Monday, September 15, 2008

Protest Art... Your Thoughts?

Photograph of an installation that took place in Sydney, Australia. Each body bag represented a soldier killed in Iraq.

Photograph of a public art installation at Portland State University that acknowledged how many people had been killed in the Iraq war at that time. Each red flag represented 5 Americans killed. Each white flag represented 5 Iraqis killed.

Photograph of an ongoning installation on Peaks Island, ME. Each strip of plastic has the name and age of a soldier killed in Iraq.

What is your opinion of protest art-- specifically protest art involving the war in Iraq? In recent years there have been several mainstream exhibits dedicated to the exploration of war and concerns in Iraq. There have also been a number of anti-war protests involving the utilization of art on college campuses throughout the United States-- hundreds of installations involving the number of service people killed. Many art students have focused on the issue for school exhibits. With this in mind I ask the following questions: Do you think that protest art has the power to sway opinions about war? Or would you say that these works do little to change opinions as far as war is concerned? Do these works make a difference? Do they make an impact? If not, why?
Concerning the men and women serving in Iraq... should the morale of service men and women on leave and on the war front be considered when these works are displayed in public? After all, they realize the death in Iraq-- they see it daily. With that said, do they need to be reminded of it when on leave or by an image sent to them from someone back home? Should we be concerned that they may become disheartened upon viewing these public works while on leave or upon learning about them while serving actively in Iraq? Should these works be seen as supporting these men and women or do they cast doubt on what they have fought for? Where does responsibility fall concerning this issue?
I ask these questions because a good friend of mine recently came home from the war. He was offended that a local college had allowed the creation of a protest installation, similar to the images included in this article, in a high traffic public area and that the college had allowed certain student groups to hold politically driven rallies in the location. He learned that one of the rallies near the installation involved chants of “No more babies killed by our guns in Iraq!” and other chants that made assumptions about the intentions of the men and women serving in Iraq instead of the intentions of the US government. It troubled him.
One night while having a few drinks he discussed protest art and rallies involving protest art with me. I took the position that such works and events are protected by the constitution and that the people organizing the installations and rallies have that choice. He looked at me and said, “I chose to serve. I did not choose the war. And you guys wonder why there are so many suicides in Iraq”. Needless to say, his words have stuck in my mind. Are there ethical issues that we should be answering and responsible for aside from securing the right to create these works and to use them within the context of a rally? What say you?
Art student Tom Bylander created an installation in response to the 3rd anniversary of the war in Iraq. He attached an American 25 cent piece is on each eye of each skull which added up to $500 worth of quarters.
Wake by Carrie Iverson. Features images of American soldiers killed in Iraq.
Detail of Mission Accomplished, by Feizal Valli. The installation contains a toy soldier for each American killed in Iraq.
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


Anonymous said...

I think there are consequences either way. If ongoing public protests like the dead troop installations are stopped just because it might be damaging the morale of the troops in Iraq it also shuts down freedom of speech at home. I’m not sure which is worse. There are more antiwar protests than ever in the United States and the percent of troop suicide is also higher than it has been in any other US involved war. I think troop suicide is higher now than it was during Vietnam. So there might be a connection between widespread protests and the decrease in troop morale that results in self harm. I don’t know how long wartime suicide of troops has been tracked so it may be a loose connection at best. Some of the protests I have taken part in have got ugly and brutal things have been said about our troops but they are not all like that. Something to think about.

Anonymous said...

I think antiwar protests and art can change opinion and make a positive statement if they are done right. But there are groups like Code Pink that give antiwar protests and antiwar art a bad name by using extremist tactics like bum rushing elected officials and spitting in the direction of troops during their protests and exploiting dead soldiers for their art expressions of protest. That is not acceptable in a democracy.

Anonymous said...

War is over, if you want it.

All you need is love.

Anonymous said...

I love doing protest art
there's a piece on myspace I did
I was branded a racist by a college tutor for doing it - it was his project - he also went on to falsify my attendance, falsify records against me and wrote a report that had me kicked out of college months before my finals
it hasn't stopped me doing my version of protest art though

Anonymous said...

also check out Barron Storey and his Black Irag exhibit

he currently has an update at the norman rockwell museum

Anonymous said...

It has no impact at all on the public, just reinforces whatever views they have. That the war is necessary but ugly, a rigtheous war of freedom, that the children with toy soldiers dont get at all, and are soft spoiled brats. That it is a horror created by the monster American killing machine, whatever. If the body counts nightly dont get to you, how will this nonsense. Though the weekly counts are about the same as the nightly ones i remember from Vietnam, far less killing. But, even children can speak out, even if naive in assumptions, but will only galvanize opposition or support.

