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Hidden messages in artwork acknowledge Iraqi deaths

31 August 2011

Hidden messages in artwork acknowledge Iraqi deaths

An artwork protesting against the deaths of Iraqi civilian casualties, devised by a Victoria University academic and his US collaborator, is currently showing at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

The work consists of a large stack of seemingly innocuous yellow notepads. However, the lines of each page, when magnified, reveal micro-printed text detailing information about all Iraqi civilian casualties since 2003.
Titled 'Notepad', the work, on display in an exhibition called Talk to Me, is produced by SWAMP (Studies of Work Atmospheres and Mass Production), a collaboration between Douglas Easterly, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Media Design Programme at Victoria University and Matthew Kenyon from the University of Michigan.

The duo says their work is an act of protest and commemoration.

"Our work looks like everyday yellow legal pads of paper, but in reality the lines on the notepads reveal many of the lives that have been lost, and largely ignored, since the US led invasion of 2003," says Mr Easterly.

"Each notepad contains approximately 10,000 full names, dates, and locations of each Iraqi civilian death on record over the first three years of the Iraq War, and when you realise that these details (collected from printed in micro-text can lend such volume to pages and stacks of paper, our project display becomes quite a sobering sight."

SWAMP is now working on a new edition of notepads documenting the loss of life from the American incursion into Afghanistan, drawing on the disclosure of confidential information by WikiLeaks.

Douglas Easterly and Matthew Kenyon have been collaborating on various art projects under the moniker SWAMP (Studies of Work Atmospheres and Mass Production) since 1999. Their work focuses on critical themes addressing the effects of global corporate operations, mass media and communication, military-industrial complexes, and general meditations on the space between human and artificial life. SWAMP has been making work in this vein for the last 10 years using a wide range of media, including custom software, electronics, mechanical devices, and even living organisms.

Mr Easterly is Senior Lecturer and Director of the Media Design Programme at Victoria University and Mr Kenyon is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan's School of Art and Design.


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