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Consuming War Interviews

Fred Holland American Blend, by Emile Ferris

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Consuming War Interviews

Fred Holland American Blend

FNews – What inspired the work that you’re creating for Consuming War?

Fred Holland – I like numbers as the basis for starting work. [When I began this project] a barrel of oil was 70 dollars and now it’s 80 dollars. Iraq puts out two million barrels of oil a day and that sounds nice – two million barrels. We’ve totally lost a grasp of what a truly truly large number a million is because we hear ‘billions’ thrown out there. So a barrel is 55 gallons. Now when you get it down to the gallon number you can start to see it because everyone has carried home a gallon of milk or bought a gallon of anti-freeze or knows the weight of a gallon of paint. That’s a number you can get a hold of, so it’s 55 gallons in a barrel. We contain, as humans, five quarts of fluid – blood. So I wanted to see how many humans could be drained and put into a barrel. The number is 44. So now if you looked at the minimum death pay out for a KIA (Killed In Action) service man not including contractors – of which there are over 700 dead – the minimum pay out is 100,000 dollars. If we hold 5 quarts or 1.25 gallons it means a barrel of blood is worth 4,400,000 dollars.

Now that compares to 70 dollars and looks a lot more expensive.

The real average pay out is about 1.25 million over the lifetime of a survivor.

So it’s 100,000 immediate, no questions asked (and they only raised that after Afghanistan and made it retroactive because at the beginning of the war it was a 12,000 dollar pay out and they got guilted into the 100,000 pay out.) But then there’s a 500,000-dollar life insurance policy available to service personnel, then you figure in the widows’ payment and children’s educational support through college and it comes out to 1.24 million per soldier. Looking at that number was the starting point for this piece.

The barrel in the piece is a nice 55 gallon white drum. Across the top, chasing around the rim are the words, ‘Product of Iraq.’ It has a nice big red cross in the center of it and a spigot in the middle of the barrel with a sort of an industrial looking single handled shut off. It’s a recycling pump and it basically just keeps pumping out blood into a floor drain. Over the spigot it says “American Blend.”

It’s a continuous running fountain of blood and I don’t care if it’s a little bit trite… it’s what it is.

I was reading something in TruthOut … virtually every day since the war started we have continued to pump out our 2 million barrels a day and the US stockpile of blood barrels would be under a thousand at this point, so you have to ask how many pennies per barrel does that come out to?

Because that’s what they [administration officials] look at. I’m sorry. They put it out on a spread sheet. “All right we’ve got approximately 3,785 dead right now, so that’s say, 4 billion dollars in death of US GI’s.” You divide that money into the 2 million barrels a day that they’ve been pumping out for five years and it’s not much and it’s certainly not enough to discourage them from continuing to shovel these guys in.

He [Bush] has just asked for another 400 billion to keep the war going for another year. What’s that to them? They’re not paying that 400 billion and the rich aren’t paying that 400 billion. It’s all on our backs. It’s on the backs of our children and our grand children.

I cant help but think we’re up against end-timers, but, it really won’t matter. I hate to be so dark about this but half of it’s going to be wiped out anyway. We’re paying so much fucking money to destroy the planet with this [oil] because there is no easy solution.

We know that if we stopped today it wouldn’t mean shit for the next ten years.

It’s over. They know how over it is. They fuck with peoples hope, but they don’t really want to tell the the secret which is “It’s over.” This is it. We hit the peak. We’re paying for everything we’ve done since we peaked. We’ve been in production since WWII, when everything went into hyper drive. Whether it’s going to be the two degrees that wipes out the deep ocean current or whether it’s new diseases migrating or it’s non-indigenous life species in places they don’t belong – they’ve done it. It’s not going to happen in ten years. It’s not going to be horrible in ten years – although it’s going to be a whole lot less pleasant. I think we’re looking at 80 to 150 year time frame when it will become untenable…

F – How best should political work be created in order to have an influence on it’s viewers?

