This Damn Weather
There are reports of violent clashes and untimely deaths pouring in from all over Syria. These are getting mixed up with whispered rumours and half-truths that are all being fed into a virtual world build of binary ones and zeroes. In this second reality all information is chopped up, mixed together and handed back to the people in bite sized, 140 character packages easy to consume but hard to digest. The people of Damascus live in a world shaped by another world that in reality doesn’t really exist. The only thing real is the fear. The fear of what will come.
This project is an exploration of the modern theater of war. In a reality shaped by a digital battlefield, the roles played are not always clear. Feeding on pieces of often violent and graphic information issued to us from second realities such as Twitter & Facebook, we recreate the world around us and mould it into shapes that bounce off our predetermined mental imagery.
A pair of tired eyes peers over the photo page of my beetroot coloured passport. “Occupation?” he asks me. “Student” I reply.
Next to the custom official hangs a poster showing the Syrian dove caught in mid air, wings spread and proudly carrying an olive branch in its beak, all around it cannons are aiming. Each can- non is branded with one promi- nent news channel logo after the other, CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC. They are all there trying to shoot down the peace dove of the re- gime. Another glance through the passport then my details are thoroughly noted into the sys- tem. First in fluent Arabic, then
in slow shaky capital letters, “TOURIST”, two quick stamps reiterate his verdict. “Welcome to Syria”, he hands back my documents and ges- tures me towards the door.
Syria is a country being swept by a storm that refuses to quieten down and Damascus is the eye of the hurricane. With all tourists long gone the streets are left un- naturally quiet. From walls and rooftops all over town president Bashar Al-Assad and his father Hafez, the leader of the 1970 coup are scouring the city look- ing on from posters and pedes- tals. Here in a city besieged by
secret police and undercover agents the people would never discuss politics openly, instead they refer to old president Hafez as “The Lion King”, this turns Bashar into Simba and the Jack- als are the ones you always fear might be listening in.
Inside the national museum ev- erything is quiet, I’m walking the long empty halls of history cast in clay, iron, silver and gold. A lone guard sits on his footstool surrounded by 10.000 years of history, here are lives lived and lost, battles fought and civiliza- tions crumbled.
Outside in the overgrown garden the last of the evening light throws long shadows of the an- cient stone statues of the ones that were, among them sits one that still is. We talk, he tells me of his life, a good life, well at least it used to be. Things have changed recently.
“It’s because of the weather”, he says, looking me into the eyes. “This damn weather”
There are reports of violent clashes and untimely deaths pouring in from all over the country. These are getting mixed up with whispered rumours and half-truths that are all being fed into a virtual world built of binary
ones and zeroes. In this second reality all information is chopped up, mixed together and handed back to the people in bite sized 140 character packages, easy to consume but hard to digest. The people of Damascus live in a world shaped by another world that in reality doesn’t really ex- ist. The only thing real is the fear, the fear of what will come.
I’m walking through the streets of the old city observing the hopelessness, feeling the ten- sion thick in the air. People look at me like I look at them, here we are all strangers. The act of rais- ing my camera feels like a threat
to shatter this carefully con- structed glass citadel so I tend not to. A street sweeper stops me, he demands to look through my pictures, there is nothing in- criminating there so he nods and lets me go, I hurry down a side street aware of his eyes fol- lowing me.
Looking back I notice anoth- er shadow on my heels, I take a right then a left but he’s still there, our eyes meet and he stops, turns around and gets his phone out, I disappear. My heart is pounding, who was he? I slowly realize that I have become a part of it, this theatre of war.