Sunday, November 20, 2011

Enews 08-28-11 War Rug Project Update

Preparations are Underway...

Thanks to everyone's support, preparations are well underway for the upcoming War Rug Project installation at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM).

Tim is hard at work gluing Stars and Bars "popper" firecrackers to cotton cord to make the fringe we'll use (thanks Sweetie!), while I'm drawing out the pattern on a special felt mat.

Fresh spices have been purchased at my favorite wholesaler, Neiman Brothers. Poppyseeds, allspice, turmeric, cinnamon, sesame, ginger, coriander and more all look, smell and feel amazing.

We purchased a new "9/11" war rug on Ebay for the project, and also borrowed an older one one from my friend, the artist Lynn Basa. It's interesting to compare the two, which I've done below.

Allison Neidt Toonan worked her graphic design magic on some 50 variations of cards for the project. The awesome Bill Dougherty is building platforms and frames. My friend and videographer Doug VanderHoof is making a short video about the project, which I'll share with you soon.

Schedule of Events :: GRAM Exhibition and Art Prize

The GRAM show consists of the 30 artists they selected for Art Prize. It runs from September 7 - October 9. Nestled within that time is the actual Art Prize event, running from Sept 21 - October 6. Art Prize is an open competition and the public is the judge. The first week has voting for all the artists, and the second week is just the top 10. Voting is free, but all voters must register in person (so you can see the art in person!). The Art Prize website has info about places to stay, artist, venues, voting and more. Here is a schedule of events, in case you are able to come up to Grand Rapids for the installation or Art Prize or both. When I went last year I loved seeing thousands of people walking all over downtown GR, all looking at and talking about art. It is interesting and fun for the whole family!

Sept 8 - 11 :: War Rug Construction 10 am - 2 pm (at least) @ the GRAM
Sept 11 :: My Artist Talk 2 pm @ the GRAM
Sept 21 - 28 :: Art Prize Round One Voting
Sept 29 - Oct 5 :: Art Prize Top Ten Voting
Oct 6 :: Art Prize Winner Announced
Oct 9 :: War Rug Destruction / Printmaking 2 pm @ the GRAM
Oct 9 :: Last Day of GRAM exhibition
9/11 War Rugs, Then and Now
Lynn's 9-11 War Rug from 2001
Lynn's 9-11 War Rug from 2001

Last month, we purchased a new "9/11" war rug on Ebay, and then my friend, the artist Lynn Basa, lent me one she purchased shortly after the attack in 2001. It's interesting to compare the two.

War rugs originate from the 1979 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and mostly depict patterns of weapons, and sometimes maps of specific events or places. 9/11 Rugs appeared shortly after the terrorist attacks in 2001 and subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan.

Both Lynn's and my 9/11 rugs depict the World Trade Center with jets flying into both towers simultaneously. It looks as though the image was based on a collage of media photographs from both seperate attacks. Both rugs depict US and Afghan flags, with a superimposed dove of peace linking them. Both have the outline of Afghanistan in the background. Both are anchored by a closeup of a US aircraft carrier with jets on board and taking off, and a missle being launched.

But notice the differences. On Lynn's earlier rug, all the words are in English, and very legible. There is a lot of detail, especially in the line drawings of helicopter, jets and the windows of the World Trade Center. The palette is very simple and reductive, and curiously, the stars of US flag are reversed.

9/11 War Rugs, Then and Now, Pt. 2
My 9/11 War Rug, dating from 2011.
My 9/11 War Rug, dating from 2011.
In the same way that a cartoon that has been xeroxed or faxed over and over eventually loses its meaning, or when the game of Telephone ends up telling a different story after being whispered in so many ears, much of the detail in the new version of the 9/11 War Rug doesn't read like the original. None of the words are legible, except the year "2001" and the letters "USA". There is more color and experimentation with the design, and the jet explosions have become oddly flattened. Many X's fill in the background, depicting, perhaps, explosions, mines or casualties (experienced or anticipated).

Thousands of these rugs have been made since 2001, yet it is virtually impossible to know who the original artist is, or who the many different weavers now are. They may be in Afghanistan or in a refugee camp in Pakistan. They are probably women, possibly children, and if located in the countryside, quite possibly confined to their home, illiterate and forbidden to leave unescorted by a male relative. These rugs are collected by soldiers, including General Tommy Franks who famously bought a bunch as souvenirs and gifts when he retired, and by people like me. They have almost no value for commercial rug dealers, yet they continue to be made, as the tragedy continues to evolve and people need somehow to remember.

Remembering 9/11
Children killed this year in a helicopter attack.
Children killed this year in a helicopter attack.

Our nation is bracing itself to remember the horror of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 as we approach its 10th anniversary. The whole world continues to feel the effects of this tragedy, with heightened security, fear and unease now much more a part of daily life, and the emotional and physical scars of the victims, our armed forces, and their families will be endured for years to come.

Its just as important, though, to remember all the innocent people in Afghanistan who have been affected by the events of 9/11. And those in Iraq and even Pakistan. So many of them are women and children, powerless victims without control over their surroundings.

It is conservatively estimated that betwen 12,000 and 14,000 Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001. They are killed by crossfire, improvised explosive devices, assassination, bombing, and night raids into houses of suspected insurgents. Unexploded ordnance from previous wars and from U.S. cluster bombs continue to kill after the fighting stops. The hospitals in Afghanistan are treating increasing numbers of amputees and burn patients, and in 2009, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health said two-thirds of Afghans suffer mental health problems.

As we remember 9/11, let's expand our mourning for all the victims, and work together to make a real and lasting peace. Let us not abandon them, but let us not assume dominion either. And if you'd like to help, consider supporting one of these fine organizations.

Heartfelt Thanks!

Heartfelt thanks go to the friends of the War Rug Project. Your support means so much -- spiritually as well as financially. I could not do this without you!

Julie Banzhaf Stone :: Robert J. Tassone :: Chuck Thurow :: William Zbaren and Robert Sharoff :: Delphine Cannon :: Katharine Banzhaf :: Beverly Koenen (thanks Mom!) :: Duane Fimreite :: Janet Carl Smith :: Pat Casler :: Alicia Berg :: Michelle Boone :: Deborah and Glenn Doering :: Carrie Hanson :: Anonymous :: Jackie Kazarian :: Pooja Vukosavich :: Chris Gent :: Shirley Patton :: Kristin Dean :: Kristin Patton :: Carolina Jayaram :: Laura Samson :: Esther Grimm :: Karen Paluzzi Steele :: Carol Reisinger :: Dr. David Hinkamp :: Marguerite Horberg :: Dianna Frid :: :: Annie Morse :: Doug VanderHoof :: Neiman Brothers :: Tim Samuelson :: Alison Neidt Toonen :: Lynn Basa :: Rob, Elizabeth, Samantha, Max and Daniel Koenen

We're close to raising the whole $5,000 needed for this phase of the project. If you'd like to help out, click here to learn more.

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