Artist: Thomas Hirschhorn

Posted on by Ben Hodson


As I look at war artists, I have come across the passionate work by Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn.  This peice here was shown in the Tate Modern is a politically charged sculpture which comments on the challenges and fragility of everything surrounding the Iraq conflict.

Hirschhorn creates monumental works from the basest of materials. Cardboard, foil, paper and plastic are bound together with tape, in an apparently casual fashion, to form works that are all the more powerful for their obvious instability. In Drift Topography, a ring of US soldiers surround and stand guard over a densely built-up, fenced-in territory. The soldiers themselves, and the weapons they brandish, are larger than life-sized cardboard cutouts. The landscape they guard is equally unstable – a city built from boxes, card, cotton wool and aluminum foil. Vast quantities of generic brown packing-tape hold the whole structure together. Political and historically significant books line the makeshift streets, alongside rows of plastic petrol cans. Paper billboards bear Arabic script enlarged from newspapers, and the bold text of truncated headlines – ‘war’, ‘power’, ‘humanitarian’, ‘globalization’ – are plastered over every surface, echoing the overuse of such terms by the press to the extent of virtual meaninglessness. Over it all, gigantic mushrooms rise out of the centre of the system, evoking nuclear clouds as much as thriving mutant fungi. Accessed May 2012

Modern Painters: Iraq Special

Posted on by Ben Hodson

Click on the image for images of the issue.

Through a tutorial with Nigel Grimmer, he advised me about this issue of modern painters, which centred on artists that had engaged with the war in Iraq.  A lot of the artist's and series of works I had already come across but it was great to see an almost "retrospective" of art work made for this subject.  Also the front image was an original peice by Martha Rosler, that was comissioned for the issue.

Artist: Steve McQueen

Posted on by Ben Hodson

Roger Bacon, the father of Major Mathew Bacon (not depicted) who was killed in Iraq in 2005 looks a piece of artwork entitled 'Queen and Country' at the National Portrait Gallery on March 18, 2010 in London, England.

This investigation has primarily been focused on artists who have tried to influence policy, public opinion or the government.  To bring some balance, it is worth looking at the opposite side of this.  There are numerous times when the “state” commissions artists to create work to support, promote and even carry out its intentions and purposes.  This is most evident in intentional propaganda but can be seen in other ways.  The British government commissions an artist for every war where there is British involvement. For the current war in Iraq the official war artist is Steve McQueen.  He is currently one of Britain’s foremost artists, including recently representing Britain in the 2009 Venice Bienale.  For the Iraq commission McQueen decided to move away from film as a medium.  He decided to make stamps using the faces of the soldiers who have been lost in the war.  He managed to gain full support from the soldiers' families and created the stamps with the aim to have them on sale for the public to use as legal stamps.  The government and Royal Mail have so far refused to make this happen.  It appears to be slightly ironic; the state commissioned an artist to give an official creative response to the war and then censored the artist's intentions to protect their own interests. There have been many forms of propaganda. Even the war images I looked at previously were used as propaganda by communist governments.  It is a huge subject in itself, which I will not fully engage with.