Artists respond to contemporary conflict in the Middle East
Photographs by Nina Berman, Chris Sims, Toby Morris, Mark Bagge and Benjamin Lowy
Beyond the contemporary war portrait, Unite and Untie depicts aspects of Middle Eastern conflict and its impact on our nation through civilian eyes.
Contemporary conflict in the Middle East is an extremely complex series of interwoven issues built over the course of centuries. The tension derives from colonial influences which have arbitrarily drawn and redrawn borders for a variety of reasons. Longtime disputes within and between Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths are compounded by autocratic ruling systems and Western culture´s imposition of democratic governments. In recent years, the United States´ involvement in the Middle East has focused on promoting democracy in the belief that it will lead to stability and concurrently control terrorist forces that pose a threat to the country and its allies.
The human toll of Middle Eastern conflict is massive yet largely immeasurable. Over 4,000 U.S. troops have been killed, and an estimated several thousand have been seriously wounded. Troops stationed in the Middle East are under significant combat stress, challenged daily to identify their friends, allies, and enemies.
The fight for societal reformation in the Middle East impacts more than just the local environments where overt conflict takes place. The ripple effects throughout the United States include widespread fear, grief, and loss. Soldiers and civilians alike struggle to unite in a shared belief of what it means to reach a successful end to these set of wars.
Christopher Sims´s Home Fronts reveals the inner workings of Iraqi and Afghan camps on US soil, constructed by the military to help prepare soldiers nearing deployment. Citizens from the two countries help train the soldiers about their customs, and present them with symbols of everyday life.
Photojournalist Toby Morris documents US soldiers who have recently returned home from the Middle East and are living with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Nina Berman´s Homeland series depicts an ever-vigilant America post 9-11. Showing what she refers to as "the fantasies of war," Americans embody a culture of fear, incorporating defense tactics into their daily lives.
Benjamin Lowy presents night vision images of a war-torn Iraq where only Western soldiers have the ability to see in the dark night via infrared technology. Symptoms of conflict take on many different forms: oppression, alienation, anomie, segregation, devastation, and galvanization of entities.
Houston-based artist Mark Bagge´s Iraq Live addresses how the media reports the war by looking at the blurred boundaries between documentary and entertainment journalism, and how we as individuals choose to form our opinions based on media coverage. Using a Polaroid 600 camera, Bagge photographed news reports on television including important events such as the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Saving Private Lynch campaign.
In addition, HCP is proud to have United States Army Captain Kendrick Fanniel in the gallery on Sunday, March 1, 2009 for a matinee Q&A as well as a slide show of photographs by military personnel.
US soldiers are invited to contribute their cell phone camera images to an online exhibition and streaming slide show — a unique form of citizen journalism from the front line.
- Madeline Yale, HCP Executive Director & Curator
Opening reception at HCP -Friday, February 27 from 6-8pm