you hadn’t.

This response is an audio work you can experience at home if you have a Mac operating system with speech capability. All you have to do is follow my instructions. (If you are a non mac user, I am sure you know how to make your computer read aloud to you anyway)

1. copy and paste the text in appendix a. into a sticky note.

2. go to systems preferences > dictation & speech > customise > choose the English (India) voice (in this case it’s Veena) > press OK

Screenshot 2015-02-21 11.27.54

3. go back to sticky note with text. go to edit > speech > start speaking

Appendix A (the text):

Since you can’t turn me off,

Leave me on so I can listen.

Listen. These are the rules. No level ups. No power perks. No extra lives. No bosses. There is no deus in this mackina. There is only me.

Me. A voice coming out of a phone. Me. Making strange your understanding. This is me hailing you from a distance. I say, hey! Hey! over here. Hear what I have to tell.

We just watched a story in which the characters know they are in the story. In which the tellers know you are listening, watching – with them. This is A. definition of metta-fiction. And what is fiction if not the opposite of fact?

Some possible facts:

1. Narrative is a tool for constructing history.

2. History is built on a plot full of holes.

3. Mobiles have spoiled our stories.

Just like video killed the radio star. Mobile phones have killed movies…or at least – killed their plots.

It renders the old plots impossible, irrelevant, unbelievable. We no longer meet by chance. We don’t get lost. We don’t disappear. All we have to do is google mack guffin.

We have traded plot device for handheld device.

Yes, the mobile has become the protagonist of a new kind of story.

Still one of binaries, only without good or evil – just ones and zeros.

It is the avatar of an invisible inceptor. A simulant. A stimulant.

Al Shabab operatives receive their orders direct via text message. A bleep heard between two identical phrases can launch a missile, an SMS can detonate a bomb, SIM cards, those little notched chips of gold and plastic are the target of million-dollar drone attacks by the J.S.O.C.- Joint Special Operations Command – Is that real? Sounds just like a game. It is a game.

It’s called. Call of Duty: Black Ops.

One unnamed JSOC officer says this of Taliban targets.

They. often “go to meetings, take all their SIM cards out, put them in a bag, mix them up, and everybody gets a different SIM card when they leave.”

Sounds like some twisted swinger’s key party. Using mobile phones to track enemies has led to many civilian deaths by drone.  These wing ed things are all seeing but blind.

Your eyes are vestigial. You need sensors. Embedded. Like me. All solid state technology.

Who are these unseen narrators, these systems builders, or As the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari called them on Larry King. stateless actors.

Who are these ones who draw the dark, who have identified the devices that control the plot?

David Coleman Headley is one. Player B in the Mumbai attacks.

Multiple Choice!

Which of these statements about him is untrue?

A. He owned a video and game rental store in New York City.

B. He was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder in 1992.

C. He enjoyed games such as first person shooter Call of Duty.

On November 26th 2008, Shazia – his wife – wrote this coded email:

“Congrats on your graduation. Graduation ceremony is really great. Watched the movie the whole day.”

Why do people say this?…

It felt like a movie.

I think – ‘it looked more like a game’.

Now, to look on through the footage,  they appear in the familiar format of a scrolling third  person shooter.

A formal example of the danmaku genre – a thing called “bullet curtain”.  Here we had a multiplayer event with views facilitated by media coverage – all those red recording lights hovering at the edge of the event, like the glimmering eyes of bats hanging from the mouth of darkness.

Full media coverage and surveillance allowed players to view their avatars in the over-the-shoulder shot – perhaps an unplanned bonus but afterwards it was clear:

Omnipotence is the ultimate tactical cover.

The controllers operated their in sitchu incarnations via mobile devices. Phones and GPS units secreting blue light in the pockets of their boys.  flickering like fire flower booster packs. Urging. On. In distant monotone. “Finish.” And then later, in tender voice command. Words of comfort. Steadying the moral gyroscopes of young men. The younglings stepping over the threshold into their final freefall. One last inshaAllah spoken in a whisper sounds the chilly dissonance of your.


One Response to “Foreign Respondent”
  1. mo reda says:

    Dear Sophia.

    I am a artist /curator born in kuwait to persian and Iraqi kurd parents…based in Amsterdam.

    I would like to speak to you regarding a collaboration.

    Mo Reda

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