© 2019 by Gabriella Willenz​

URBAN COMBAT TRAINING FACILITY

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

This video was 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”. 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 problematics as well as the political motivations of this service. The work questions what happens when militarism stops being an outer garb and starts to affect the inner fabrics of society; when mandatory service and it’s indispensable processes of indoctrination render militarism as normative and continuous aggression as an inevitable reality; the dehumanizing that happens to both the other, the perceived enemy, and to the citizen/soldiers themselves. In this reality, I question what home is being defended, at whose expense and to what end. 

For this project, 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. 

Urban Combat Training Facility #1,  Inkjet print, 2018

Urban Combat Training Facility #2,  Inkjet print, 2018

Urban Combat Training Facility #3,  Inkjet print, 2018