Individual in Relation to War

One of the most striking works on view at Documenta in Kassel, Germany, is '9 Scripts from a Nation at War.' Resulting from the collaboration between artists David Thorne, Katya Sander, Ashley Hunt, Sharon Hayes, and Andrea Geyer, the piece is a 10-channel video installation that examines the political, economical, and cultural issues surrounding the war in Iraq. In its current version, there are eight characters--a veteran, a student, a citizen, an actor, a blogger, a lawyer, a journalist, an interviewer--performed by actors and non-actors alike, that read to an audience a set of their own or other's words. As put by the artists in the project's website, these figures' cross narratives 'allow inquiry into the recording, reporting, learning, and understanding of the present moment, and to reflect upon how we account for ourselves within it.' The work is thus ‘structured around a central question: How does war construct specific positions for individuals to fill, enact, speak from, or resist?’ Some answers emerged last Monday during a panel with the artists promoted by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School in New York. As they once said, '9 Scripts from a Nation at War considers the processes by which we are positioned as certain kinds of 'individuals' in relation to war.' So they presented their vision of the world, insightfully elaborating on the ethical dimension of art practice and asking for an engagement of all of us--fellow artists and audience--with contemporary society’s issues. - Miguel Amado