note_12 Kandahari Cramps? A human fly linking Busheyr, Bandar Abbas, Bhuj in Kachhch and Dubai -of course…

Home of the DRONE Creech_Air_Force_Base_aerial

Desert Terror

Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, 45 miles N of Las Vegas, home of the MQ1 Predator Drone

Five years after writing this short story, Buzz, Buzz, Buzzzzz, it feels timely to share it here (below). It describes drone flights over Herat, Khorasan and Iran’s central plateau across to Bushehr and Bandar Abbas where the drone tracks back east again. I wrote it in the voice of the drone (mad thought obviously), which begins in the kind of (monstrously violent/ deeply racist) formulaic AI-speak of its makers -also in Nevada- but changes when brought down to earth in Iran, as the RQ-170 actually was, where it encounters people and place, face-to-face…

Commissioned in London, written and submitted from Bhuj in Kachhch in December through January 2012-13 -where I was also in March 2003, incidentally, when the declining US Imperium unleashed shock ‘n awe/invasion ‘n occupation on Iraq, making the ground move where I was standing too- to be published and launched at Dubai in March 2013. Great company, as you can see below, a pleasure to read in great company at the Global Art Forum too (thanks mostly to Charles, of course, the frenchified voice of CBGBs as HG kind-of remarked) and generative of a great interview with Omar Kholeif too.

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 12.14.01

I have spent some of this year writing my first Porting texts (Sharjah and DXB) and many or most of the proper names have recurred. Reading this again today for the first time in years reminds me why I can and have written in this way now. It’s do with a certain paying of attention to things chosen and invested-in. They are not, are far from, unlimited, right?

Gravesthits

Buzz Buzz Buzzzzz describes the border crossing near Herat, the bare black mountainous formations en route, the salt lakes, and prettily patterned agriculture of Khorasan beyond. The RQ-170 in my voice is brought very low down across those kinds of walnut and pistachio-rich landscapes, until it meets the ground near Kashmar. I have been writing -in Porting DXB- about the Iranian or Saqr Suq in downtown Sharjah, where an ambient mixture of Iranian, Arab/ian, South Asian worlds was deeply familiar to me on first encounter and key to my ongoing affection for the place and these elements in life.

The Porting texts are constrained, or they are not actually but I am, by Abu Dhabi’s iron grip on the UAE’s notional Federation of powers. It currently regards me, like so many others, as a ‘security threat’ for my carefully constructed, precisely nuanced words about things or really people it treats as deletable; the migrant workforce building the state and spectacles like the Louvre or Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Despite Sharjah having its own airport, the first in the region as it often reminds itself and us, I won’t be flying in for a while yet. You can though! And don’t hesitate, it’s one of my favourite places in the world.

I’ve spent just enough time in Dubai to know that it’s an interesting place to be/live, perhaps increasingly less so unless something gives? I mean if you ignore the cheap-holiday-in-other-peoples’-misery aspects (oppressive over-riding regime; no Skype! no Whatsapp! No Change.com! No change, no change) and the kindergarten-boosterism of it, you can find a lot of personal and cultural vitality there. The growing oppressiveness can’t last, it never does, but personal and cultural vitality can’t survive for long in such contexts either. It’s not an ‘interesting experiment’ in non-Occidental all-new(wish) 21st living (how much ‘freedom’ do you need if autocracy ticks most contentment indicators? -is the argument, broadly) but stupefied by growth or greed and crudely authoritarian. Withheld breath goes stale today just as it always has … too much whispering makes you itch … Drones get downed …

I know Abu Dhabi less well but, despotism aside, hold no animus against it and had begun to indulge curiosity in the place. You do have to pay to stand on the beach, but I recommend walking the streets in the Arabian Gulf anyway. See if you too can get out on the Emirates Palace Marina where jetties have gold-painted tips, or find your way to chat with the majority population in Labour Camps all around the city. Oh there’s more to the region than this! Yeh yeh but we can’t all be Truman or equivalent … Cycs puncture … things change …

I have to say that in March 2018 drones seem one of our lesser problems or issues; the failed humanity of them has given way to much greater and more blatant failures. Their surveilling role has wormed its way within, too. It’s important, existentially so, to see clearly but resist the negatives in all forms and shapes because we radical optimists might be the only things slowing or preventing the slide or its inexorability. Be curious, be confident, be principled, think big and broad and continue to give, to care, to dance…

____________________________

 

drone_fiction-doha-art-fair-symposium-booklet

Buzz, Buzz, Buzzzzz as pages and downloadable pdf:

drone fiction gma 52 | 53

drone fiction gma 54 | 55

drone fiction gma 56 | 57

drone fiction gma 58 | 59

See Readings_Talks for a pdf version of this and more.

Link to the launch and readings GAF_7, Dubai 2013 embedded below:

Link to related interview with Omar Kholeif, drones and I:

Screenshot 2018-04-03 17.30.26

Oh! That is a blank screen, in place of an interview in which I talked about being a “radical optimist, or maybe an optimistic radical”. The Ibraaz page has been evacuated of content, for this and other very well-made videos with Murtaza Vali, Basim Magdy, Ala Younis, Shuruq Harb and Sophia al-Maria… A pity, if only because I actually received letters/emails of praise about it and my clarity of conviction and diction -including from my late mama!- which made me look at it all the way through (you know how resistible one is to oneself right? but to try to see what she was seeing) …

 

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