September 25, 2014

Photoville: War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things


From the news the other day, I heard America had gone to war again. It’s pretty compartmentalized though. It’s just an air war with maybe a few other moving parts.

Roaming the exhibition containers at Photoville at the same time these new hostilities were getting off the ground made me painfully aware of war as a contaminant with the most enduring afterlife. Wars may be easy to get into (and easy to suppose as tactically and emotionally limited) but then the stains just keep spreading.

I was watching people walk in and out of “The Bedrooms of the Fallen,” Ashley Gilbertson’s installation consisting of two facing “rooms” formerly occupied by soldiers killed in Iraq. (Here’s the interactive slideshow we made with Ashley back in 2010.) How bizarre that America is now going to the well again, as much as people can hardly access this space.


The picture comes from photographer Stefan Falke’s project, La Frontera, documenting artists who live and work along the U.S. border with Mexico. Artist Angel Cabrales uses actual military hardware as a basis for commentary on border defense. War has become such a defining metaphor, however, this barely feels exaggerated.


And then, there was Damon Winter’s dizzying photograph of a vet, newly home, encountering a grocery display. As part of “The Homecoming Project,” what a twist on the soldier as hunter.  We sent our youth to Afghanistan and Iraq and they returned to be staggered by lunch meat.

(photo 3 caption: “A YEAR AT WAR: COMING HOME” Within hours after returning home to United States, Sgt. Tamara Sullivan began preparing a new home for herself. She had only two days set up and to move into a new apartment, buy food and supplies and deal with her jet lag before returning to her Army duties. Here she shopped at Wal-Mart for home supplies and groceries still wearing the same uniform she left Afghanistan in several days ago.)

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Michael Shaw
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