Medina Wasl: Connecting Town focuses on the role of fiction and simulacrum in the United States Military training sites of the War on Terror. This quasi-documentary connects the current day militarized landscape of the Mojave Desert with that of Shatt al-Arab, a river that was a key military target for the US Military in Iraq. The film shows the perspective of the artist/documentarian/actor, dressed as a teenage Iranian soldier in the war with Iraq and enacting embodied experiences of remembering in the desert.
Not only do the US and its allies continue to dominate, exploit the resources of, and occupy the Middle East, the US practices its strategies in the simulacrum of the Middle East built on stolen Indigenous land in the Mojave Desert. The way the Middle East is constructed here “at home” as a conflation of Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan—as a malleable placeholder for whatever country we are officially at war with—has its roots in the obvious relationship Timothy Mitchell establishes in Orientalism and The Exhibitionary Order:
“The nineteenth-century image of the Orient was constructed not just in Oriental studies, romantic novels, and colonial administrations, but in all the new procedures with which Europeans began to organize the representation of the world, from museums and world exhibitions to architecture, schooling, tourism, the fashion industry, and the commodification of everyday life.”
In the context of the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the series of world fairs that followed “what Arab writers found in the West,” Mitchell argues, “were not just exhibitions and representations of the world, but the world itself being ordered up as an endless exhibition. This world-as-exhibition was a place where the artificial, the model, and the plan were employed to generate an unprecedented effect of order and certainty.”