FH – … I’m thinking how over-rated fucking subtlety is… because no one really bothers looking [at art]… we know we’ve got seven seconds so why should I play to subtlety when I don’t feel subtle about any of this shit? I mean if the art is too subtle to be appreciated than it’s not going to work, is it?… At least for Rumsfeld, shock and awe worked…

F – How do you hope that people will respond to your work?

FH – I hope they’ll get pissed off at what I’m pointing at. You always get the “Oh you’re preaching to the choir,” Well, I’d like the choir to leave the church and take to the streets.

Fred Holland is an Assistant Adjunct Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has exhibited at: Deven Golden Fine Art, NY; Gallery A, Carrie Secrist Gallery, Klein Art Works, Chicago; Northern Illinois University; The Renaissance Society at University of Chicago.

Michael Rakowitz – Enemy Kitchen

FNews – What is the concept behind Enemy Kitchen?

Michael Rakowitz – Enemy Kitchen is a cooking show that my mother and I started with kids in Chelsea in New York. I should start by saying that my mother’s side of the family is from Baghdad and so I grew up eating Iraqi food, which was an interesting confusion for me because it was also what I thought Jewish food was. As Iraqi Jews this was the food that we would eat during Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, to break the fast, for Passover and it was like … Kubba Bamia (Okra in Arabic) and M’nhasha (stuffed grape leaves, eggplant, zucchini) all these things were really culturally kind of normal for me but then somewhere in grade school I learned that most people who were eating Jewish food were eating Matzo Ball Soup or Kasha Varnishkes or other Eastern European fare.

All this food that’s related to an ethnic or religious experience is always related to a regional cuisine and so these crossovers of recipes caused me to conclude that this was the perfect thing to disarm some of the political obstacles that seem to be in the way. When you recognize that food crosses these boundaries and you have people on either side of a political belief eating the same food than you see that the act of eating creates a social platform and a circumstance where people of differing opinions can eat the same food and come together. This realization caused me to think about the cultural puncture that comes with the experience of war or invasion.

F – How do you define the term ‘cultural puncture?’

MR – A cultural puncture allows stuff to flows both ways. So for instance, if you look at the French adventure in North Africa, invasions occur on both ends. A door is opened for a kind of migration of Algerians to France. You can’t walk very far in Paris before coming across a North African restaurant or a North African market, so the idea of Algeria doesn’t exist in the abstract. Certainly the problems are still present, but you end up with cultural visibility. In the United States the element of Iraqi culture is virtually non-existent.

For me, living in New York during September 11th, there were these beautiful moments when it seemed that the war drums had skipped a beat. I remember a line of people which must have been about two blocks long and around the corner for a restaurant called Khyber Pass which is an Afghan restaurant. They [New Yorkers] were not only voicing their grievance about the decision to take military action, but it was also a way of engaging culturally. I was very moved by this. I recognized the value of these tactile moments when people can engage with something that gets [negatively] personified.

In my opinion it [Iraqi culture] has been abused in media reports, and this just drives stereotypes and creates the mythologies which have enabled things to go the way they’re going. There are almost no restaurants that are Iraqi restaurants. A man from Dearborn, Michigan recently opened one, but he doesn’t advertise it as Iraqi food, I think for reasons of safety.

So my mother has always talked about how she wanted to open a restaurant and serve Iraqi cuisine. Growing up with these experiences of the food and with the clear absence of any place you could get Iraqi food in New York I thought about ways that this cultural information could be broadcast and I came up with the idea of starting an Iraqi Restaurant that could be called Enemy Kitchen.

F – How did the project end up happening with kids?

MR – When you visit the gallery district in New York you pass these lower income housing units that are right alongside these high-end galleries. A really wonderful woman called Micaela Martegani who runs this organization called MoreArt, asks artists who are showing in Chelsea to do community oriented public projects with school programs and youth groups in Chelsea. So for eight weeks I was set up at the Hudson Guild Community Center and I taught these cooking courses every Friday. We would cook Iraqi food and then eat it together in this kind of communal setting as sort of a build up to what would be a pilot for a cooking show. And it was really wonderful because the kids in these housing units were of African American and Latino heritage and, not surprisingly a lot of their cousins and relatives were stationed in Iraq. Considering the relative silence that surrounds the war – it’s a very touchy subject – a lot of high school teachers won’t even bring it up because it’s such a flammable issue, [these kids] have no outlet for discussing the war and consequently they don’t really have a way to make much sense of what’s going on. So the act of cooking becomes this place where that conversation can occur. I was really amazed at how a lot of the kids started to bring up their experience with bullies for instance as a way to relate to a geopolitical situation like the war in Iraq.

