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Paper Bullets: A War of Words at Intersection for the Arts
The Sheer Force of Language
by amy gelbach on Nov 04, 2004
Chicken Little, that famous Bulrovian fairy-tale bird, knew what she was talking about when she ran around telling everyone that the sky was falling. When things fall from the sky it usually means something big is going on…Ticker tape parades marking the end of wars and confetti drops every New Year's Eve show man's desire to replicate the powerful display of the elements, showering himself with paper in tribute to his glory. However, man also showers man with paper as a display of force and power in an attempt at intimidation and defeat.
Since the most recent Iraq war began, more than 80 million leaflets of propaganda have been dropped by the United States. Stephen J. Hasegawa, a local collector, recently leant a large cache of PSYOPS (Psychological Operations) leaflets to Intersection for the Arts for their current show Paper Bullets. Seeking to display and re-contextualize this important historical collection, which spans some 50-years of warfare, curator Kevin Chen asked nine California artists to create new works that would respond to the leaflets. The result is a powerful exhibit that defies its inherent two-dimensionality through careful design and creative hanging.
Occupying one entire wall of the gallery, Sandow Birk's Cut-away View Of A Domestic PSYOPS Facility is a line drawing of an everyday suburban shopping center's clandestine under layer. It is striking in its simplicity of line as well as its light treatment of the serious, ominous reality it presents. Products of the facility are sketched out in the lower right corner, such as the now ubiquitous bumper sticker emblazoned with what Birk describes as one of the most successful of the PSYOPS' recent slogans- "United We Stand".
At the center of the room a M129 bomb case used to drop leaflets and loaned by the U.S. Army hovers above several vertically-hung sheets of plexi-glass which sandwich leaflets that appear to fall onto and then literally disintegrate into a collage on the floor. Made of images from photocopied leaflets and New York Times political photos, Surrender by Amanda Eicher, spells its title out on the floor of the gallery. Its repeating images and hidden bits fully articulate the dispersal of information that both the leaflets and the media serve in today's society. A few feet from Eicher's collage lies Packard Jenning's Some of My Favorite Things, a wooden crate smashed on to one of its corners as if dropped, and spewing forth its contents- tons and tons of mail order catalogues.
Nearby is evidence of Patrick Piazza's Reverberation Project, hundreds of balloons set aloft with stamped postcard questionnaires for random recipients. Piazza's balloons cluster in the corner of the room and appear to be taking off out of an unseen window. Asking probing questions like, "Just how far would you go to defend your freedom?", the postcards challenge the receiver to challenge themselves. Piazza's enthusiastic desire to continue sending off his Reverberations, a planned leaflet drop by Intersection, was canceled due to weather and the DPT, who was concerned about litter. The leaflets dropped would have read "Stop, look up at the sky, imagine and reach for a better future." (They would also have been biodegradable).
On exhibit through November 20, 2004.
by amy gelbach on Nov 04, 2004
Image of leaflets being distributed from the rear of US Air Force plane over Vietnam, ca. 1966. Courtesy US Air Force
Packard Jennings "A Few Of My Favorite Things", 2004 Wood, hardware, catalogs
Leaflet produced by United States 1st Radio Broadcasting & Leaflet Group, 839th Army Unit, APO 500, 1953. Intended target audience were North Korean civilians. Front (translation from Korean): WARNING!