The Long Tail of History
Daniel R. Small

Following Başak Altın’s exhibition Hâfir presented at the 8th Çanakkale Biennial, AVTO continues to delve into parallel cases from different geographies and periods that situate archeology as a fictive tool and explore its uses in historiography. Comprising texts and videos that center upon Daniel R. Small’s Excavation II, the web-based program titled The Long Tail of History will be the first chapter in the series. 

The program begins with the online screening of Excavation II, which incorporates artistic research and speculative fiction to contemplate aspects of archaeology in an expanded field and situates the archaeological excavation of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 film set used in the production of The Ten Commandments as a conjuring of the post-Cold War imaginary. In this video, Small probes at the excavation site, buried in a vast field of sand dunes across Guadalupe in California. The film was set to take place in the ancient Egyptian city of Pi-Ramesses (meaning House of Ramesses), believed to be the site where the biblical story of Exodus occurred. Opening with footage showing a flock of Bats feasting in the Luxor Las Vegas’ sky beam, Small’s film then cuts to the tracing of the narrative camera movements of The Ten Commandments. The film suggests that history is an inherently indeterminate narrative that always shifts as the present attempts to rewrite the past, and gives form to new inputs of speculative futures.

Daniel R. Small’s work, thought and methodology propose a set of tools to annotate history as a critique of nostalgic tendencies that are inclined to recycle the past into the present while obscuring the actual pressing matters of our time. Taking the proverb suggesting that “the future is certain it is only the past that is unpredictable” as a point of departure, his body of work sheds light on the fabrication process of memories while tracing similarities between acts of believing, dreaming, and witnessing to emphasize that fact and fiction are two sides of the same coin.