Sunday, 9 December 2012

Unchartered Democracy

Un Chartered Democracy is my second Book Art Object book using title #56 of 100 stories in Sarah Bodman's book An Exercise for Kurt Johanessen (with her permission).
This book takes the idea of a charter as an official written document of Government as well as a contract executed between two parties - the US Government and soldiers serving on its behalf.  A small number of US soldiers in Afghanistan have committed atrocities whilst serving their country and its promotion of democracy.  Their actions were disrespectful, unethical, unacceptable, unauthorized, unchartered.
I intended to make a thought-provoking book about the insanity of war and needless killing, the effects on young soldiers working in intolerable and stressful circumstances, and how these situations create an environment where codes of conduct are broken, and to also reflect on the innocent citizens caught up in the mess.
I used the Turkish Map Fold structure to suggest a map location in the Middle East along with Islamic patterns in soft pink on the back of the pages.
The music pattern of a pianola roll containing words from Stars and Stripes Forever was printed onto the pages.

The drawings depict some of the atrocities committed by a few US soldiers in Afghanistan and parts of the drawings have been hand coloured with watercolour pencil.
I have been reminded with this book that although the artist creates a book constructing meaning by reflecting their own thoughts, opinions and feelings, once it arrives in the hand of the viewer, the whole thing is recontextualised by the opinions, beliefs and knowledge each viewer brings to their reading of the book.  I would like to thank the BAO members who have received the book and written eloquent and thoughtful responses.


ronnie said...

this looks and sounds amazing helen - I hope I get to see one in the flesh one day - its a very deep and unflinching approach to your title

dinahmow said...

Ronnie, it is, as is right, a disturbing subject.But Helen's execution has a certain beauty to it.
I think the size helps in this.

susan bowers said...

Hello Helen. What a strong subject - on pink. The pink seems to lull you into thinking this is a book of beauty but the subject matter has that intended shock effect. I admire you for being able to make this book. I could not. My son, an officer in the combat engineers returned from 8 plus months of duty in Afghanistan this year in February and though there is much I could say in my books about this needless war, I can't bring myself to do so. Can't say I love this book but I certainly admire the fact that you made it. And beautifully!

Fiona Dempster said...

Helen, this seems such a tough book and I am only viewing it online. As ever, brilliantly conceived and expressed, and a thought-provoking response to the title. Well done.

rObfOs said...

Helen, this is a beautifully made artwork and I thank you for gifting me with a copy. This book reminds me that the best artwork is courageous, well constructed, has the ability to make us think, open discussion, educate and successfully represent divisive and sensitive issues.
I think you've managed to tick all the boxes :)

ersi marina said...

rObfOs is right, your work is courageous, bold and also very beautiful. I think the structure is most appropriate and the contrast between the soft colours and the daring content can easily be a reflection of the conflicting emotions war arises. I love this book.

Helen M said...

Thank you everyone for your great comments. As you say Robyn, if the book makes people think about and discuss these sensitive issues, I am pleased.

Helen M said...

Re the pink - both Susan and ersi have read it the way I intended. This is not the first 'pretty' war book I've made -'Red lips are not so red'(about WW1 trench warfare) was made with the same intended shock approach. It was on display and a woman looked at it and laughed and said "this is cute". I said "it won't be when you read the text!"
The pink Islamic patterns were intended to suggest sympathy with the innocent victims and citizens, but also for the young soldiers who may have been driven to these acts by horrific experiences and post traumatic stress.

Martin said...

Enjoyed my today's visit to your (& Jack Oudyn)blog. Wonderful work!