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Modern Art Notes & Mission Accomplished

May 1, 2008

Yesterday MAN asked readers to contribute thoughts about art, war and remembrance and I suggested Michael Rakowitz’s “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (Recovered, Missing, Stolen Series)” (2007), shown here in Chicago at the Hyde Park Art Center earlier this year. Read it on MAN or here:

Loss and memory are central to Michael Rakowitz’s “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (Recovered, Missing, Stolen Series),” 2007, which recently showed here in Chicago at the Hyde Park Art Center in their “Consuming War” group show. This work revolves around the fact that in 2003 the National Museum in Baghdad was looted and 15,000 artifacts were stolen, some dating as far back as 4000 BCE. To date approximately 8,000 artifacts have been recovered. Rakowitz created replicas of these objects using refuse: discarded Arabic newspaper and packaging from Middle Eastern food. It is appropriate to recreate ancient objects like a bull’s head or an architectural frieze from trash considering how the American invasion treated these priceless objects of human history. However it would be wrong to imply that they do not a have a serious presence, they do, and the use of discarded material serves to heighten the feeling of loss and the inadequacy of the recreation: these objects of human culture maybe lost forever. Accompanying the object are labels containing the registrar data from National Museum, its status (recovered, missing, stolen), and a quote from those involved with the museum, from the ex-director, Dr. Donny George to Donald Rumsfeld. There is hope contained in the exhibit, the objects existence seem at points a pure idea, remade they are gone but not forgotten, Dr. George’s quote about how some citizens removed objects and brought them back when it conditions were more safe, and the small beacon of hope in a single word on the label: Recovered. However, the overwhelming feeling of loss and memorialization permeates the exhibit. We have lost key pieces of our shared human culture due to an illegitimate war and inept, callous and boorish leaders. As quoted on one of the labels, Rumsfeld on the looting of the museum: “Stuff happens.”

Playing into the theme of loss and memory the White House Press Secretary said this as reported by the AP:

“President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific and said `mission accomplished’ for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said Wednesday. ”And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner. And I recognize that the media is going to play this up again tomorrow, as they do every single year.”

I guess I am now part of the media because I, for one, am going to remember that this war was started under false pretenses, falsely linked to 9/11 and continues to be, and is a war with no real plan before, or currently for withdrawing or reconstructing. I, for one, am going to remember Bush’s smug speech on that ship, how false his words were then and how false they are still. I will remember being lied to by Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush, and the rest about the WMDs that simply were not there and the connections to 9/11 that were not, are not, and continue not to be there. I, for one, am going to continue to remember the lies upon lies that this administration tries to force on the public about the reasons for the Iraq War initially and continuing, particularly as they try to link Iraq to 9/11 which is a lie. So, yes, Diana Perino, the media plays this up every year because we are lied to again and again, and it has cost America 4,000 lives. I “play this up” because I want to remember that the Mission was not Accomplished, American lives are still be sacrificed for Bush’s lies.

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