What IS truly disturbing is how they fail to mention the wounded, how seriously so many have been injured, both physically from impact explosions that damage the brain, and emotionally. Our medical skills are far superior to the past, and so many survive that would not have years ago. Many of these will be on the streets soon, as are now the remnants of the Vietnam war. Many had shakey psyches going in, this destroys them.

My eldest about to go over to Iraqistan, not sure where as orders constantly change, a recent Annapolis graduate. Afghanistan is absolutley necessary, but been botched. Iraq a waste, we had Saddam defanged and trapped, it is always up to the people to decide their own fate, even when oppressed and tortured. But the top service academies know Bush is a moron, and so happy when Rumsfeld quit. He blew the occupation, as the administration had absolutely no idea what to do after the easy victory. Had dinner with the bozo twice, one of the dumbest people he has ever met. Our new secretary of defense an honorable man, competent, but left a bad situation to resolve. He spoke at graduation and was given a standing ovation, as he told the ensigns and lieutenants the press and people were not their enemy, they worked FOR the American people.

So this demonstration stuff is fine, but doesnt really change anything. Not really art, but even so the creators should never put their names to it and get attention away from the meaning, to be truly honest. Otherwise it is just more attention seeking brats by those who have no experience of real life. And so discounted by most.

The best is the In Memoriam on Sunday mornings where the names and faces of the recently deceased are shown. If they watched and read real news more often, perhaps they would create better works, and not so caught up in hyping themselves and their limited views, a lil humility and self criticism please. Children are meant to be seen and not heard. They can talk when they actually know something, and have done something. From both wings of the poltical spectrum.


Anonymous said...

The suicides are a result of constanrly extending tours, in what is not necessarily a civl war, but a battel between different ethncities and cultures. But there are battles within each group for power in teh vacuum we created. Also, many are going back for the third and even fourth tour, the dread of going, leaving a family, not know when they wil get back, being completely separated from interaction with teh local populace, heat, dust, depression. Many reserves who never thought they would be doing this, but in support roles.It is emotionally and mentally depleting, and leaving soldiers with a sense of hopelessness. And so suicide as thier only option out. Sad.

Anonymous said...

The guy who said war is hell was right. Serving in Iraq is hard. The environment is very different from home. There is a lot of stress involved than just the fact that you are fighting. I do think that some of the antiwar protests and artwork is a factor in the poor morale that some of our soldiers have.

Most people enlist because they want to protect freedom but I bet they don't expect those same freedoms to be used to make them look like monsters back home. Look at how being called baby killer and other things hurt our troops during Nam and hurt them when they got home as well. In war death does not recognise age. It will take anyone man or woman or boy or girl.

Most antiwar protestors are far left liberals. That is fact. That is why the military and police officers were not included in the Federal hate crime laws. There were more Democrats voting than Republicans and they new if they allowed the military and police to be protected from hate crimes they would loose the boost they have from groups like Code Pink. If it was included most protests would be shut down for hate crimes.

The vote came down to party lines. Republicans were for including military and law enforcement and the Democrats were against it. They also voted against including the elderly. If the Republicans had their way the elderly would have been included and you would not see Obama’s camp making negative statement about McCain’s age. Historically Republicans have older people running for office than the Democrats. So I think the left only protects freedoms that support their cause and gets them in office. I would call a Code Pink member a pawn before calling our soldiers pawns like they did.

antiwar protests have cost taxpayers a lot of money. The weekly protests in Berkeley cost $90,000 to $200,000 per month so I would like to know how much all of the protests have cost us since the war began. Not as much as the war but it is still an expense for the taxpayers.

People have the right to voice out but it should not cost the rest of us. I think protests online reach more people than marching in the street. Writing non offensive essays on the subject reaches more people than screaming baby killers. Permits will be blocked if these hate groups keep causing riots and civil unrest.

Donald is right people should not profit off of antiwar protests. A lot of the speakers are paid to make a speech and a lot of the leaders of Code Pink and other groups earn money also. It has become a form of celebrity. The message is lost when that happens.

Hopefully military, police, and the elderly will be protected from hate crimes in the future. The Democrats play the American people just as much as the Republicans.

BekkaPoo said...

