The mechanisms and effects of war are often designed to be obscured, if not entirely hidden. Since World War II, and especially since Vietnam, the state and military industrial complex have fueled a nearly continuous, largely unremarked-upon series of armed conflicts, all the while implicating unwitting American subjects in that perpetuation. At the time of this exhibition the United States is at war in at least six countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and is embroiled in further battles throughout the world. Mainstream and social media have made abuses of state power more visible in the past decade, helping to stoke ever-spreading flames of dissent, like in the late ’60s; yet the media also tends to under-report on atrocities overseas, and to uphold establishment power structures at home.
These structures often rely on private funding as well as systems and technologies developed for combat and securitization that, more and more, saturate everyday life. But it’s nearly impossible to comprehend the extent of this saturation, not just abroad, where civilians in the above-mentioned regions consistently face the effects of violent, expensive imperialism, but also here in the United States, where the state saps data, money, time, and other resources from its subjects in its efforts to maintain a state of war, a state of exception. Forty-plus years since the provisional end of Vietnam, amid what Stephen Graham has called “the new military urbanism,” vulnerable people across the globe are, in effect, often “walking point” whether they know it or not.
Mary Ann Aitken,