I Can’t Believe it’s Not Battle! Melt Away Before You is a new multi-channel video installation by Nira Pereg. This new body of work revolves around the site of Fort Irwin National Training Center, a major training area for the United States Military located in the Mojave Desert in northern San Bernardino County, California. Fort Irwin is a simulation of another place—a fake Middle Eastern town—that becomes a subject of investigation into the nature of authenticity, simulation, fiction, and the theater of war.
The work “Melt Away Before You” or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Battle,” is the second part of Pereg’s “Redemption” trilogy, a body of work that deals with the heritage of ideology—the religious/political/economic representations. As the artist has explained, “I think of the exhibition space at a ‘total institution’ (to quote sociologist Erving Goffman), incorporating different scenes and elements from ‘real’ and ‘staged’ events, and blurring the boundaries between the two. In this work, we see a performance staged in a realistic mock-up of a generic Middle Eastern village, with real soldiers depicting civilians; real Iraqi-American immigrants depicting real Iraqi citizens; shipping containers depicting Middle Eastern bazaar streets; and finally, real soldiers firing fake ammunition. For me, it was a rare opportunity to peer through a performative crack into the army’s ideological structure, masquerading as entertainment at Fort Irwin.”