continent. maps a topology of unstable confluences and ranges across new thinking, traversing interstices and alternate directions in culture, theory, biopolitics and art.
Issue 2.3 / 2012: 208–217

In Between States

Paul Amitai

Paul Boshears

The following excerpt from Paul Amitai's In Between States: Field notes and speculations on postwar landscapes (2012) confounds its reader. Presenting an alternate history of the State of Israel as a space station orbiting Earth, the excitement of possibilities crackles across the texts and images. Like Chris Marker's La Jeteé, the accompanying static images distort the viewer's temporality: are these archaeological items, images from a past, or a future? Why isn't this our future? In Between States can also be seen as complementing Larissa Sansour's provocative science fiction works, Space Exodus (2009) which "documents" the Palestinian space program, and her Nation Estate (2012), in which Palestine is relocated into a skyscraper. Amitai's vision opens onto an intergalactic diaspora, wherein the refugees of World War II are given the stars as Western Europe continues to fight over terrestial colonies. —PFB



Auditorium, Hoechst AG headquarters, Industriepark-Höchst, 2011.



In 1941 an investigation by the US Justice Department exposed a marriage cartel between John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil (now ExxonMobil) and I.G. Farben. The two corporations had formed a joint operation in 1927 called Standard IG Farben. It was revealed that the two had shared patents in order to control prices and markets in their respective regions. Standard was accused of hiding patents from the US Navy and supplying fuel to German submarines, which lead to charges of criminal conspiracy. The Pentagon intervened, requesting that President Roosevelt stop the investigation in order to protect war production and oil supply. Roosevelt agreed, and the Senate committee investigating the matter, headed by Senator Harry Truman, was halted. Standard Oil paid a fine of $5000 and promised to stop supplying fuel to the enemies.









Auditorium, Hoechst AG headquarters, Industriepark-Höchst, 2011.



Furious at the decision to terminate the investigation of acts he considered treason, Truman initiated a new inquiry into Standard Oil’s war-time practices after succeeding Roosevelt as president in 1945. With the chief executives of I.G Farben simultaneously on trial at Nuremburg, Truman brokered a deal with the Allies that reduced or withdrew criminal charges leveled against both corporations in exchange for Standard Oil and I.G. Farben’s sponsorship of one of Truman’s most ambitious postwar projects—the relocation of the Jewish people.









Detail, Sanofi-Aventis advertisement, 2011.



The third critical player in this bold experiment was the nascent North Atlantic Space Agency. Formed by Allied forces using the seized assets and engineering expertise of Hitler’s hitherto classified space program (conquer Earth, then the stars), the North Atlantic Space Agency was a pre-NATO foray into interstellar nation building, with orbital occupation as the first point of order. By 1947, NASA was nearly ready to deploy the first manned space station. Standard Oil and I.G. Farben’s advanced fuel refinement capacities and deep, war-enriched financial resources allowed NASA to speed up their launch schedule significantly.









Detail, Sanofi-Aventis advertisement, 2011.



Diplomatic efforts to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine were failing to gain traction, while post-colonial England held its ground on immigration restrictions and bands of Jews and Arabs battled over territory on the ground. More immediate was the issue of temporarily housing Holocaust survivors and refugees across scorched Europe. Leaders of the continental nations demonstrated, at best, reluctance to accommodate the Jews, who in turn were, at the least, resistant to returning to the same bloody cocktail from which they had fled. Truman used the impasse to advance a plan for NASA’s space station to be put to use as a temporary Jewish outpost, an orbital displaced persons camp, to be operated by the US Army.









Detail, Infaserv Höchst advertisement, 2011.



Final preparations advanced rapidly. Viewing the orbital displaced persons (ODP) camp as a solution to their immigration problem both at home and abroad, England came on board as a willing partner. Spaceship Exodus was positioned for takeoff on German farmland 20 kilometers southwest of Frankfurt. On December 30, 1947, one month after the UN General Assembly voted down the separation plan for Palestine, Exodus rocketed into the atmosphere hauling the first module of barracks designed to house 1,500 refugees. Transport vehicles arrived shortly thereafter, loaded down with leftover wartime military rations and 3,000 Jews of Russian and Polish origin.









Detail, Infaserv Höchst advertisement, 2011.



"The camp is the space that is opened when the state of exception begins to become the rule."—Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), 96.









Detail, Infaserv Höchst advertisement, 2011.



The ODP camp proved to be a longer-term solution than originally envisioned. Additional installations were positioned to form swollen clusters of interlocking units – sleeping quarters, schools, clinics, canteens. The UN was brought in to monitor the camp following two chaotic years of US Army control in which food shortages, pandemic diseases, and rampant black market trade had brought the camp to near total collapse. No less bureaucratic or ineffectual, the UN relief agency at least had prior experience facilitating contexts of a similar magnitude and could potentially predict outcomes.









Detail, Infaserv Höchst advertisement, 2011.



What had been unexpected was the degree to which the camp would evolve into its own self-regulated, hive-like ecosystem where previously accepted rules of conduct were not applicable. The ODP camp was an exceptional space, a riverboat casino, an offshore research lab of social experimentation and entrepreneurial innovation. No longer Earth-bound, touching soil knotted by prescripts of Talmudic law, the camp residents were able to rationalize loopholes and detonate barriers standing in the way of absolute production. The Jewish archipelago was renamed Israel after the ancient homeland. If the temple couldn’t be rebuilt in the motherland, a post-national rhizome would sprout up in its stead. Eyes everywhere, beyond all borders.





More information on the project at the author's site.