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We Are The Enemy – 2006

We Are The Enemy is a series of text pieces based on the idea of the enemy without and the enemy within. The work makes homage to Arthur Millers The Crucible, which paralleled the McCarthy trials of the mid 20th century (1) with events surrounding the witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692.

The research for the work explored the psychological states that underly or create island mentalities, where communities perpetuate isolationism through coercion, paranoia, fear of the unknown, the other, the outsider. The work references George Orwell’s idea of a social economy driven by a constant state of warfare, where the populace are coerced into a sense of being constantly under the threat or attack. (2) At a time when so called International terrorism proposed the threat of random attack, it seemed that a new McCarthyism had been unleashed, justified by the danger of an undefinable, amorphous enemy.

I set out to explore these issues using simple, reductive, generic statements; repetitive logos that could appear in various contexts reflecting, the sloganeering and extensive institutional use of propaganda that had become synonymous with western politics in the late 20th century.

(1) The McCarthy witch trials took place during a period of intense anti Communist suspicion in the United States between 1948 to 1956, which culminated in a number of hearings and trials in which Senator Joe McCarthy accused government employees of being Communists. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the most prominent and active government committee involved in anti-Communist investigations, summoned 2,375 men and women to be questioned on their involvement in communist activities or beliefs, with over 400 Americans going to jail.

(2) Analysts such as Noam Chomsky have explored the idea that a state of perpetual war is created by the powerful members of dominant political and economic classes, helping maintain their positions of economic and political superiority. This idea can be traced through numerous political regimes, illustrated well by Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Goring during the Nuremberg Trials: – “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”