Gather Round Me, My Writers, Musicians, Artists: My Name is NAM

Gather round me, my writers, musicians, artists: my name is NAM Gather round me, my writers, musicians, artists: my name is NAM is the outcome of investigation into the photographic archive of the presidential Photo Service of the Yugoslav Partisan leader and statesman Josip Broz Tito. It does not engage with the entirety of the 300,000 photographic records of the archive; instead, Gather round me, my writers, musicians, artists: my name is NAM enters the archive at a specific point: September 1961, when delegates from twenty five states gathered at the Federal Assembly Building in Belgrade to attend the first Conference of Non>Aligned Heads of State from 1st to 6th September.

1st September 1961. 10am. The Conference of Non-Aligned Heads of State opens with a minute of silence that commemorates the death of those that dedicated their lives to the anti>colonial struggle for the ‘liberty and independence of their people’. The Conference began, not by celebrating the new nation>state, as might have been expected, but instead by commemorating the struggle to bring the nation into existence. A dead silence such as this invoked the fatalities suffered by the Yugoslav partisans in their resistance to German fascism and those suffered by the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic, still engaged, in September 1961, in armed combat against French settler occupation.

5th September 1961. The final act of the 24 statesmen and 1 stateswoman of the Conference is to compose a collective letter that expresses their grave concern at the present and future state of the ‘world at war’. The letter that the delegates signed addressed itself to President Kennedy of the United States of America and Premier Khrushchev of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It declared that, ‘Having regard, however, to the gravity of the crisis that menaces the world and the urgent need to avert the developments that may precipitate it, we take the liberty of urging on the Great Powers concerned that negotiations should be resumed and pursued so that the danger of war might be removed from the world and mankind adopts ways of peace'.

The Non-Aligned Movement continues into the present; it consists of 120 nation states and is due to meet in Caracas, Venezuela in 2015.

How to envision a climate of thought? How to invoke the material dimensions of a gathering of certain figures at specific moments? Of diplomatic forces concentrated upon the writing of a collective proposal? An unstable and illegible proposal drafted within and against Imperialism’s division of the earth? What happens when you try, speculatively, to collapse the public presence of a world political project onto a two dimensional plane? Instead of striving to animate details that are supposed to lie behind us, try giving up.

Imagine what ensues when elements from the thick textures of history emerge in the forms of glances and postures? When the glint of an ashtray and the base of a vase, the foot of a heavy chair and the carpet that placates, when footnotes filtered and subtitles sifted from the pages of journals and the edges of photographs taken during September 1961 and its aftermaths are allowed to fall back. To give themselves up to flatness and fatalism. To become décor, if not decoration. To imply allusion and to hint at intimation. To take on a temporal simultaneity, in which a public summit is orchestrated as a series of encrypted ornaments. What happens when exposure is occluded? When evidence becomes archival? When a shadow archive is illuminated by the penumbra of a pax atomica?

Installation Still Belgrade ©The Otolith Group