In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers, many of us sought solace in everyday events. I remember going to a UCLA football game in search of some sense of stability. Before the opening kickoff, as they always do, spectators stood for the National Anthem. As a lone trumpet solemnly sounded in the far corner of the stadium, a palpable feeling of unity and patriotism filled the Rose Bowl. The crowd of 95,000 spectators, normally bifurcated by college allegiance, was made one in song. Near the end, a deafening roar erupted in the form of four F-A18 Hornets flying overhead. In an instant, a collective public in the process of mourning, fellowship, and healing exploded into an orgy of jingoism and weapon worship.
As a sports fan and former U.S. Air Force Serviceman, I had formerly viewed fly-overs as benign expressions of patriotism. However, that UCLA game in a newly post 9/11 world yielded an awakening in me. It was an awakening to the power of military spectacle and direct proof of how exploitation of mob mentality can instantly mobilize a wounded people. We have become inured by the constant encroachment of the martial upon the social body.
My piece, “God Bless Deterritorialized America,” is a translation of that moment at UCLA when I broke of the military-industrial psychological conditioning that involuntarily shackles American society. The video examines the link between sport and the military in contemporary America. The deterritorialization of the American landscape refers to the colonization of public spaces (in this instance sports arenas) by the U.S. military, which brandishes its weapons and thus reinforces the state of emergency. In this state of deterritorialization, the border between the civilian and the martial is intentionally obscured. As a result the battlefield has been symbolically extended into our everyday experiences and public spaces. The video was constructed from found footage as a meditation on this condition.