Art as a Trojan horse

The latest print edition of Neural Magazine includes a single piece of yellow notepad paper – apparently at least. I haven’t seen it yet. On this sheet, readers are encouraged to write a letter  to the White House. This letter will be then filed away alongside the billions of others.

The special notepaper has been produced by computer artists Douglas Easterly and Matt Kenyon of SWAMP. Each line on the notepaper contains the micro-printed details of civilian casualties in Iraq. By sending it to the White House smuggling the ignored officially-ignored consequences of the Iraq war it created back into the White House. It’s a kind of Trojan horse. Sometimes it’s symbolically important just to get your own back on a culture that has ignored so many of the consequences of its actions.

This isn’t the first SWAMP project to commemorate the civilian dead in Iraq, largely ignored by the media. In 2005 they created their IED – improvised empathetic device, an electronic band worn around the arm. The armband was linked to the website Whenever news of a new US army fataility was posed on the site, the armband would be triggered to plunge a needle into the arm of the wearer, drawing blood and enforcing empathy through pain. “The LCD
readout displays the soldiers’ name, rank, cause of death and
location and then triggers an electric solenoid to drive a
needle into the wearers arm, drawing blood and immediate
attention to the reality that a soldier has just died in the
Iraq war.”

(Which sounds kind of brutal, but it’s probably less painful than the experience of seeing something like Thomas Hirshhorn’s The Incommensurable – yards and yards of photographs of the mutilated Iraqi dead culled from the web – at Fabrica a couple of months ago.)


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