Monday, December 17, 2007

(Everywhere) the United States has Bombed (Everywhere)

Protesting Cartography or Places the United States has Bombed by elin o’Hara slavick, 1998 - 2005

"These drawings are manifestations of self-education on the subjects of U.S. military interventions, geography, politics, history, cartography, and the language of war. The drawings are also a means to educate others. I make them beautiful to seduce the viewer so that she will take a closer look, read the accompanying information that explains the horror beneath the surface. I wish for the viewer to be captured by the colors and lost in the patterns—as one would be if viewing an Impressionist painting—and then have the optical pleasure interrupted by the very real dots, or bombs, that make up the drawing. Unlike an Impressionist painting, there is no sense of light in these drawings. And unlike typical landscape paintings, these drawings are based on surveillance, military, and aerial photography and maps.

As Miles Harvey writes in The Island of Lost Maps, 'In the seventeenth and eighteenth century mapmakers were referred to as ‘world describers.’ In geometry, describe means to draw or trace the outline of something; in poetry, it means to get at the essence of something, to bring it to life in a way that’s both startling and beautiful. You’ve got to do both kinds of description – and do it in a medium that’s partially visual, partially mathematical, partially textual, a complicated miscellany of scale, orientation, projection, grids, signs, symbols, lines, colors, words.'

I draw inspiration and information from many sources, but especially from William Blum’s book, Killing Hope – U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since W.W.II. Blum writes, 'What might be the effect upon the American psyche if we were compelled to witness the consequences of U.S. foreign policy close up? What if the Americans who dropped an infinite tonnage of bombs, on a dozen different countries, on people they knew nothing about, had to come down to earth and look upon and smell the burning flesh?' I believe Americans have begun to smell the 'burning flesh' since September 11. Do bombing campaigns make the world safer or free from terrorism? Or do they just increase the death toll, the already high levels of fear and anger, the rage and endless grieving in this world? Can any deadly bombs distinguish between an innocent civilian and a terrorist, a child or a soldier, a wedding party or an ammunition facility?

Miles Harvey continues, 'For early humans, mapping may have served to achieve what in modern behavioral therapy is known as desensitization: lessening fear by the repeated representation of what is feared. Representing supposedly dangerous terrae incognitae in map form as an extension of familiar territory may well have served to lessen fear of the peripheral world.' I suppose I want to instill fear back in to us, but not fear of the peripheral world. We should be afraid of ourselves. Maps are preeminently a language of power, not protest. I offer these maps as protests against each and every bombing."

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