The King's Peace: Realism and War
Eclectic exhibition of photography, essays and films as part of GENERATION
The one hundred year anniversary of the First World War is the starting point of this dense compendium of war in pieces curated by artist Owen Logan and Kirsten Lloyd of Stills. Here, Logan's satirical photo-essay, ‘Masquerade: Michael Jackson Alive in Nigeria’ (2001-2005), becomes the mast for a socio-politically connected network of images from the USA, South Africa, Argentina, Italy and closer to home to be pinned to.
Archive spreads from 1920s radical newspapers make explicit the relationship between capitalism and war, while the collateral damage of conflict can be seen both in Philip Jones Griffiths' remarkable frontline images collected in ‘Vietnam Inc’ (1971), and in Paul Strand and Cesare Zavattini's ‘Un Paese: Portrait of an Italian Village’ (1955).
Art as activism is captured in an archive of the 1960s Argentinian collective, Grupo de Artistas de Vanguardia, and especially in ‘Digging for Diamonds ... a Journey Back to Fairy Hales’ (1994/2014). This charts the interventions of the Snapcorps photography group, based in the Wester Hailes area of Edinburgh in the 1990s, when the group dressed up as an unemployed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
While Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin apply disruptive strategies to Realpolitik in ‘War Primer 2’ (2011) by putting contemporary images over clippings collected by Bertolt Brecht in 1955, war as spectacle is evident in the photo-montages of Martha Rosler. ‘In House Beautiful: Bringing The War Home, New Series’ (2004-2008), a chicly-dressed model gazes with mouth wide open into her mobile phone, seemingly oblivious to the two bloodied children slumped in chairs behind her. Sheltered from the blast of the carnage outside the windows of her sleekly sound-proofed des-res, her glossy vacuity is an all too perfect encapsulation of desensitised lives during wartime.
With books and essays to read and films to watch, including Eugene Jarecki's ninety-eight minute ‘Why We Fight’, there's a lot to take in. This may be partly why The King's Peace perhaps hasn't attracted the same amount of attention as the more vogeish sections of GENERATION, the showcase of twenty-five years of contemporary art in Scotland which it forms part of. While this is a shame, it is also everything that The King's Peace is about. All it is saying, after all, is give peace a chance, and who would want to read about that?
Stills, Edinburgh until Sun 26 Oct.