Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal explores the destruction of private spaces by external violence. This series was a reflection on the destruction of his homeland. The monochromatic aesthetics of the images represent the ghostly presence of the human spirit that once lived in these spaces. This series is an attempt to make sense of destruction while also communicating a sort of serenity that exists in ruins post conflict. The dance between destruction and beauty. His use of domestic spaces and objects standing in for a human spirit that is lost reminds me of the work of Doris Salcedo.
In this Newsweek article, journalist Jenny Hontz interviews curator Dane Jensen from Reform Gallery in Los Angeles about his recent exhibit on photos of the Iraq and Afghanistan war taken specifically by US Military combat photographers. Jensen said that originally he wanted to display photos taken by the soldiers themselves but then discovered the talent of photographers hired by the US Military. He also wanted to draw attention to the injured soldiers from the wars and raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project.
In this article posted by the Guardian, war photographers share the stories of their most dangerous moments documenting combat. I common sentiment from almost all of the photographers interviewed was a sense of guilt. After returning home from war and receiving praise for their work, many felt uncomfortable with the recognition. The images that were their “most successful” came from the most dangerous moments they experienced. Photos of people being brutally murdered were ones that the photographers felt guilty for just standing by and taking a photo. It seems that many of the photographers faced the dilemma of whether or not they were there to help directly like the humanitarian organizations were there to do or if intervening undermined their pursuit of documenting the war.
Syrian born and US based artist, Mohamad Hafez, travelled to a refugee camp in Sweden when he heard that his brother-in-law was there in 2014. Since 2004, Hafez has been creating replicas of his hometown as a way of coping with homesickness and expressing his identity and heritage. But after hearing his family’s experience of the war, the landscapes of his art changed to represent the destruction that had occurred.
When talking about his piece His Majesty’s Throne he makes very clear that it is not a direct critique on the Syrian government, because in Syria you learn never to talk about politics or give any critiques. Rather it is a critique and response to the anti-Muslim movement around the world and a depiction of dictatorship in general that does not have any sympathy toward its people.
This essay written by Maya Lin during the time the Vietnam Memorial was being completed, described the process by which she came up with the final design. It started when she was designing a memorial for a third world war in her funeral architecture class at Yale. In this class she began to learn about the ways in which people respond to death through form that is built. Through research on memorials, she saw a trend that many of the memorials, except for WW1 honored a leader’s victory and paid little attention to the lives that were lost.
She noticed that the monuments that did include the names of those who died, seemed to have a presence of honesty about the horrors of war. These designs also seemed to honor the lives that have been given up for sacrifice.
What I found most interesting in this essay was that although Maya Lin did extensive research on the theory of design in memorials, she made a deliberate decision to not look into the politics of the Vietnam War. She found that the details and politics behind the conflict take away from the veterans as individuals who lost their lives. This memorial was for them and not for a political statement.
She also discussed the power of a name and what role it plays in remembering a life of someone. The way that the names are engraved give visitors something tangible to feel as they process, mourn, and remember that life. The reflectivity of the smooth marble wall gives another tangible element of the visitor’s inclusion in the story and the lives of the lost.