A child born and raised in Western Sydney announces to his class that he wants to be a terrorist when he grows up. Pauline Hanson, dressed in a burqa purchased especially for the occasion, passes through security at Parliament House unquestioned. A man unofficially affiliated with ISIS takes hostages at a Lindt chocolate cafe, displaying the wrong flag. Aunty Sandra Onus refers to the actions of VicRoads at the Djap Wurrung Embassy as ‘cultural terrorism’. The reality TV show Border Security: Australia’s Front Line is nominated seven times for the Most Outstanding Factual Program at the Logie Awards. On 9 September 2001, David Hicks briefly leaves Afghanistan and travels to Pakistan to watch televised media coverage of the collapse of the Twin Towers.
Presented here are fourteen texts and five artworks. All contributions are written from a context produced or inferred by the collapse of the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001.
This publication was initially conceived as a proposition in pointing to, and constructing, an editorial framework around a site. As an alternative to working within a thematic device, our contributors were asked to adopt a vantage point from recent history, specifically a point that demarcates an instance of political and spatial reorganisation. Importantly, our two part volume was designed as a sequence. Issue 13.1 adopts the vantage point of the World Trade Center, 2001, while issue 13.2 is grounded by Melbourne University, 2008. This pairing could extend to many other things. For us, these are just two sites that present a generative sense of antagonism around our relationship to capital, to knowledge production and to authority.
Printed in un Magazine 13.1 are security threats, alternative histories, terrorist subjectivities, paranoid infidels, treason, experimental detonations and contemporary art practice. Many of the contributions displace the rudimentary ethical demands of making work within a context produced by violence. Departing from a logic of mourning, these artists and writers engage with the flux in more material, energetic, social and semiotic ways.
As with Nine Eleven, this issue transverses generations and localities. With Contact Sheet from Twins, for example, we encounter the work of artists Karin Schneider, Nicolás Guagnini and Jeff Preiss who watched the collapse from the rooftop of their nearby apartment. In the article immediately before, we are introduced to Nur Shkembi’s son who was only four years old in 2001, and to the coalition of Muslim artists eleven. By 2007, the Western imminagation had acquired a fluency with certain image-types produced by the War on Terror: the towers, Saddam’s hiding hole, Osama’s cave videos, Abu Ghraib. Three images by Destiny Deacon that project many of the same aesthetic notations from this now familiar set of images are inscribed with the sunburn of a post-Cronulla moment. In a conversation recorded over skype, Hoda Afshar and Behrouz Boochani reflect on trauma, beauty and the climate of image production in mainland ‘Australia’ and Manus Prison respectively. We have contributors who take us into the street, as with Bridget Chappell’s phase cancellation experiments and Tim Marvin’s detached contribution that takes its form outside the magazine as a loose sheet of paper. Importantly, we address and account for Nine Eleven as shrouded in a veneer of suspicion. Speaking closely to the conspiratorial dimension of Nine Eleven, we have words by Ceri Hann who summarises a labyrinth through found objects and paranoid methodologies, and images by Zacry Spears, who proposes an imagistic form of research through collage. Locating Nine Eleven elsewhere, we have a text by Freya Rose who reminds us of the other Nine Eleven from 1973 and launches a critique of United States' imperialism as propagated by this issue of un Magazine specifically. Similarly, Natalie Ironfield and Nayuka Gorrie take us out of the density of lower Manhattan by pointing towards the beach as rooted in the white settler psyche. Holly Keys and Anabelle Lacroix contest the imagisitic graveyard of truth produced by the War on Terror. The first of these two essays considers the fixedness of ethical valuations in the postmodern economy of violence and the second pivots around the political coding of aesthetics and propaganda art.
Following Leo Bersani’s statement that ‘Paranoia is an inescapable interpretive doubling of presence’,1 Ava Amedi draws our attention towards another set of twins with his study of Saddam Hussein’s contributions not to the War on Terror but to public sculpture. Contending with fracture in another sense, Bahar Sayed articulates a treatise on unification, plotting the perimeter of lesser jihad and using it to conduct a comparative analysis of biochemical art and dramaturgical violence. In the context of this magazine, a 2015 found object work by Dale Harding recasts the terrorist as the coloniser, while attending to the histories of colonial violence and Murri resistance. Too, Carol Que pens a history of resistance through systems of museum accession, occupation and restoration. Will Kollmorgen urges us to conceive of Nine Eleven through the materiality of the towers as architecture, and as sites of post-fordist labour with its organisational flows. Gilbert Caluya points to another Ground Zero in the television franchise Big Brother, identifying the role of voyeurism in normalising surveillance and suspicion as practices of the state that are always already racialised and sexualised. Safdar Ahmed traces a history of racist editorial cartoons in Australia and, in doing so, charts White Supremacy across pictorial representations of people of colour in major newspaper outlets.
Collectively, these works interrogate historicity and articulate Nine Eleven as a multiplicity. Underscored by an increasingly militarised context, we have works that complicate and play with history and ask us to excavate it aesthetically, enunciating possibilities different to those inscribed by empiricism. Not all of the works here consider art production and its reception, and this allows for other discourses to be drawn into proximity with the discourse of art. It does not, however, misrecognise them or appropriate them as art.
As with all publications, this magazine follows a style-guide. We saw writers use 9/11, 9.11, 9-11, 911, September 11 and other variations of the same sign. The editorial decision to opt for the alphabetised standard of Nine Eleven, for us, underlines the particular valence we’re concerned with relating to the collapse of the Twin Towers. We wanted to hijack these contributions out of the journalistic and memorialised tradition, since it exists in the standard cultural lexicon in numerical form. We challenge how these three digits can become representative of a singular nation state’s victimhood. Regardless of your location in the world, the digits nine, one and one dialled consecutively will redirect a phone call to your local emergency services. This is a safety initiative as much as it is an imperial one. This being the same imperial tradition of theft that constructed the assemblage of the bogeyman terrorist, a phantom figure outlined by fear and unique to our time. ‘Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the bastards aren’t out to get you.’2
Hugh Childers (b. 1993) is an artist and curator who lives and works in Naarm. His work is underpinned by collaborations and adopts diagrammatics as a mode of production. In 1853, he founded The University of Melbourne.
Bobuq Sayed (b. 1993) is a writer, artist, youth worker and community organiser of the Afghan diaspora, living and working on unceded Wurundjeri land.