Monday, June 14, 2010

Consuming War

Consuming War is an exhibition curated by Barbara Koenen for the Hyde Park Art Center
November 4 – January 20, 2008.

Artists: Lynda Barry I Wafaa Bilal I Mary Brogger I Adam Brooks Burtonwood & Holmes I Michael Hernandez De Luna I Frederick Holland I Harold Mendez I Michael Rakowitz I Ellen Rothenberg Edra Soto I Dolores Wilber I Paula White

Consuming War is dedicated to local artist and activist Malachi Ritscher (left) who immolated himself at the base of a sculpture alongside Chicago’s Kennedy Expressway during rush hour on November 3, 2006, in an act of war protest. A memorial concert will open the exhibit on November 4, 2007, in honor of Malachi, who recorded hundreds of experimental music concerts in Chicago prior to his death. "I only get one death, I want to make it a good one." Read Malachi's final statement here.

Consuming War will feature the work of 14 artists whose practice has been consumed by war -- who examine us as we are consumed by war… as our consumption begets war… as our war is depicted and reported using the tools of consumption… as our country, our civil liberties, and our standing in the world is consumed in the gridlocked intersection of commerce and jingoism.

Consuming War will also present programs, events and collaborations that take place outside the Art Center. Instead of a traditional catalog or postcard, the exhibition announcement will be a mock advertising supplement distributed in Newcity Chicago. Artist Adam Brooks will produce 200 advertising cards on the CTA Red Line and various bus lines featuring provocative quotations from throughout history about war, freedom and consumerism. Former director of the National Museum of Iraq, Dr. Donny George, will talk about the state of the cradle of civilization with U of C professor McGuire Gibson and artist Michael Rakowitz. Journalist James Janega will talk about his experiences covering Iraq for the Chicago Tribune. See all events listed at right.

Participating Artists:

Wafaa Bilal was born in Iraq in 1966 and lived through the rule of Saddam Hussein, arrested and tortured for his political artwork before escaping to Kuwait, where he was imprisoned again, eventually making his way to the U.S. He is now a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. For his recent project, “Domestic Tension,” Bilal lived in a room at Flatfile Gallery for a month under constant surveillance of a live webcam hooked to a paintball gun that anyone could fire online. Bilal received over 60,000 paintball hits, and millions of webhits for this project, which received international attention. For Consuming War, he will present Al Qaeda R US, “a visually poetic exposition of United States intervention in selective parts of the world between 1948 and the present. The artist's intention is to draw attention to the origins of much of the hatred directed toward the US government. The work illustrates atrocities committed by the US military and the CIA against the people of Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Korea, VietNam, Panama, Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan. The piece is a witness to the present for the past that has never passed.” Courtesy of Flatfile Galleries.

In 1993 Mary Brogger created a Persian Rug (below) out of plasma cut steel, each piece teetering on fragile pins. She created this floating carpet in reaction to the first Persian Gulf war. It belies the beauty of the delicate patterns, as ancient traditions are impacted by cold hard steel. This piece will be joined by a 2006 sculpture, All; Everything.

Adam Brooks, of the duo Industry of the Ordinary, has for many years used text as his medium to survey the landscape of political thought. Often soliciting the input and opinions of others, he has compiled the Freedom Wall at Huron and Lake, papered the streets of Chicago with historical quotes on politics, created soapboxes for pronouncements, and with his wife, Cindi Canary of the Campaign for Political Reform, diagrammed political contributions for a recent Illinois gubernatorial race.

Tom Burtonwood & Holly Holmes’ prints and sculptures juxtapose advertising flyers from local grocery stores with the images of weapons created by the US 's most powerful weapons manufacturers. Commenting on the foundation on which our economy is built and fed, they have created room-sized installations of tanks, often to scale, papered with these colorful candy-colored flyers. Courtesy of GardenFRESH, Chicago.

Beat poodle Fred Milton’s brilliant tirades against the war, and specifically against George Bush and Dick Cheney is the creation of cartoonist Lynda Barry. Milton’s pointed poems are simple, playful and cathartic. A demoralizing sign of the times, several of the “ alternative” publications who carry Barry's strip have cancelled or threatened to censor her Fred Milton strips.

Michael Hernandez de Luna makes and mails stamps, subverting the iconic representation of our culture, playing with the attentiveness of the US Postal Service, asserting the voice of the artist and activist in the face of Federal persecution/prosecution. Courtesy of Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago.

Edra Soto Fernandez’s One Vision: Hollywood Soldiers (right) is an ensemble of video stills of actors playing soldiers in Hollywood movies. Since both the government and media censor images of real soldiers, real blood and real coffins, America's enthusiasm for the war is based more on fictitious portrayals from Hollywood and global media, rather than actual events.

Frederick Holland's rage and cynicism has been close to the surface for years but previously centered on highly crafted objects that aestheticized sexuality and violence. Since the current war, Holland has turned his focus to popular culture – games, advertising, quizzes and educational materials – as his vehicle for critique of the policies and assumptions that mainstream culture takes for granted. Courtesy of Flatfile Galleries, Chicago.

Harold Mendez
looks at confinement – corrals, fences – and extrapolates to Guantanamo, to Abu Graib, to the unknown extraordinary rendition abroad. Mendez starts from Nevada bomb sites and draws from literary and historical images.