F – Can you relate a few interactions which occurred over the food?

MR – A girl who came in for one of the sessions was really bummed that we were cooking food from Iraq.

“This stuff is disgusting, they blow us up every day, they knocked down the twin towers.” So in response we said, “Oh really, does everyone think that?” and I opened it up for discussion because I didn’t want to proselytize. A lot of them thought that Saddam Hussein ordered the planes to be flown into the twin towers. This was an amazing view of how the abuse of information works in favor of allowing the war to perpetuate.

It wasn’t the predictable discourse that I would have with friends or like-minded colleagues.

On the eighth week, right before I left New York to take the job at Northwestern, one of the kids, Hashim, whose family was mostly from the Caribbean, said,”We’ve spent eight weeks learning about your food, but how much do you know about ours?”

I had to admit I didn’t know much. So he offered to teach the final class and after I agreed, he asked if Iraqis make fried chicken. When I told him that there was nothing like that as far as I knew, he said, “Well let’s invent it.”

The last day was this collision between soul food and Iraqi cuisine! We made Iraqi fried chicken.

F – How does Iraqi Fried Chicken taste?

MR – It was good… and the whole experience was really really fantastic. So we’re looking to do a pilot episode of a cooking show that will broadcast on the web. There’s somebody at the network who might take a look at it as well.

We’re going to be giving a public lesson in New York and NYC public schools will be sitting in. The hope is that Iraqi food will then become a kind of weekly presence in NYC School cafeterias.

[Food] becomes a way for the puncture to occur and things to flow onto this platform of visibility and at least enable a discourse, an awareness that there’s something more to this than green tinted images from CNN or Fox News.

Michael Rakowitz is an artist and Associate Professor in Art Theory and Practice at the. Northwestern University. He has exhibited widely throughout the U.S. Europe and the Middle East. An Enemy Kitchen cooking event will occur at the experimental station of the Hyde Park Art Center in January of 2008.

Wafaa Bilal: Al Qaeda R US

FNews – Can you describe the piece that will be shown at Consuming War?

Wafaa Bilal – The piece addresses the question posed by many Americans. “Why do they hate us?” What I wanted to create was a visual poetic juxtaposition of where the source of hatred is coming from. So I did research on what the United States has done in the rest of the world, and I have to emphasize, it’s not the United States, it’s the military and the CIA. What the government is doing is different than what the people are doing. There is a disengagement by the public especially in regards to the foreign policy of the US.

I compiled this footage, military news footage, and news reels in a way that doesn’t try to impose an idea on people but rather tries to give them a background and than let them decide. Because the piece is not trying to talk to the mind, instead the primary function of it is to speak to the body. I’m trying to have the viewers body impacted by the mutilated bodies from these countries. You see the images are being juxtaposed next to each other and the video being juxtaposed takes you from one era to another, illustrating the destruction that’s imposed on other nations. It’s footage from eleven nations that starts with raising the flag over Iwo Jima and ends with the attack on Afghanistan. It ends before the latest war on Iraq and of course it includes the attack on Iraq in the 90’s as well as the embargo.

It starts with the soldiers of Iwo Jima raising the flag. and one by one, they morph from still image to life. After the flag comes to life, a seven-year-old girl walks under the flag and that is what’s on screen number one. Screen number two begins with rhetoric being spoken by United States presidents. I was very surprised to find during my research that the same rhetoric that was used against communism is now being used against terrorism. It’s just the enemy that has changed from one to another but the rhetoric has stayed the same.

