1991 Next Hundred Years was made in the year 2004, exactly three years after the attack on the twin towers, and thirteen years after the start of the first Gulf war. At that time, to mark that specific occasion, US president Bush, father of the current president, gave the following speech to an audience of millions of television spectators all over the world: “we are not here for the price of the oil barrel, we are in this war in order to define the future of the world for the next 100 years”.
In this video, Serra shows us, by means of a skillful production, and in less than 14 minutes, exactly how much those words, which, as if coming from the great beyond filled up every corner of our living rooms more than a decade ago, have been in the years gone by slowly forged on a low flame into a solid tower made of pain and cries, a strong and opaque tower hiding a politics of fear, a very tall tower constructed to the back of normal people, the same people that end up dying in war.
The video starts with a beautiful visual exercise by which the year 1991 gradually transforms, via intermittent fades-to-black, into that very well known date, September 11th, 11-9. The US flag, torn into pieces, flutters before a red screen. Is this what they mean when they talk about a new world order? Before we pass on to the next scene, an everyday scene recorded by the artist in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of New York, we are presented with images of papers, sheets of paper filled with information, fluttering in the air: hundreds, thousands of papers in the air. This is one of the many images that accompanied the twin towers in their collapse. We could be wrong and think that what we are watching is no more than confetti, as used in the patriotic celebration parades so common in this city. Indeed, the next thing we see, which will keep coming up during the rest of the video, are images of one of the mentioned parades: one that was organised for the first Gulf war. These images do indeed manage to fill us with doubt, a clear consequence of Serra’s effective editing.
A certain weapon is pointed at us. It slowly moves towards us from within the trustworthy and euphoric multitude which has gathered along New York’s Fifth Avenue to show their support to the troops. “Let’s free those people and come back home, and be free again”, says a soldier. Next we will again see the other America, the hidden, silent, forgotten America, out of view on Manhattan’s other shore. We see the demolished homes, the non-white residents, and in their faces we can read the conviction that tomorrow has no future, “and be free again”? Bush’s voice and face make appearances on screen on different occasions. It looks to us like a light specter, made of the same light that the images we are watching are made of. Whilst a play of juxtaposed scenes compose a poetic kind of gaze of that which, outside of the context of this video, would be no more than media manipulation, the sound of a voice is heard: “It has been a great victory! Go out and let us hear your chequebooks!” Just before the end of the video, the sound of airplanes becomes audible in the background, and the metal surface of the twin towers designs a pattern on our screens...
“we are in this war in order to define the future of the world for the next 100 years”. Toni Serra is here to make us see in a different way what we have already seen, to allow us for a more humane kind of seeing.