Michael Rakowitz's body of work has presented a range of responses to US consumerism, including building homes for the homeless from trash bags and HVAC vents to recreating his Iraqi grandfather's import business. He will include versions of two recent works in Consuming War. “The invisible enemy should not exist,” in which archeological artifacts missing from the Baghdad Museum, as documented by the Oriental Institute, are laboriously recreated from commercial packaging wraps (right), and “Enemy Kitchen” a cooking class based on his mother’s Iraqi recipes. Courtesty of Lombard-Freid Projects, NYC.

Ellen Rothenberg takes a critical look at the adoption of camouflage by the fashion industry, and employs propaganda imagery from previous wars to entreat people to turn in their garments for the war effort. The artists’ statement may be found here.

Dolores Wilber
’s video projection, Tooth and Nail (below), combines images of hand grenades, ash, nails, silver-covered teeth and a spinning safety pin. It reflects several years of research on individual acts of violence and the faith that is touted or reflected in suicide bombings, beheadings, acts of humiliation and torture – the overwhelmingly gruesome and personal violence of war.

Paula White is a fifth generation textile artist, home healthcare nurse and a student in Northwestern University's masters program in creative writing. At a July Prostrations for Peace event, prayer flags were made which she has sewn into colorful quilts.

The Consuming War exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center ran through January 20, 2008. CW featured the work of 14 artists -- Lynda Barry, Mary Brogger, Wafaa Bilal, Adam Brooks, Burtonwood & Holmes, Michael Hernandez de Luna, Fred Holland, Harold Mendez, Michael Rakowitz, Ellen Rothenberg, Edra Soto, Dolores Wilber, and Paula White. Ranging from steel carpets and inflatable bombs to postage stamps and cooking classes, their work is thoughtful, sharp and inspiring. Click here for some photos of the show and the opening.

We've gotten some great press on Consuming War. Here are some links for highlights:

Spencer Dew for Chicago Artists News
Joanna HInkel for Chicago Artists News "Most Important Exhibition of 2007"
Carrie Ruckel for CAN-TV

Alan Artner for the Chicago Tribune

Hello Beautiful for James Janega's talk
Chicago Reader

Time Out Chicago
New Cit
Chicago Weekly

CW will also include several interesting events that will give you a chance to participate -- including talks by Chicago Tribune journalist James Janega about reporting from Iraq; Geraldine Gorman, a nurse with the international aid group Emergency, and a special conversation with Dr. Donny George Youkhanna, the former head of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. And, at the opening, plan to join us for a memorial concert by Michael Zerang and Jim Baker, in remembrance of their friend Malachi Ritscher, who immolated himself in protest of the war, here in Chicago last November. (Read more about Consuming War here)


Articles, Reviews, Podcasts

November 4 - Exhibit Opens
2–3 pm Concert for Malachi
Musicians Michael Zerang and Jim Baker perform in memory of Malachi Ritscher.
3–5 pm
Meet the artists

November 11 (Veteran’s Day)
12–4pm Prostrations for Peace
Community gathering for peace, with yoga and tai chi practice, peace offerings, prayer flags, poetry, music and more.
3 pm Emergency
Geraldine Gorman, RN, PhD, speaks about Emergency, the international relief organization providing treatment to civilian war victims.
4–6 pm Meanwhile in Baghdad…
Exhibition opening at the Renaissance Society, 5811 S. Ellis.

November 25
3–5 pm Iraq Veterans Against the War Aaron Hughes and other veterans discuss Warrior Writer Project, Operation First Casualty, and other efforts to end the war by its veterans.

November 28
6–8 pm Reporting from Baghdad
Chicago Tribune journalist James Janega

December 5
6–8 pm Talk Back: Creating Histories
Artists Wafaa Bilal, Adam Brooks and Dolores Wilber

December 12
6–8 pm Talk Back: Buyer Beware
Artists Tom Burtonwood and Holly Holmes, Fred Holland and Michael Hernandez de Luna

January 9
6–8 pm Talk Back: Culture and Space
Artists Mary Brogger, Harold Mendez and Paula White

January 13
5–7 pm Enemy Kitchen
Artist Michael Rakowitz uses food as an element to facilitate
dialogue and collaboration by preparing a meal based on his
Iraqi mother’s home recipes. RSVP required.

January 16
3–5 pm Consuming Culture
Dr. Donny George Youkhanna, former Director of the
National Museum of Iraq, with University of Chicago
Professor of Mesopotamian Art McGuire Gibson and artist Michael Rakowitz

Consuming Thanks....
Consuming War has been supported by Newcity Chicago, The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq, Experimental Station, and the generous contributions of Jane Fulton Alt, Sidney Barton, Kim Freiders, John Himmelfarb and Molly Day, Esther Grimm, Justine Jentes and Daniel Kuruna, Laurel Lipkin, Jackie Kazarian and Peter Cunningham, Beverly Koenen, Annie Morse, Tim Samuelson, Paul Klein, Harold Olin, Karen Paluzzi Steele, Laura Samson, Eva Silverman, Paula White, and Roberta Zabel.

Graphic design: Laura Tan Exhibition design: John Vinci

And thanks to the staff of HPAC, Chuck Thurow, Allison Peters, Kate Lorenz, Chris Hammes, Colleen Coyne and everyone who helped and inspired us.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those
who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
US president and general, 1953

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