Fire and forget. On violence

The group exhibition at KW, in Berlin, takes the military term “Fire and Forget” as an entrance point for an examination of current ideas of war and violence in contemporary art.

Chto Delat, <i>Time capsule. Artistic report on catastrophies and utopia</i>, 2014/2015. Diverse materials, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artists and KOW Berlin. Installation view. Photo Alexander Koch / KOW
“Fire and Forget” is a commonly used term in military jargon for weapon systems that are triggered at a safe range from the enemy, and can reach their target independently.
It is structured along the four thematic complexes of Borders, Affect, Memory/Remembrance, and Event. The Border motif serves as an introduction to the subject. The drawing of borders constitutes an intersection of various force fields, and manifests political, economic, cultural, religious, or ethnic interactions, among others. Artworks by Daniil Galkin, Barbara Kruger, and Javier Téllez address demarcations designating territorial, physical and at times mental differentiations, which in their arbitrariness often act to bracket violence.
James Bridle, <i> Drone shadow</i>, ongoing project. Road-marking paint, realization following a drone shadow. Installation view. Photo Timo Ohler
James Bridle, Drone shadow, ongoing project. Road-marking paint, realization following a drone shadow. Installation view. Photo Timo Ohler

The Affect area, with works by Clara Ianni, Joachim Köster, Gillian Wearing, and He Xiangyu, among others, poses the question of modern weaponry’s long-term consequences to the human psyche; as bodily proximity to the opponent goes missing, any concrete object and identificatory counterpart is withdrawn from the violent act. Possible outcomes of these arguments and different evidence of political actions are also examined, as well as the ways in which this violence expresses itself – for instance in people’s dreams or fears.

The Memory/Remembrance complex is devoted to the potential of history and commemoration in hindering – or in escalating – violence: is it baseless, instinctive? Or might its origins lie in individually experienced violence? Artists such as Rudolf Herz, Kris Martin, and Hrair Sarkissian inquire in their works into the part art plays in remembrance, and in the option of forgiveness as the only form of purposeful forgetting. The chain of causal connections always extends into history, while simple good-bad schematics only serve to protect one’s own image of the world.

“Fire and Forget. On violence”, installation view. Photo: Timo Ohler
“Fire and Forget. On violence”, installation view. Photo: Timo Ohler

The fourth and last section is concerned with the Event of violence. Works by Julius von Bismarck, Robert Longo, Ala Younis, and others reflect how each new situation is once again a singular moment of release, and of a decision for violence.

New weapon technologies have given rise to a loss of unmediated physical confrontation, and of the fear for one’s own life that had come with it. They therefore require other forms of expression for the sufferance, observation or even simply for the fear of violence. Art is one of the places where this can occur, even though weapons are for the most part, and naturally so, perceived as being per se bad, at the cost of suppressing systematic or historical connections. The exhibition sees itself as an attempt to show that the complexity of violence cannot be justified by its logical or economic calculations nor simply by its emotional affect, and self-reflexively engages with these options, and with the borders of what art may be able to contribute to the discussion.

Photographs from the collection of Martin Dammann/Archive of Modern Conflict in London are spread throughout the whole exhibition as an accompanying motif. This documentary element, alongside the artistic approaches, is an invitation to reflect on what artistic images and historical documentary images – as they are used in the press, as well – are capable of portraying, and what they perhaps not.

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