Sunday, November 20, 2011

Enews 09/09/11 War Rug Project Update 2



Barbara Koenen ::
WAR RUG PROJECT UPDATE 2

Progress
Support
Schedule of Events :: Exhibition, Artist Talk and Art Prize
9/11 War Rugs, Then and Now
9/11 War Rugs, Then and Now, Pt. 2
Remembering 9/11
Heartfelt Thanks!

The WAR RUG PROJECT runs through October 9, 2011 @ the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM).


Progress
End of Day 3
End of Day 3

It is surprisingly moving to methodically render the twin towers, their windows, the jets and explosions in spices. Wondering what the weavers thought about the images they were slowly making, and making again and again. The words no longer mean anything to us, and never did to the weavers in the first place.

Many people I've had conversations with in the past few days are fascinated by the war rugs, and unafraid of their complexity. I especially enjoyed my conversation with a dairy farmer, who is also a county commissioner -- and was checking out the art museum between meetings! We talked about land use issues, the satisfaction of farming, and art. It is reassuring.

Support
Max and Samantha collaborate on reverse engineering.
Max and Samantha collaborate on reverse engineering.

Thanks to everyone's support, the 9/11 spice war rug is under construction at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM).

My niece and nephew, Samantha and Max, helped with installing the three original Afghan war rugs, very straight and secure. They also figured out how to put the cards in the funny dispenser I designed. It took coordination and cooperation, and they did a great job. Later, Daniel came for the member opening and gave his approval.

Bill Dougherty designed lovely frames for the 2006 war rug prints, and a solid platform for the new war rug. He did the heavy lifting on Sunday's install as well, always the professional.

Other artists were humming throughout the museum as everyone put the finishing touches on their installations -- everything from bronze female warriors to crystal growing tube construction responding to barometric pressure, to a beautiful sculpture of a wheel and horse hair. Puryear-esque. Lovely. My neighbor has a series of paintings inspired by his grandfather's WW1 reconnaissance flights. Shades of Chuck Close as a landscape painter, thinking about what one sees when traveling fast and at altitude. Beautiful blurs.


Schedule of Events :: Exhibition, Artist Talk and Art Prize
I'm looking forward to my artist talk this Sunday, September 11, at 2 pm at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM). Hopefully the rug will be done by then too, and we can place the fringe underneath as a finishing touch. Join me if you can!

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

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.

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.

Both rugs depict the World Trade Center with jets flying into the twin towers simultaneously, which didn't really happen. It looks as though the image was based on a collage of media photographs from the separate attacks. Both rugs depict US and Afghan flags, with a superimposed dove of peace linking them. The he outline of Afghanistan is in the background, and the base of the composition has a US aircraft carrier with jets queuing on board and taking off, and a missle being launched.


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.
But notice the differences between the earlier war rug and the recent iteration. In 2001, 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.

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 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

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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