Since Tuesday, May 12, 1998

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Protesting Cartography or Places the United States has Bombed

1998 - 2005, elin oHara slavick

The bomb sites series by elin o'Hara slavick is also available in book form: Bomb After Bomb: A Violent Cartography.

History is amoral: events occurred. But memory is moral; what we consciously remember is what our conscience remembers. If one no longer has land but has memory of land, then one can make a map. - Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

Originally the series was called Everywhere the United States has Bombed, but as I learn about covert actions, mis- and dis-information, it would be irresponsible for me to call it that. Sometimes I think the title should be The United States has Bombed Everywhere.

These drawings are manifestations of self-education on the subjects of U.S. military interventions, geography, politics, history, cartography, and the language of war. The drawings are also a means to educate others. I make them beautiful to seduce the viewer so that she will take a closer look, read the accompanying information that explains the horror beneath the surface. I wish for the viewer to be captured by the colors and lost in the patternsas one would be if viewing an Impressionist paintingand then have the optical pleasure interrupted by the very real dots, or bombs, that make up the drawing. Unlike an Impressionist painting, there is no sense of light in these drawings. And unlike typical landscape paintings, these drawings are based on surveillance, military, and aerial photography and maps.

As Miles Harvey writes in The Island of Lost Maps

In the seventeenth and eighteenth century mapmakers were referred to as world describers. In geometry, describe means to draw or trace the outline of something; in poetry, it means to get at the essence of something, to bring it to life in a way thats both startling and beautiful. Youve got to do both kinds of description and do it in a medium thats partially visual, partially mathematical, partially textual, a complicated miscellany of scale, orientation, projection, grids, signs, symbols, lines, colors, words.

I draw inspiration and information from many sources, but especially from William Blums book, Killing Hope U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since W.W.II. Blum writes, 

What might be the effect upon the American psyche if we were compelled to witness the consequences of U.S. foreign policy close up? What if the Americans who dropped an infinite tonnage of bombs, on a dozen different countries, on people they knew nothing about, had to come down to earth and look upon and smell the burning flesh?

I believe Americans have begun to smell the burning flesh since September 11. Do bombing campaigns make the world safer or free from terrorism? Or do they just increase the death toll, the already high levels of fear and anger, the rage and endless grieving in this world? Can any deadly bombs distinguish between an innocent civilian and a terrorist, a child or a soldier, a wedding party or an ammunition facility?

Miles Harvey continues, 

For early humans, mapping may have served to achieve what in modern behavioral therapy is known as desensitization: lessening fear by the repeated representation of what is feared. Representing supposedly dangerous terrae incognitae in map form as an extension of familiar territory may well have served to lessen fear of the peripheral world.

I suppose I want to instill fear back in to us, but not fear of the peripheral world. We should be afraid of ourselves. Maps are preeminently a language of power, not protest. I offer these maps as protests against each and every bombing.

I have completed 60 drawings. Protesting Cartography or Places the United States has Bombed has been exhibited at:

  • The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh
  • The Jose Marti National Library in Havana, Cuba
  • The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, NC
  • Caldwell Hall on the UNC, Chapel Hill campus
  • The Page Walker Art and History Center in Cary, NC
  • The Annex Gallery in New York City
  • The John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University, Durham, NC
  • Borofsky Gallery in Philadelphia, PA
  • Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam, Holland
  • Studio 84, 5+5 Gallery and Office Ops in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
  • Ashmore Gallery in Miami Beach, FL
  • Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies, NJ
  • Gallery 110 in Seattle
  • The Bemis Center in Omaha, NE
  • Intersection for the Arts in Oakland, CA
  • Rx Gallery in San Francisco
  • Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco, Ca
  • Walker's Point Center for the Arts in Milwaukee, WI and the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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