Urban combat training facility

Urban Combat Training Facility, two-channel HD video, 8:56 min., 2018

The video and series of photographs were shot on location in a military urban combat training facility in Israel, an environment completely fabricated and built to resemble the layout of an Arab town. These choreographed sequences reflect on the implications of Israel’s mandatory active army service and mandatory reserve duty. Blurring the lines between public and private, civilian and military, individual and collective, the video lingers in this excruciating state of “becoming”. 

The military uniforms and equipment were rented from a film production company and the men are acting out these uncanny situations according to my direction. The theatrics of this project point to the performative qualities of the training facility – a simulated environment in which soldiers ‘rehearse’ for an anticipated future. I am interested in thinking through the roles these facilities have not only in reacting to reality but also in creating and (re)enforcing a specific one.

On the left channel, six civilian men enter the uncanny simulated urban site carrying in their (civilian) backpacks military garb. Slowly, they transform into characters that fit the staged setting, becoming both soldiers and symbols of the nation-state and its ideals of sovereignty. On the right channel, in one scene the soldiers are engaged in domestic and mundane activities, disturbed by the fact they are being performed by men in military uniforms. In the other scene, they are sharing a meal of military rations while engaged in an (unscripted) meta-conversation about the problems as well as the political motivations of this service. 

The work questions what happens when military uniform stops being an outer layer and starts to affect the inner fabrics of society. What kind of a society is created when mandatory service and its indispensable processes of indoctrination render militarism as normative and continuous aggression as an inevitable reality. What dehumanized ‘other’ is portrayed, and how in return does that dehumanize me. In this reality, I question what home is being defended, at whose expense and to what end.

Urban Combat Training Facility (map), spray paint on paper, 60’’x30’’, 2019

Urban Combat Training Facility, archival inkjet prints, 23’’x20’’, 2018