Every work of art has an ‘argument’ which forms its reason for coming into existence, its content and its form. For a civilian deaths memorial in Iraq there are a million deaths to record and to report; five million refugees to recognize, and millions of widows and orphans to honor. The Deaths of civilians in America’s wars is the reason for creating a Civilian War Deaths Memorial.
The characteristics of American killings of other peoples in wars are primarily 1) Anonymity; 2) Innumerability, and 3) Atrocity. The reactions of the public to realizing the killing done by Americans include 1)blaming the victims (..”they were collaborators, sympathizers.”) 2) Rationalizing; “they were in the crossfire”, unavoidable, accidental. 3) Forgetting and Denying killing happened; 4) Dehumanizing, denying the individuality of each victim, other-izing the victims by degrading their value and human rights; 5) Rigid Hero Worship of Troops including making any critic into a Traitor to America; and, thusly perverting killing others to a ‘noble sacrifice’. (See the reference to John Tirman’s book: The Deaths Of Others, cited below.)
Making a Memorial:
When I went to find a form for the Memorial I unconsciously sought out a coffin shaped, burial mound shaped object, like an Egyptian sarcophagus. The upside down bathtub from 100 years ago, covered with cracks and rust offered a large and sturdy base for the Memorial.
The next stage of the work required requesting that Friends submit outlines of their hands so that I could make “many, many” different shapes of hands. When the outlines were trimmed, they formed silhouette stencils and full shape outlines. Inner and outer stencils enabled full-object hands and shadow like hands.
The nature of innumeracy and an inability to accurately number the dead in war requires many discordant and disordered ‘hands’ to represent all of those killed. Similar to the violence of violent deaths, the memorial required that we grieve over the fact that we do not know who was who, or whose body we are burying and honoring.
We can imagine scenes of horror, painful wounds and fire.
Many hundreds of thousands lost their lives without warning in bombs dropped from the skies and from artillery fired from miles away.
Grateful words of praise go out to those who helped and inspired including Anna, Henrik, Phil, Bill and many others.
My understanding of the extent of civilian war deaths and of the propensity of 96% of Americans to “bury the story” of their deaths, comes from the diligent researcher, John Tirman and his authoritative book: The Deaths of Others, @2011, Oxford University Press.
For more about John Tirman…………., author of “The Deaths of Others” (July,2011) was interviewed on a video found here:
Editorial by John Tirman: