Vietnam was called the "living room war" because Americans watched it unfold on their television sets. The conflict in Iraq has been a different national experience entirely, with a noted absence of body-count reporting and news photographers forbidden until recently from taking pictures of returning caskets. As a result, the national conversation has been largely ideological and short on nuance. This circumstance inspired British artist Jeremy Deller to imagine what might comprise a museum devoted to America's seven-year battle to bring stability and democracy to the Persian Gulf.
Over a six-week period in February and March, Deller, in conjunction with the New Museum in New York, held an open forum for Iraqi refugees, soldiers, reporters, and scholars to discuss their impressions of what has happened and what is happening in Iraq. Deller is now touring America with an American soldier, an Iraqi, the mangled remains of a car, and "It Is What It Is," a collection of videos that feature conversations ranging from a soldier's mother explaining why she wasn't afraid for her son when he was deployed to Iraq to a soldier's recollection of the time when an Iraqi child presented him with a human foot in a plastic bag and asked who he should give it to. The artist's goal over the course of the tour is to continue the dialogue and to collect more honest conversations about America's role in the Middle East.
On Friday, Memphis' UrbanArt Commission will host Deller and "It Is What It Is" at First Congregational Church in Cooper-Young.
"UrbanArt's always enthusiastic to partner with interesting groups to expand our dialogue with other communities on relevant topics," says UrbanArt executive director John Weeden.
"It Is What It Is: Conversations about Iraq," at First Congregational Church Friday, April 3rd, from noon to 5 p.m.