Hiroshima After Iraq

Hiroshima After Iraq: Three Studies in Art and War

Rosalyn Deutsche
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 104
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  • Book Info
    Hiroshima After Iraq
    Book Description:

    Many on the left lament an apathy or amnesia toward recent acts of war. Particularly during the George W. Bush administration's invasion of Iraq, opposition to war seemed to lack the heat and potency of the 1960s and 1970s, giving the impression that passionate dissent was all but dead.

    Through an analysis of three politically engaged works of art, Rosalyn Deutsche argues against this melancholic attitude, confirming the power of contemporary art to criticize subjectivity as well as war. Deutsche selects three videos centered on the deployment of the atomic bomb: Krzysztof Wodiczko's Hiroshima Projection (1999), made after the first Gulf War; Silvia Kolbowski's After Hiroshima mon amour (2005-2008); and Leslie Thornton's Let Me Count the Ways (2004-2008), which followed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

    Each of these works confronts the ethical task of addressing historical disaster, and each explores the intersection of past and present wars. These artworks profoundly contribute to the discourse of war resistance, illuminating the complex dynamics of viewing and interpretation. Deutsche employs feminist and psychoanalytic approaches in her study, questioning both the role of totalizing images in the production of warlike subjects and the fantasies that perpetuate, especially among the left, traditional notions of political dissent. She ultimately reveals the passive collusion between leftist critique and dominant discourse in which personal dimensions of war are denied.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52649-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Art & Art History, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Maurice Blanchot said that political impatience makes criticism warlike. Driven by the urgency of human-inflicted disasters, we want to proceed straight to the goal of social transformation, and so, wrote Blanchot, the indirection of the poetic—and, we might add, the artistic—displeases us.¹ It should not be surprising, then, that the pressing events of the past eight years—war, rendition, torture—have produced many examples of impatient criticism. Two years ago, for instance, the journal October sent a questionnaire to a group of art world intellectuals, soliciting opinions on artistic opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. October’s...

  5. One Silvia Kolbowski
    (pp. 9-32)

    “We return to Hiroshima … to confront our own dark truths.”¹ So write Robert Jay Lifton and Greg Mitchell in their 1995 book Hiroshima in America. The book’s subtitle, Fifty Years of Denial, encapsulates its thesis: the United States has never faced its cruelty in using atomic weapons. Instead, ignoring the historical evidence, it has clung to an official narrative about Hiroshima, which, put in place in the postwar years, claims that the dropping of the bombs was necessary to end World War II and that it saved American and Japanese lives. There are of course notable exceptions to this...

  6. Two Leslie Thornton
    (pp. 33-54)

    Leslie Thornton released the first section of her video Let Me Count the Ways, titled Minus 10, in 2004, one year after the invasion of Iraq. Since then she has added four segments, each named, like the first segment, after the time unit of a countdown: Minus 9, Minus 8, Minus 7, and, the latest, Minus 6, which was completed in 2008. I shall focus my discussion on the first two segments, Minus 10 and Minus 9.

    Thornton calls Let Me Count the Ways an ongoing series, distinguishing it from a work in progress, the more familiar term for an...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  8. Three Krzysztof Wodiczko
    (pp. 55-70)

    In some ways, Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Hiroshima Projection is an anomaly among the group of artworks that I’ve chosen to discuss in these essays. For one thing, unlike Kolbowski’s After Hiroshima mon amour and Thornton’s Let Me Count the Ways, Wodiczko’s video was made before the Iraq War, though after the first Gulf War, to which it refers. For another, while the video is a work in its own right, it also documents one of the artist’s outdoor projections (figs. 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4). In these public works, Wodiczko projects images—in the case of the Hiroshima Projection, moving images—onto...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 71-76)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 77-82)
  11. Index
    (pp. 83-88)