To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Art exhibition ‘Reconnaissance’ explores violence in the Middle East

One of Brandeis’ newest art exhibitions, “Reconnaissance,” is making waves with its contemporary take on the traditional world of social statements. Artist and Resident Scholar of the Women’s Studies Research Center Linda Bond creates a truly unique display of the realities of wartime violence of the Middle East and South Asia and its effect on the women of the war-torn nations through her use of multimedia in addition to the conventional forms of art like sketch and collage.

The most prominent and defining display of the exhibit features two installations of Bonds’ “One to One” series, each a 6’ x 4’ x 7’, house-shaped wooden structure that is “fragile, delicate yet stable,” curatorial assistant Caitlyn Julia Rubin explained, and represents the “framework of progress that women’s education can provide.”

The first of the two installations features small drawstring bags suspended within the wooden structure that were created by women of Afghanistan and Pakistan under Bond’s creative project aimed at providing them with small wages to help them attend school and literacy programs. Each of the bags are emblazoned with either the image of the creator’s traced hand or an image of the Hamsa, a symbol of an open palm that represents power, protection and justice, ideas that Bond uses to characterize social reform in the Middle East. The second was lined with handwritten letters, thanking the Afghanistan branch of the Barakat literacy program for providing them a second chance at education. In the middle of the installation is a projection of a slide show that presents short video clips, giving faces to these women and subsequently humanizing the struggle for social liberation through Bond’s signature feminist perspective.

Bond’s message of the media’s influence on people’s perceptions of wartime is expressed through her persistent inclusion of its traditional forms, specifically newsprint, throughout the exhibition. Her display “War Language” is composed of 16 squares of newsprint with adjusted opacity, rendering the original articles on drone strikes just barely legible. Stamped in a wash of gunpowder across each article are ambiguous or justifying phrases such as “actual consequences,” “believed to be” and “mistakenly killed” that Bond had noticed made recurring appearances in the printed medium. This high contrast of the phrase represents both media’s ability to manipulate a population’s perceptions of foreign affairs as well as society’s habit of extracting only the information they want to hear.

Bond also incorporates YouTube videos of drone strikes into her exhibition with the piece “Remote Control,” a three-monitor audio and visual display, that suggests the rapid growth of online, visual media within the younger generations, and features big-name organizations like CNN and WikiLeaks. The videos featured show unadulterated footage of drone strikes on civilians and soldiers alike, attempting to put viewers within the violence happening every day in the Middle East. However, the videos also emphasize the distancing of violence involved in remotely operated drone strikes. The layout of the monitors is indicative of the technology used by the drone operators, drawing connections to the viewer of the display and the violence that results in it.

The largest display of Bonds’ works, her “Shadow War” series, uses actual images of regions of drone strikes, overlaid with the war-themed silhouettes of helicopters, bombs, fighter planes but, most memorably, civilians. Bond persistently uses repetition of the silhouetted shapes and symbols of the pieces in order to show the true ubiquity of these acts of violence and how current attitudes and attempts at social reform are not yet changing the shape of the problem as much as they should be. Though only 70 of her over 200 “Shadow War” pieces are currently on display, Bond has intentions to continue this as more acts of drone violence are committed.

“Reconnaissance” is open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Kniznick Gallery of the Women’s Studies Research Center, “where research, activism, and art converge.” Upcoming events for the exhibition include “Collateral Damage: Civil Society in War,” a panel discussion with artists Bonnie Donohue, Mary Hamill and Linda Bond herself on Thursday, Oct. 8, and a gallery walk-through with Women’s Studies Research Center Scholar Hilde Hein on Thursday, Oct. 22. Be sure to check out this truly thought-provoking and insightful exhibit before it comes to a close at the end of the month on Oct. 27.

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