The Imperial war museum hosted an extraordinary exhibition on art since 9/11, which highlights artist’s responses to terror attacks since 9/11.
The exhibition is split between 3 galleries – state control, weapons and home – and is quite an extensive exhibition. The first room is a long gallery of headline news from the terror attacks showing how different countries and newspapers covered the attack. It just drives home how the attacks made reverberations throughout the world, and how media shaped the public’s understanding of the attacks.
9/11 was terrifying not just for the public, but governments too. Uncontrollable and unpredictable governments heightened security and surveillance. A particular favourite sculpture of mine was Ai Wei Wei’s marble surveillance camera – oversized, dominating, yet tactile. Videos show the aftermath with western governments targeting people whom they considered – rightly or wrongly – dangerous.
Technology has enabled the development and ‘improvement’ of weapons of war. But let’s be clear 9/11 spurred countries, especially Western countries, on. One room focuses on the use of drones and of drones strikes themselves. I was immersed in a video of an American drone pilot who explains that if the drone is at 30,000 feet it will never be detected by anyone on the ground but can – scarily – tell you the brand of trainer targets are wearing. The pilot says that many of his co-pilots are online gamers, and I wonder if this allows them to separate themselves from the lives, families and countries that are destroyed at a push of a button.
This gallery makes you ask yourself what is home? There are sculptures of what looks like a wasp nest – showing the confusing structure of the artist’s city now, compared to the beauty, and comfort of their lives from past. There are also maps of Pakistan with confusing lines and expanse of red spots, with a small spot of green. The green is the safes spots, and the overwhelming red – you’ve guessed it – is the danger zones. Another art piece is a video installation, showing a boy playing football in his home with the loud bangs of bombs and gun blasts. Shocking how normal it is to that little 8-year-old Syrian boy.
This exhibition did help me understand how media have helped/hindered the public shape our perception of terrorist countries. How artists have helped me to understand the rise of a security entrenched country and how we now asses, and accept, threat levels.
Age of Terror is on until 12 May 2018 at the Imperial War Museum.