Thursday, June 9, 2011

Art and Rethinking Global Conflict

"The frustrating thing about Afghanistan is that you come to a thoughtful, well-reasoned solution, but for every idea there's an equally well-reasoned counter idea." 

 ~ Sebastian Junger, author & director, 
quoted in The New Yorker (June 13& 20, 2011)

BEVERLY, MA   --  The United States is currently engaged in multiple wars of long duration. Despite plans to reduce the number of American combat troops in some areas, it is hard to see exactly how and when these conflicts are likely to end.  Only one thing seems clear: It was easier to commence these military actions than it is to end them.  As an old Chinese proverb says, "He who rides the tiger finds it difficult to dismount." 

One problem facing policy-makers is, as Sebastian Junger observed, that "for every idea there's an equally well-reasoned counter idea." This is a sobering realization.

A reasonable question to ask is: Does the public understand these conflicts well enough to draw reasonable conclusions about them? The answer is unclear and complicated by the fact that despite the involvement of the United States in multiple global conflicts, Americans pay relatively little attention on these events. It is debatable whether people in the U.S. comprehend the multiple dimensions of these wars well enough to envision how they will continue to unfold. 

The upcoming "For the Record" is a non-partisan exhibition that considers how artists can help enhance our awareness of the complexities of modern global conflicts. The exhibit assembles a wide range of work from artists Fiona Banner, Nina Berman, Matthew Ernst, Harun Farocki, Benjamin Lowy, Steve Mumford, James O'Neill, Gerhard Richter, Sophie Ristelhueber, and Rob Roy. Taken together, their work  encourages a rethinking of what we do and don't understand about modern global warfare.

"For the Record: Searching for Objectivity in Global Conflict" will open the fall 2011 season at the Montserrat College of Art Gallery in Beverly, Massachusetts.