Friday, August 27, 2004

Baghdad in No Particular Order

Roberta Smith's review "Caution: Angry Artists at Work" surveys myriad works of activist art created in outraged reaction to the George W. Bush administration, displayed all over New York City, scheduled to coincide with the Republican National Convention: "At the moment, President Bush and the G.O.P. are the chief art-world targets: no one seems to have a critical word to say about the failings of the Democrats" (New York Times, August 27, 2004). Even among the works reviewed by Smith, however, there are exceptions. For instance, Paul Chan's film Baghdad in No Particular Order (2003), "an impressionistic meditation on prewar Iraq that from the present perspective amounts to an unusually strong antiwar statement" (Smith, August 27, 2004).

Safar drawing for his son Anoush (December 18, 2002) / Paul Chan
Chan created a companion website of the same title, which, as well as the film itself, presents a montage of "[n]otes, gifts, promises, paintings, trash, and other ephemera from the city which is now hardly a city." The montage tells us: "This Is the Baghdad You Destroyed." Chan's work reminds us that the destruction had already begun long before Bush took the White House: "Baghdad reminds me of Paris and Detroit. The Tigris cuts the city like the Seine. And because the city has not been able to rebuild after the first gulf war, buildings and streets display signs of past carnage. Magnificent and ruinous cityscapes. Like Detroit" (Chan, "Map," Baghdad in No Particular Order).

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