PLAN 75: Article
out Of Here: The Veterans Project

Wodiczko at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston

From November 4 through March 28, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston is presenting a large-scale video installation by Krzysztof Wodiczko focused on the experience of the current war in Iraq. Based on his conversations with soldiers who have returned from Iraq, as well as with Iraqi civilians, the new work builds on their memories to examine the chaos and confusion of war.

Since 2008, Wodiczko has been exploring the experience of veterans in a number of different works. The Veteran Vehicle Project (2008) and the War Veteran Vehicle (2009) used projections of soldiers’ words and recordings of their testimonies to illustrate the complexity of social reintegration after combat. In the Veterans’ Flame (2009), a video of a flickering candle moved in sync with the sound of the veterans telling their stories.

The installment at Boston’s ICA presents the veterans’ experience from a different perspective. Wodiczko has expanded the notion of the word ‘veteran’ in this work, using the term to refer to civilians as well as military personnel, a subtle shift that expresses an attempt to re-think the roles of all parties impacted by armed conflicts, and of re-evaluating our concept of war. And in place of recordings of the participants’ voices, Wodiczko has for the first time woven his conversations with medics, soldiers and refugees into a narrative of collective memories.

In addition to their stories, the participants shared with the artist video and audio of life during wartime, from the daily broadcast of prayers and interactions with local children to the distinctive sound of Humvees in transit or of sniper fire erupting. Combining all these elements, the projected scenario reflects the physical and psychological environment of combat, as well as the fragmented way experiences are perceived in distressing or uncertain situations.

Krzysztof Wodiczko is known worldwide for his large-scale video projections on landmark architecture and public monuments, and for his more recent, interior projections. His politically-charged works explore the relationship between art, democracy, trauma and healing. In 1998, the ICA commissioned Wodiczko’s Bunker Hill Monument Projection, dealing with gun violence in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, as part of the exhibition Let Freedom Ring.

Other recent works include Guests at the Venice Biennale (see PLAN 64) and the Illumination Project, a permanent installation at the Public Safety Building in Cambridge MA that expresses the continuing responsiveness of the police and the Emergency Communications Center to the life of the city’s citizens. A retrospective exhibition is planned for 2012 at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.

Among a host of other honors, Wodiczko is the recipient of the 4th Hiroshima Art Prize for his contribution as an artist to world peace, MIT’s 2004 Gyorgy Kepes Fellowship Prize for excellence in the creative arts, the 2005 College Art Association Award for his distinguished body of artistic work, the 2007 Katarzyna Kobro Award in Poland, the 2008 Skauchegan Medal for Sculpture and the 2009 Gold Gloria Artis Award from the Polish Minister of Culture for outstanding contribution to culture.

A professor in the Visual Arts Program, he is also director of MIT’s Interrogative Design Group, which contributed to the ICA project and, in greater degree, to the War Veteran Vehicle Project in Liverpool. In September he published a new book, City of Refuge: A 9/11 Memorial, edited by Mark Jarzombek and Mechtild Widrich (Black Dog Publishing, London).

…OUT OF HERE: The Veterans Project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art. The exhibit is also made possible through the support of the Nimoy Foundation, LEF New England, Artists Resource Trust of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Galerie Lelong and the Polish Cultural Institute in New York.

For more information, including images and video clips:

Text courtesy the ICA/Boston