Pratt Gallery, New York
A herd of tribal settlers approaches. You allow them to settle on a land of great history. Below you are layers of empires established by the Mesopotamians that pile below the Islamic caliphate. The merchant settlers elect a tribe to rule this territory. They build dhow ships to pearl dive and fish on. They build mud houses and abandon their caravans. They become regional weapon smugglers. The land transforms into a trading port bustling with merchandise and people. The Arab desert around you transforms into an Arab city along the silk trade route. Its autonomous nature intrigues the Ottomans and the British. They begin to bicker on either side of you. You observe as the ruler of Kout toys with them. A new flag is raised in front of you, the Ottoman emblem is gone, and the land you stand on is now a British protectorate.
Heritage Wall no. 6
8 x 8 x 3 ft, stud wall, stained 2 x 4" wood, stained fake windows, handicapped patio chair, reserved stainless steel plaque
Multiple layer stamp collage, 2 x 4" stained wood, x3 magnifying domes
Sooner or Later
1960 Magnavox radio, orchard ladder, inflatable swimming pool, water, electrical power.
Embargo & Checkpoints
7 min looping video
Allow the British to draw a small nation with a red pen.
Call it Kuwait.
Turn a merchant elected tribe into rulers of an emirate.
Call the leader Emir.
Replace the flag with a new design. Keep it fresh.
Give out citizenships to specific tribes.
Call the British to help extract oil.
Once the Americans are interested, call them.
Sell lots of oil.
Import architects and urban planners. Bonus points if they are Scandinavian.
Demolish existing mud-wall borders to make room for infrastructure.
Fill the gaps with highways.
Tear down mud houses – replace with incongruous mansions.
Create districts. Once these are defined, create areas. Once these are defined, create blocks.
Share some of the wealth with the citizens.
Give them free healthcare, free education and voting rights.
Give them houses.
Design a constitution and let the people vote in a parliament.
Build a parliament building. Bonus points if a Scandinavian designs it.
Call yourself a democracy.
Encourage neo-liberalism and Islam.
Shove all dhow ships into one port.
Park yachts in front of new coastline malls.
Create foundations in the form of heritage institutions and cultural festivals.
Infuse nationalism and patriotism into the citizens.
Continuously project cultural themes on modern media as national political culture.
Invent cultural tradition.
Invoke old memories. Gain the ‘Nostalgia Is Power’ perk.
Celebrate traditional values and folklore.
State-sponsor everything you can.
Control the perception of history.
Rebuild what you accidentally destroyed.
Cheaply renovate what still remains.
Allow freedom of speech to a certain extent.
Censor what you are unsure of.
Adjust bursts of development over long periods of time.
Prepare an escape plan in case all fails.
Continue nation building.
Photographs by Jean Paul Gomez