cross-country traveling art show It is What it is: Conversations About Iraq
, spent Tuesday afternoon parked in front of Vintage Vinyl in the Delmar Loop.
The project made its way to St. Louis from New York via the
arts non-profit Creative Time and the Contemporary Art Museum of St.
The exhibit's "guest experts" -- Jonathan Harvey
, an Iraq veteran, and Esam Pasha
an Iraqi artist, journalist and translator now living in the United
States -- positioned themselves for public inquiry near the
carcass of a car bombed in Baghdad and now hitched to the rear of a massive RV.
claimed no explicit stance on the war, preferring, instead, to answer
questions and to listen. "Here and elsewhere," Pasha explained, "many
people approach us wanting to get into an argument. But once I explain
that I'm an artist and not interested in convincing them of any
position, their guards come down."
Deller, the experts and Creative Time curator, Nato Thompson
later re-convened at the Contemporary, where a
varied group of local professionals had already formed, eager to resume
a conversation about the war.
After expounding in complex
detail on Iraqi governance and U.S. military strategies, Harvey
explained that he enlisted in the army "on what was basically a lark."
Participating in It Is What It Is
, he said, was a way to make use of his experience and to have the opportunity to take a road trip.
Meanwhile, half of the evening's crowd had splintered off to gather in the CAM's Front Room, where Berlin-based artist Tris Vonna-Michell
gave a repetitive and rhythmic spoken-word performance. Amid the bright
flashes of a slide show of camera lens cracks and a hand-thrown flurry
of photocopied photos, Vonna-Michell narrated a tale of experience lost
to lack of documentation and the endless revisions of memory. The
stuttering performance served as a way to recreate the experience,
which he conclusively summarized as being a story "about barbed wire
and a city I've never even been to."
With these two pieces and last week's brief Front Room show
-- curated by St. Louisan William Gass
proposing that creating art is a strategy for overcoming the mundane --
a suite of works has emerged that incidentally proposes the wider and
more effectual resonance of the so-called mundane -- conversations,
story-telling, towels -- as it is, in all of its artlessness.