"Or would you say that these works do little to change opinions as far as war is concerned? Do these works make a difference? Do they make an impact? If not, why?"

Protest art may or may not change opinions of hardcore warhawks in the long run, but these kinds of art pieces are still necessary. While the rest of the country is cheerleading the deaths of the innocent and sometimes some of the guilty, there have to be some voices out there that are saying "NO! WE NEVER WANTED THIS!" These artists speak for the millions of people who are being drowned out by the war hawks.

At this point, justifying the war in Iraq is merely ignoring the ugly truths of this war, and ignoring the effects it is having on everyone involved, including the erosion of our freedom of expression right here at home. There have been admissions, albeit too late, from the White House that this war was based on lies, that Osama is no longer a priority, etc., so you would think that the logical course of action would be to end the war.. yet it's still going on. People are still dying for.. democracy? Oil? Hegemony? Nope.. mostly they're dying in vain, for a pack of enormous lies.

Anonymous said...

It is lies depending on how you view it and most people take sides depending on where their political views fall. We know that shells with mustard gas were found stockpiled in Iraq. That may not be a weapon of mass destruction compared to a nuke but it can still kill people who come into contact with it and can make where it hits deadly for weeks. We probably won't find out for many years what exactly was found over there. It is not all Bush's fault. Both Clintons mentioned the need to take out Saddam while Clinton was still president and both said at the time that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Maybe the information was wrong but you can't just pull out at the drop of a hat especially once a war is already started. The big picture is the war on terror and the former supporters of Saddam are now considered terrorists in that country regardless if it was a warranted invasion or not. I get sick of people trying to make the Republican party look like warmongers. Look up how many wars we have been involved in with Democrat presidents at the helm and Democrat controlled congresses. Both parties have an ugly history. You might be shocked.

Anonymous said...

YOU may never have wanted this, but obviously, most did. Whether by deception or not. And yes, its about oil, and revenge, as baby Bush wants to avenge what he considers his daddies defeats. Not taking out Saddam, and people reading daddies lips, so W swore to cut taxes and never raise them no matter the outcome. He is kinda retarded. And once in the war, you gotta get out with the least amount of long term damage, especially in a region vital to the worlds economies.

But the protests are quite within the freedom of speech, but often rebound, and cause moderates to recoil in disgust. Like the DNC, it was and is for a certain crowd to make them feel better about themselves, how wondrful and brilliant they are, NOT to debate and convince the middle of their point of view.

Really makes no difference, far more important is the war itself, and how it is portrayed on TV. Children protesting what they dont understand is just annoying. Finding ways to convince getting out is in the interest of the country is what would work. But fear is still being used, and as America is weak ethically now, scared of its own shadow, not sure that would work either. The Dems running candidates who stupidly voted against the first Gulf war doesnt help. As Biden did. War is necessary at times, and as Metternich said, part of diplomacy. Whether you want to accept that or not. But used foolishly, can backfire, as it has losing the support we had after 9/11.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Saddam boot UN investigators out of locations several times? I remember that he violated UN mandates. Even if the reasons were wrong I think hundreds of bodies of people who opposed Saddam found in airport storage units and other facilities made it right. Some of those corpses had been there over a decade. Men, women, and children with bullets in their skulls just because they wanted a different leadership. That treatment violated human rights and religious rights. Why don't the extreme left protest about that senseless killing? Where were groups like Code Pink when that abuse was going on? Looks like a lot of people protest just because they have a political agenda not because they give a damn about suffering. If we had went to war with a Democrat president in charge I bet that those same groups would accept the war as it is. It is all about which party you support. That is why protests in the US fail. Political views today are dividing the country more than race or religion ever did. I agree with the hate crime comment. That is why attacks against someone based on their political views should be considered a hate crime in the United States. How long will it be before we start storing bodies in utility sheds?

Balhatain said...

FreedomFighter, the right to hold a protest or create protest art is actually a good sign of democracy at work. “The people” have a right to voice their concerns verbally and visually.

As for who and what can be protected against hate crimes… the last thing we want is to live in a country where you can’t protest anything out of fear of being charged with a federal crime. I don’t want to live in a nation of silence. The old saying "Be careful what you wish for" comes to mind.

Everyone is doing a good job of keeping the comments relatively civil. Try to keep it that way or else I will be forced to be a dictator of comments. :P

Anonymous said...

Uh, no. As a history major, not an artiste, avoided it like the plague, going into Iraq was clearly faulty on many grounds, and as I told people at the time, unles W had MUCH more evidence than what was shown, no way should we get into a country as large and important as that one.

