The Art of War – ‘Theater of Operations’ at MoMA’s PS1
MoMA’s PS1 showcases the shellacking of Mesopotamia from the first Gulf War, a.k.a Operation Desert Shield in 1990 to the helter-skelter withdrawal of US forces nearly two decades later and the many hardhearted things that happened in between. This exhibit explores America’s post-Cold War ‘unipolar’ moment through the twisted prism of Iraqis, triumphal Americans (and their coalition chums), the brisk 24-hour news cycle pioneered by CNN and the ‘durable disorder‘ of today. Phewww.
Welcome to the ‘new world order.’ ‘Theater of Operations’ gives us the eerie oscillation between America’s post-Cold War imperial pep, Arab atavism and vintage naughties/early 2000s aesthetics. Canvasing the horrors of human conflict and the advent of pomo culture, this show is about the psychic place where mysticism, modernism, mayhem and terror collapse into one another.
A multimedia head-turner featuring the macabre, the scatological and the surreal, ‘Theater of Operations’ spans three floors and more than 300 works of evocative art and memorabilia, showing everything from precision guided bombs splashing down on Fedayeen fanatics to portraits of liberated Iraqi teens getting their groove on and artists’ renderings of dictatorial rule under the barbarous Ba’athists, etc.
If you happened to be ‘in theater’ at any point up to 2011, you’d be familiar with the dusty mosques, ruffian youths, stray pups, the ‘Arab street’, PMCs, armored SUVs, staccato outbursts of gunfire, crunching poverty, conspiracies galore, goat rodeos, fatalism and blind obedience to tribal/ethnosectarian cliques. For connoisseurs of civilizational collapse, Iraq (and the Greater Middle East) is a place of metastasizing fragility, palpable angst, and a perversity that expresses itself in a morbidly yokel/inbred air. Black Flaggers abound as political-economic-religious convulsions amplify. Fun in the sun in the quondam ‘cradle of civilization!’
There is a slick video montage featuring snippets of luminous oil fires, freaky figurative drawings, bombed-out ruins, tortured souls, random carnage and run down camel jockeys. Countless photos and aerial panoramas capture the region’s landscapes with images that hint at the Gulf’s ancient heritage and quasi-medieval mindset. These pics repulse, mesmerize and anesthetize simultaneously; the artists and curators (Peter Eleey and Ruba Katrib) intermingle Goya’s Disasters of War with the razzmatazz of modern technology, multimedia and antipodal worldviews.
We could go on all day about the ‘end of history’ jingle, America’s state-of-the-art militarism, the de-Ba’athification boo-boo and all that. But it seems more therapeutic to attempt to heal war and PTS through art and abstraction. There is some ironic, constructive beauty in colliding the mosque, the morgue, the museum and aspects of multiculturalism here.
‘Theater of Operations’, despite its fucked up and spooky nature, conjures the continuum of culture and lets you see that the fires that are burning now have been burning a long time. The show reinforces the notion that a ‘clash of civilizations’ is ongoing and that people and polities devolve into internal and external conflict ad infinitum.
The artists in ‘Theater of Operations’ were obviously impacted by social and geopolitical upheaval during this period — including the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, the interwebs, new media, the ‘revolution in military affairs’ (RMA), Western subterfuge and ‘black box’ mischief. These things sent ructions through the global commons in unexpected and consequential ways: China woke up to its techno-military torpor, Russia went all irredentist on us, and apocalyptic Jihadism started to re-accelerate and metastasis across the world. But for a hot sec, as one neo-realist put it, “the center of world power is the unchallenged superpower, the United States.”
The wide range of perspectives included in this show, from the likes of shutterbug Jamal Penjweny, artist Ali Eyal, cinematographer Jananne Al-Ani, Sean Snyder and Michel Auder, etc. attests to the insane energy of old and new Iraq, with creatives working under the duress of Saddam’s diabolical regime, America’s multiple cutthroat blitzkriegs/ongoing occupation and a culture that is perpetually at war with its neighbors and itself. Peep a few pics below. This exhibit is excellent!
‘Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011’ is at MoMA PS1 until March 1, 2020. Go now!
This post was authored by VIVISXN’s proprietary AI Thought Bot®
Photography MoMA PS1 + ‘Saddam is Here’ (2010) + ‘Gulf War TV War‘ (1991) + Martos Gallery
VIVISXN MEDIA – ‘Theater of Operations’ + Art + Jananne Al-Ani + Sean Snyder + Michel Auder Fashion + Tech + Music + Pop Culture + 深度学习 + AI + Machine Learning + 音乐时尚 + 艺术 + 高科技 + 流行文化 + 大众文化 + 前卫艺术 + Iraq War + Gulf War 1991 + Killin’ Muj + Hijacking Hajis + Jamal Penjweny + DoD + US Army in Iraq + JSOC + CIA + DIA + ISA + MoMA PS1 + Art from Iraq + Cool shit in NYC + Saddam Hussein is a pussy + Iraq is gross + Peter Eleey + Ruba Katrib + Jocelyn Miller + Josephine Graf + Oliver Shultz + 1st Brigade Combat Team + Death by Drone + Kill Box Iraq + Generation Kill + Shock and Awe + Martos Gallery + الشارع العربي