The girl on screen continues watching the second screen playing footage from eleven nations, among them Korea, Palestine, Iraq, Chile and Panama.

F – Obviously “Al Qaeda R US” references such things as “Toys R Us” but can you explain the title’s relevance?

WB – It plays with words and at the same time it talks about the corporations and their impact on this nation. A lot of the wars waged on other nation’s have been influenced by the corporations needs in these countries. Al Qaeda R US references a corporation but at the same time Al Qaeda R US could be read as Al Qaeda R U.S.

F- You’re a person who has survived much and yet has retained a certain hope for humanity despite witnessing and experiencing terrible cruelty and inhumanity. How is this so?

WB – I think hope is the only thing we have left. At some point in my life I figured out that without hope there is no life. It is a long fight for me and I always have been fighting injustice whether it be Sadaam Hussein or whether it’s being in a refugee camp and dealing with the torture and rape done by soldiers or whether it be in the United States. It may look different, but it’s the same underneath.

I think fighting it is kind of giving me a purpose in life. I can not just stay silent when not only is it affecting my life, but it’s affecting others and yes, sometimes we close our eyes when we see injustice but unfortunately that action itself is accumulative. A lot of time we think that our voice as an individual doesn’t count, but the individual’s voice it is the collective voice and if we don’t all speak against injustice it’s going to exist and it’s going to effect everyone of us.

F – Tell me about the experience of living in a country that has done your immediate family in Iraq so much harm?

WB – … One thing to remember is that it wasn’t by choice, I was very much rotting in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia and with severe threats on my life, whether [it was] threats inside the camp or external threats from Saudi soldiers or by Sadaam’s Intelligence infiltrating the camp. The only way I thought to get out of that was to very much accept the first country that accepted me as a refugee and I have to say I was very fortunate to get accepted very early and second, to get accepted by the United States because this country is a great country. I know this because I exist in it and it has given me a second chance at life. Coming here lets me believe that the people of this country are a great people, but unfortunately there are so many things that have been done in their name. That doesn’t mean that people don’t have responsibility for it partially – everybody is responsible because of these atrocities. But my argument always is that if we start blaming the people than we lose them and if we lose the people than we lose the collective power. But instead of blaming them we say, “OK here is what’s going on in your name.”

A lot of people bash the United States for so many reasons, but to exist in it you know it is a great nation and that’s what breaks my heart. We are slowly losing it. I lived under the regime of Sadaam Hussein. From the beginning until 1991 and I saw how the people of Iraq surrendered their power – slowly. It never happens over night. It’s always in the name of protecting the country. It’s always in the name of fighting the enemy, in the name of freedom. Because the individuals didn’t act we lost the collective power and at the end people had no power. It’s so sad to see that happening to this country. To me humanity is one, there are not many kinds of humanity – whether Iraqis or Americans or any other nation – we are all in it as one person and to me it’s just another form of injustice and I don’t want to see it happen again.

Wafaa Bilal is a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago. Recently Bilal’s video installation/performance “Domestic Tension,” drew international attention, as it required that for one month Bilal was at the mercy of a web-activated paint ball gun.

Burtonwood and Holmes: Price War

F News – What motivated your participation in Consuming War?

Burtonwood and Holmes – The concept of the show is one that we (Tom Burtonwood and I ) have been working with already. It feels almost as if the show was titled with us in mind. We have been working with sales flyers and the financial cost of war for awhile.

F – In what ways do you feel that your work bears witness to your beliefs about the war?

B and H – Well, to put it simply, war is a business. The organization of an army is a considerable undertaking of procurement and expenses. When armies fight arms manufacturers profit, we wanted to use the adverts we see everyday at the grocery store to underline this. When people think about the $$$ behind conflict it really tends to put the suffering and destruction into perspective. Moreover it’s interesting to note that the logistics that put loaves of bread and gallons of milk on the shelves of grocery stores are borne out of a system first developed to put bombs on targets in the battlefield. So with this in mind our work comes full circle.

F – How, in your view, has the Iraq War changed you? Changed the US?

