For those of you who did not have the opportunity to view What's Your War? deinstallation began yesterday so unfortunately, you will not be able to. There are plans to put the show online and I will do this as soon as possible, but until then you will have to be satisfied with my continued review of all of the fantastic artists in the show.

I will start with Christine Stiver, whose flipbook The Blind Mole Rat was a huge hit. People seemed surprised to see a flipbook, but were tickled at the same time by its fun form. Stiver created a story about a mole rat who pokes its head out of the ground one morning to find a box wrapped in a ribbon with a note asking it to deliver the package. The mole rat picks up the box and hurries to follow the request without question or hesitation. He runs and runs and finally gets to a bird who opens the box and is immediately eaten by a creature that emerges. Christine declares war on ignorance, although story seems a bit more complicated then that. Really, I see her declaring war on not asking questions, on remaining blind to the effects that our actions have on others, on following orders blindly, on not looking at what one is doing, on lack of reflection, on acting on impulse, on hard work without thought of the end goal. Maybe all of this is covered by the word ignorance, but I think that the details of how and why people may be ignorant of the effects of their actions is important and something to be acknowledged and questioned. Stiver does a good job of illustrating how we may often live our lives, blindly going from one job to the next, to get them done, and because we are doing them so quickly not having any idea that it may be destroying another life.

Directly across from Christine's box of flipbooks is a piece by Elisa Soliven.  Soliven's piece is an altered book titled, The First Colonists. Soliven inserts images of lost treasures from the Iraq Archaeological Museum and images of leaders from the U.S. and Iraq. Her war is on neo-colonialism, capitalism, and the destruction of tribal cultures. The book is a delicate object in itself, reminiscent of the rare books I worked on in the conservation department at the New-York Historical Society, but instead of dust, brittle pages, and pieces of worn leather, Elisa's book sheds brightly colored sand. It is an ironic choice of materials for subject matter that touches on antiquities, world leaders, and colonization. I wonder about the title, First Colonists. It is the title of the book, but is the label meant for leaders in general? For those who maintain power by declaring some objects of greater worth than others and then take those objects by force and horde them in collections and museums? And capitalism connecting to this process of colonization as it is still happening in the world today, wealthy nations taking resources from poor countries, offering nothing in return but outsourced jobs that pay horribly and are inhumane. Then destroying the cultures in these places by deeming them worse than western culture because we cannot understand how they live in such poverty or maintain traditional beliefs and rituals even when we are part of the cause of this poverty and are lacking in much spiritual depth in our own cultures. As I write I realize how interconnected Stiver's and Soliven's pieces are. Both are about blind destruction without intention.

Following these thoughts, I continue through the show to Sharone Vendriger's News Coloring Station. Sharone is another artist that I did not know before the show, but who came to Baltimore for the opening and who I am so glad to have met. Her coloring station is set up on a table with crayons and colored pencils and stacks of coloring pages she created from images she appropriated from the media. Most of the ones in this series are burn victims, but Vendriger also deals with human trafficking, sex slavery, torture, financial systems, architecture, and the environment. The work comes out of Vendriger's attempt to be informed about what is going on in the world, but without the sense of fear and dread that the news often instills in its viewers. Sharone says, "My work emerges from a desire to eradicate fear. More often than not, powerful forces in our society resort to pumping fear into public imagination as a cheap yet highly effective mechanism of gaining more power, using fear and intimidation to carve into individual liberties. I’ve often asked myself: Why do I dread reading the news? Why do thoughts of financial markets, pollution or hunger exhaust and overwhelm me? Although I may not have answers to those questions I recognize that reality can be unbearably neutral, and I have faith in human imagination to construct and deconstruct realities." By taking subject matter that is used to create fear in the viewing public and recontextualizing it in a space that allows for quiet contemplation as one colors these often horrendous images, Sharone allows her viewer the space to process these images and events, to dialogue about them, and to find ways to deal with the fact that awful things are happening in the world, but that if we fear them, we will never be able to chance them. Those that control the media are invested in maintaining the power that they have and doing so at the cost of other's freedom. The news often makes it so we do not want to know what is happening because the way it is presented is overwhelming and depressing, we then take up the role of Stiver's blind mole rat and do not want to see our role in all of this. Like Sharone, we must find other ways to find out about what is happening, learn about it and process it so that we can act. Sharone says of her work, "The meditative process of coloring disarms the participant with a child like activity and opens up a casual space for conversation regarding the origin of the image and further thoughts and questions. It may result in curiosity, humor, empathy, conversation, examples or opposition." Thank you Sharone for this new way to experience things that we need to know!

David Sloan and Thea Canlas did not answer the question, "What is your war?" Instead, they inverted the question, choosing to focus "on the way in which we are already involved in contemporary wars." David and Thea take factual events as the basis of their piece, focusing on the workers in the Philippines who leave to do overseas contract work and send the money they make home.  Many of these Filipinos are hired by private military contractors that turn citizens of the Philippines into soldiers in contemporary, colonial conflict. The installation includes an image of "native" Filipino into a soldier and a sculpture of a Bilol, a god charged with protecting a village's crops. The Bilol also wears a necklace mad of an antique canon shot. People become protectors by participating in war. Thea and David are a couple and two incredible people. Thea is Filipino and they have both traveled there several times in the last few years that I have known them. They state that, "As more and more Filipinos are recruited for mercenary armies and deployed around the world, it is difficult to deny that any war is not ‘our’ war." Again I am finding a theme in the artists that I am writing about today, of people participating in things that they are not aware of, Filipinos perpetuating colonialism by taking jobs with private military contractors. It makes me question again, what wars are we each as individuals participating in now? How can we acknowledge our part in them? And in a world where people need money to take care of their families, how can we work to make this money and protect our families while at the same time ensuring we are not doing harm to others in the process?

That is all for today. There will be one more segment about the show. Thank you all who participated and came to see it!