It's not my memory of it: three recollected documents
(25 min., NTSC, color) 2003



Produced and directed by Julia Meltzer
Written and directed by David Thorne
Sound design by Chris Kubick
Partially funded by The Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media
Distributed by the Video Data Bank,

"It's not my memory of it" mobilizes specific historical records as memories which flash up in a moment of danger, in order to raise questions about notions of disappearance and the tenuousness of historical fact in the current climate of terror. A dynamic of knowing and not knowing-central to practices of secrecy, memory, and documentation-is elaborated through 3 recollected documents:

During the Iranian revolution of 1979, a group called Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam took over the United States Embassy in Tehran. Embassy officials, in their haste to evacuate, left behind a significant body of classified documents pertaining to all aspects of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Officials managed to shred some of the documents, but the students painstakingly reassembled the pieces, and translated and published the entire collection of captured records in a 77-volume bilingual edition. A former CIA source recounts his own disappearance through shredded classified records which document the Agencys' construction of his false identity.


In the early 1970s, the CIA built the Glomar Explorer-the largest ship in the world at the time-in order to retrieve a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine from the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Over the course of the salvage operation, the bodies of 6 Soviet seamen were recovered. They were buried at sea in a bilingual ceremony conducted and captured on film by the CIA. Recorded in 1974 and unacknowledged until 1992, the burial collapses Cold War antagonisms in a secret moment of death and honor.

On November 3, 2002, an unmanned CIA-operated Predator drone fired two missiles at a vehicle traveling in the desert of northern Yemen. Six passengers, one a suspected terrorist, were killed. Images pertaining to this publicly acknowledged but top secret incident form the basis for a reflection on the relationship between secrecy, evidence, and current doctrines of preemption.

These documents are punctuated by fragments of interviews with information management officials from various federal agencies. The officials distinguish between "real" and "protocol" secrets, explain what it means to "neither confirm nor deny" the existence of records on a given subject, and clarify the process of separating classified information from unclassified information.


Current research and work
Material Support is an experimental documentary, currently in pre-production. The project focuses on documents-found and produced-whose circulation and interpretation is mediated through the discourse of the "war on terror." Our research around these documents will be supplemented by set of interviews about image and document analysis, interrogation techniques, intelligence gathering methods, and how prophecy is written in both secular and religious texts. Material Support will activate these elements within a formal and conceptual framework which critically engages the implications of a terror war characterized as unavoidable and endless.
Many of the prominent documents generated in this war are structured around speculation-around the potential for future trauma and violence, and visions of the world to come. Material Support will examine the complex temporalities of these documents, the temporal shifts they set in motion, and their relationship to a range of material effects-laws enacted; security measures implemented; bodies searched, detained, incarcerated, exiled; wars imposed; and political processes short-circuited by a discourse of terror. The tape will focus in particular on documents which have been or could be interpreted as evidence of an event that has yet to occur, but that will, it is claimed, almost certainly occur. As sites of prediction, these documents function to justify the current material practices and policies of a "state of exception." The tape will consider this state of exception, and the wars which support it, as a space in which all sides claim to see the future-in visions strongly inflected with religious fundamentalisms-and act accordingly. Material Support will thus be embedded in the preventive, preemptive, predictive, and prophetic spaces of the present.



The work of The Speculative Archive focuses on the production of documents, their collection, circulation and reception, and their socio-political effects.

Past projects include "Free the, Demand your . . . ," an installation developed from research in an archive of leftist political graphics; "A Brief History of the Internal Conflict," a presentation constructed from declassified U.S. government files pertaining to the 36-year war in Guatemala; "In light of the recent events," a presentation about events in Chile in 1973; and "It's not my memory of it," an experimental documentary which explores the dynamic of knowing and not knowing that is central to secrecy, memory, and documentation. The Archive is a collaborative project of Julia Meltzer and David Thorne.

Through a consideration of the documentary processes operative across bureaucratic, political, mnemonic, secret, and public spaces, our work poses a range of questions about knowledge and power. While we recognize a certain value in instrumentalizing information in order to foreground power dynamics and their constitutive conditions, we are working to develop formal and conceptual strategies that challenge and expand our notions of "information," "history," and "evidence" in order to engage different approaches to the possibility of changing these dynamics and conditions. We do not consider our work an exercise in clarifying the past, but an historical practice of complicating the present.

We employ the word "speculative" in our project name, and as a qualifier for the documents produced by the Archive, in order to foreground the temporal complexities of archival and documentary practices. We put forward documents as possible extensions of a specific body of source materials in order to explore the conditions of possibility of both, and to generate ways of looking and thinking which raise questions about the politicized production, circulation, and reception of information. Our "Archive" is conceived not as a physical site in which a kind of static retention occurs or in which an historical truth is fixed, but rather as a set of socio-political and cultural practices in which documents, objects, and memories of documents and objects are taken up in ongoing processes of interpretation.

Artist Bios
Julia Meltzer is a media artist and executive director of Clockshop, a non-profit production company in Los Angeles. For the past ten years she has produced media projects and documentaries which deal with social issues such as police brutality and the criminal justice system. Her work has been exhibited and broadcast at venues including Creative Time's Art in the Anchorage, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, Mass MOCA, Forum Stadpark (Graz, Austria), the Next Five Minutes (Amsterdam) and on select PBS stations. She received her BA from Brown University and her MFA from Renssealaer Polytechnic Institute. She has taught video and digital media at Hampshire College and UC Irvine. She is a 2004 recipient of a Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship.

David Thorne makes work addressing the conditions of so-called globalization; notions of justice shot through with revenge; and memory practices in a moment of excessive rememorations. Current projects include The Speculative Archive; the ongoing series of photo-works, Men in the News (1991­present); and Boom!, a collaboration with Austrian artist Oliver Ressler. David is a 2004 recipient of a Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship. He completed his MFA in Interdisciplinary Studio at University of California Los Angeles in 2004.