B and H – I don’t feel the Iraq war has changed us. We would still be making the same the body of work tomorrow if it was to end today. As for Britain and the US, the war has polarized the political parties and the general population who are kept in a general state of unease by the GWOT (global war on terror).

F – Your work effectively evokes the overwhelming qualities of the US war machine, but in a way that ‘comes home’ and is, at once, digestible/disturbing/whimsical/ominous. Can you recall the moment when you understood/had an epiphany regarding this nation’s (or Britain’s) militarism/colonialism.

B and H – Where to start. When we’re young we play armies and we’re brought up to want to fight. The realities of war are not played out as a child but I guess the soldiers figure out for themselves later on. At what point do you realize that it’s not a game and when do you decide that you don’t want to play that game? I think for us we both had strong feelings about the military from an early age and eventually decided it wasn’t for us. In terms of recent history. I don’t know, perhaps when the US went from surplus of dollars to a huge deficit, or when the WMD’s failed to materialize or the invasion of Panama, or the genocide in Rwanda. I think at some point you look at the rhetoric of of our leaders and the actual realpolitik foreign policy and it all kind of coalesces really. It’s obviously hard to dispute the sacrifices made in WWII but it’s important to understand how the politicians led us there. The same is true today, you have to respect the troops who fight but at the same time wonder how we ended up in this quagmire.

F – It seems that political art in the U.S. has received less attention than it does in Europe. If you agree, why do you feel this is so?

B and H – Yes and No. There is a culture of fear in the US. The Europeans are less invested in Iraq and so perhaps it’s easer to be vocal about these issues. The media in the US isn’t exactly tuned into art full stop. So political art tends to be ignored unless Fox news needs an anti-christ to burn that day.

F – What do you want to say to artists who are contemplating making work that is seen as political?

B and H – Just do it.

F – What was your process for the collaboration and the technical challenges that you faced?

B and H – In general we bounce ideas off each other till something seems right. For the Hyde Park piece we worked with Garofalo Architects to help design the sculptures and then had them fabricated by a company who makes balloons. We are usually fairly hands on about our work so this has been a new experience for us, one that we will probably repeat certainly for these larger installations and sculptures. The balloon is a great way to make sculpture, it’s light weight and easy to store, and it is perfect for making statements about consumerism and sales.

Burtonwood and Holmes are an art-making duo who have exhibited widely throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Harold Mendez: to Leave, to Escape is to trace a line

FNews – Can you describe the piece that you are creating for Consuming War?

Harold Mendez – In a war there’s always a point on either side, whether you’re the enemy or whether you’re the so-called ‘liberator,’ that you think about escaping that predicament you’re in. I thought of making an installation where it was almost like a an entry point so that the viewer can imagine escape by being confronted by this physical object – a fence. So you’re looking at a fence but behind the fence there might be a wall or an abyss, or a void and you’re not really sure what’s behind that fence. When I make these kinds of fence pieces I want them to be really seductive in terms of the materiality and I want the content to get to the viewer a little later so I want to slow the read down a little bit …

F – How do you want this work to be experienced by the viewer?

HM – I think that when the viewer sees the piece they want to see what’s beyond the fence, and that’s not really my interest to show them what’s behind it, I want the viewer to feel a sculptural response to the work … a physicality and weight to what you’re looking at. I want them to be open-ended enough so that some of these fence pieces are open ended, so that it isn’t about war per se, but that it can be open to [ideas of] immigration, open to personal ideas of being fenced in or fenced off, being in or outside. I think that people can look at a fence in several different ways, whether you’re in front of it or behind it or you’re walking towards it or walking away from it.

F – How has the war changed you?

HM – It’s made me think of the political situation and the current government and, I think I’m much more cynical. They say that they’re sort of transparent about what’s going on in the war. The materials I’m using are transparent materials – packaging tape – and I feel like the war isn’t really transparent. I mean, whether it’s journalists not having access to the real information or the real statistics that are happening with the current war, whether it’s the death toll or however much money is being spent. It just seems like we’re at stasis where not much is really changing and I think people don’t really want to be in a war. It’s something that drives the economy

F – It seems that political art in the U.S. has traditionally received less attention than it does in Europe. If you agree, why do you feel this is so?

