THE RENAISSANCE SOCIETY, CHICAGO
Trench warfare has never been so safe and clean as it is in Jennifer Allora’s and Guillermo Calzadilla’s new collaborative artwork, “Wake Up.” It’s difficult to say what today’s “real” wars should look like from an artistic perspective; we’ve heard that it can be as antiseptic as a video game, but undoubtedly it is a bloody and putrid affair for the fallen. Besides, not many aesthetes are reporting from the front lines. So, Allora and Calzadilla’s war trench, a jagged insurmountable barrier, does not serve to represent the heart or guts of the matter, but is instead an expression of the civilian or viewer’s perspective. In “Wake Up,” there is a bodily sense of being pulled around and through a trench, trying to find out what the fiery fluttering light show might be – bombs? – and why there is a deep grumbling noise in the air – the war machine churning its victims? The point is that there is no climax or moment of revelation here; anxiety and anticipation are sustained indefinitely. “Wake Up” is not a call to arms; it is rather a refueling station for our apprehensions about war. These feelings are elusive because the war is hidden “over there.” The scary part isn’t the death, but how easy it is to ignore.
Published in Newcity (March 29, 2007)