Lots of dictators kill, of left and right, and good people wil decry them all. Extremes of both are usually blinded by their faith in..., themselves. Iraq wasnt Grenada or even Bosnia, this was far different, and far ranging consequences that were all bad, worse than leaving a madman in charge.

Especially as bin Laden was our focus, this had to do with daddy Bush, and Ws insecurities, and the neoCons arrogance about being able to change the world how they liked. Afghanistan is now a mess, its an ungovernable countyr, always has been, and we needed to hit it hard, take out al Qaeda and leave the Taliban to whoever else took over, always a alliance of warlords. Most violent spot on earth, we cant change that. And armed and trained after we helped them against the Soviets.

We did a fantastic initial job, making it clear the Taliban were on the way out, as they were the major party, but far from the majority. So their alliance fell apart and so did they, amazingly quickly. But blew it getting bin Laden when we had him, didnt close the passes off, when we certainly could have. Then needed to help economically as much as possible, but then get the hell out of there. We cant change it.

But closing down protest is absurd, and goes against the American psyche of free speech. Attacking people for how they look or believe is wrong, speaking out for how they act our duty, but civilly, as we can alway be wrong, or most likely, only partially right.

Balhatain said...

Some questions to think about:

What about the ethical questions involving mass public displays of these works and the affect they might have on people serving us during a time of war and the families at home who are concerned for their safety?

Should colleges refrain from allowing said installations? Should it be allowed with limitations or specific restrictions?

Should colleges not allow student groups to use those installations within the context of their anti war or supportive rallies?

At what point does a memorial for fallen troops become a tool for political agendas? At what point does a selfless act involving artistic creation and remembering the fallen become a selfish act rooted in political change and the exploitation of fallen service people for said change?

If a museum sponsors an exhibit about the death of soldiers and civilians in Iraq-- or any war for that matter-- should they also be expected to host exhibits that feature the positive accomplishments of soldiers and civilians in war torn lands?

Anonymous said...

To keep it quick and to the point.
After the first paragraph.
4.Doesnt matter
5.When A person takes individual credit for it

Both sides, and any others, probably ones more true, should get equal treatment. These are basically debates, and are for the unconvinced, not the true believer. But within the Constitution. Rights are always in conflict, thats why we have judges, none are more important than others, and seldom is only one involved.

Anonymous said...

Protest art must be true; maybe moreso than any other genre of art. If an artist is going to depict the pain and suffering of victims of war in art, he or she owes it to those victims to tell the truth; maybe what I really mean by "truth" is "justice." Victims of war are usually the common people (and I'm including soldiers and their families here) and they have very little power, very little recourse.

If the artist uses the pain and suffering of the victims gratuitously, or for his own benefit, or as convenient vehicles for a personal agenda, then he is exploiting the victims of war and his hands are as bloody as those of the initial victimizer.

Anonymous said...

George W. Bush’s sentence-by-sentence speaking skills are deteriorating. Apparently, this may be due to a mental illness called “presenile dementia.” Bush may or may not be secretly still drinking heavily. Bush lied, and thousands of people died. Bush suffers from narcissism and megalomania. Moreover, Bush has been arrested three times. Bush was arrested for disorderly conduct. Bush was arrested for stealing. Bush was also arrested for a serious crime—driving under the influence of alcohol. There are reasons to believe that Bush suffers from a learning disability. Bush’s learning disability would explain a lot of things. All in all, Bush is a severely mentally ill individual. Bush is not fit to be the president of the United States.

Anti-war protesters are great.

Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang
B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
Messiah College, Grantham, PA

zahrada said...

Just for the record... My piece "Wake" was intended to be neutral, to be a memorial. I wanted to create a respectful space which allowed viewers to see the faces of those who had died and think about them as individuals. (Growing up in the rural south I knew a number of people who were in the military, so I wanted to make a piece that could connect with those who were both pro and anti military.)

Balhatain said...

Thanks so much for commenting and making your position clear. I think one issue with work of this nature is that once it is out there-- once it is placed in public view-- individuals or groups can utilize the work for their own intentions regardless of the thoughts of the artist behind it.

Anon above, people from all walks of life have learning disabilities-- including some of the most brilliant minds of recent history. Be careful how you use that to debate your thoughts concerning Bush. Also, you would be surprised how many people suffer from some form of mental disorder. Perfection as you see it does not exist.