HM – Americans tend to pretty focused on consumption of whatever – entertainment, [etc.] In Europe or Latin America people have a real interest in world issues, so I’m hoping that this show will speak to ideas of war and how artists are dealing with war.

[Because] honestly war is a really huge and problematic issue to deal with as an artist. I think it’s really hard to distill work about the war so that it becomes personal and then you distill that even further so that it isn’t personal and that it’s open-ended so that a person who maybe doesn’t have any art education or art history background will be able to engage with it.

How can you really compete with war? I think of artists like Leon Golub. Somebody whose work was really political all the way through and whose work was dealing with mercenaries, being in a studio making that work [he spoke] to the political climate, but here he is, just this one guy making paintings that are a reflection of powerful military structures in other parts of the world.

Sometimes as an artist [you ask yourself] are you really making an impact with the work that you’re making? Whether it’s political or not. and it’s hard to gauge.

F – Was there a point in your life when you realized that you wanted to make work with an activist sensibility and was there an experience that prompted that choice?

HM – My mother’s from Columbia and my father’s from Mexico and I remember as a kid, going every summer to Columbia to visit family members and I remember seeing military figures with guns [who were] riding around on motorcycles and jeeps …

I’ve always wanted my work to be impactful as a somewhat social or cultural kind of response to things. I come from a blue-collar working class family and I’ve always had an interest in social issues. I want the work to hint towards historical events but not to be overtly political. I don’t want the work to be so heavy-handed that it hits you over the head.

Harold Mendez has exhibited in the U.S. Britain, Australia and Africa.

Ellen Rothenberg: Collection/Storage Unit Stealth (HPAC)

Fnews – Tell me about your project for the Consuming War show?

Ellen Rothenberg – What I’m doing for Consuming War is what I’m calling “Collection/Storage Unit Stealth HPAC.” Central to the project is the idea of getting camouflage off the street and collecting it and kind of compressing it, containing it. I’m going to set up a storage collection facility at the show. So there’s going to be a poster, there’s going to be a diagram about how to compress these camouflage clothing items and bundle them and then there’s going to be a storage facility of some kind.

F – You’re talking about the variety of camouflage-inspired clothing now. Pink camouflage for little girls… etc., it’s invaded our culture and it’s kind of shocking because what does it mean exactly?

ER – … and that’s the question I’m pointing to… There’s going to be a … poster that’s kind of based on military propaganda, and a how-to diagram and some supplies so that if people bring in camou they can either leave it there for someone else to do or they can make it into one of these bundles and you know, leave it as part of the storage system.

F – When did you first notice the camouflage?

ER – In 2004 I actually went to the NATEC Soldiers System which is a base where they develop products for use in the military. [NADIC is] this department of defense installation responsible for basically technology, development and engineering of military food, clothing, shelter, air drop systems and other kinds of soldier supports. I met with a member of this material systems and integration team which is a group which develops and tests camouflage. After a background check I was given permission to come in and I spent an afternoon on the base at what they call the ‘Individual Protection Directorate’ and they showed me their collection of camou, night vision goggles, body armor, camouflage make up, They showed me the various climatic dioramas, arctic, desert, woodland and they showed me some samples of the new camouflage pattern that they were developing…

F – The new camouflage is desert inspired?

ER – No, the new camouflage is digitized so that it’s Urban/Rural … and can be used in both contexts, they’re no longer using the woodland variety. It’s a digitized pattern, if you see soldiers from the war in the airport they’re all wearing it … it’s called Universal Camouflage Pattern … it blends green tan and grey…

Ellen Rothenberg is a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She exhibits widely throughout the U.S. and Europe and is recipient of numerous grants and fellowships.

Edra Soto – One Vision: Hollywood Soldiers

FNews – How did you begin this project?

Edra Soto – I started doing this project in 2003. My husband liked these [war] movies and I always tried to share time with him and [the movies] really annoyed me, but as an artist you start looking at these movies in a different way. [You look] more objectively and try to understand how they are constructed and how Hollywood manipulates so many things to get to your emotions. I wanted to compare and I started watching them. And I rented them and I kept finding similar images in these movies …. As if there was a data bank where they got these images – these landscapes in the movies. I … I found very very similar landscapes and very similar movie shots, like of the camera looking at the sky in between these trees and you see the light coming out… it’s sort of beautiful … presented in exactly the same way [in many of the movies.] I recently made another series taking out the sex scenes or any kind of sexy elements in war movies. I like to use the more modern, contemporary ones from the seventies till now.

F – What in your personal life motivated your interest in these movies?

ES – I grew up in Puerto Rico watching mainstream movies and listening to mainstream music. Through education I understood what mainstream was and experienced other types of art and other types of music. So that was my reality being inside of that mainstream taste. Growing up and traveling and studying made it possible for me to understand where I had come from.

F – Are you ever moved by these war movies?

ES – Yeah, I feel ridiculous when I feel moved, but yeah, I watched platoon for like the fifth time and I was moved at the end.

But I understand that it’s sort of a magic trick in this Hollywood way of organizing how the music and the emotional scene and all of it come together. I wouldn’t say that they’re all bad movies. I don’t think I’m criticizing what they are. I’m putting all this together for the spectator to have their own realization, because what they have in common is pretty much selecting their main character – which is usually a white male and most of the time a handsome white male. … Kelly’s Hero’s it’s pretty good with Clint Eastwood as the lead character who stands out in this movie because he’s a pretty good looking man, too. It’s interesting that the focus point goes to this handsome white male which is part of the American culture.

F – Have you experienced war in your life or is the Iraq war the first you’ve dealt with?

ES – The thing is that I’ve never experienced war in terms of having of having family connection to war or anybody that I know that is at war. And I was thinking about that when I started working with these movies because a lot of people don’t see war [they’re] not connected to the war only through media and so I’m not sure who looks at these movies and with what eyes they look at them..

F – How do you feel that the war has changed you?

ES – I feel frustrated as an American that we are going through this. It’s made me feel that we went back in time, like we went back in every kind of way. We are so ahead in technology and medicine, and discoveries and we are still acting like animals. So it’s sad to me.

It has made me think how as humans that we are always going to be stuck. It has made me think in a negative way about us and about our capacity to evolve emotionally, about compassion. It has made me have less hope about those type of things… The only thing I can do is express it the way I can. I express my ideas … about these things, I say what I think.

Edra Soto was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico 1971. She attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, MFA 2OOO. She has exhibited in Puerto Rico, Paris, Australia, Spain, Russia, New York, St Louis, Milwaukee, Dallas and Chicago.

Allison Peters – Director of Exhibitions Hyde Park Art Center

FNews – Why has the Hyde Park Art Center chosen to host this show?

Allison Peters – We came up with the idea of the show when we were in the old building (jan 2006). The Art Center has an Exhibition Committee that consists of approximately 7 -10 artists/curators that actively see exhibitions (both here and abroad), conduct studio visits and produce their own art and exhibitions. We all realized that there seemed to be an increasing amount of artwork being produced that dealt with the war with particular attention to how the media spoon feeds information and we came up with the title that felt appropriate, “Consuming War”. The goal is not to convert war-supporters or preach to the converted (which seems to be the sentiment in the Hyde Park community) but to question how we get our information about what is going on in the middle east and to try to find alternatives or demand more accurate information from our media. The work in the show focuses primarily on Chicago artist because the Art Center’s primary focus is to support Chicago artists and give them a platform to participate in the larger global art context, however, this show could have included a lot of artists from outside of Chicago like Nari Ward and Andrea Bowers to name a few. Consuming War is running at the same time the Renaissance Society is showing “Meanwhile in Bagdad…”, which features work by international artists like Jannis Kounellis, Daniel Heyman and Walead Beshty that take the discussion even further.

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