22 July 2010

A site and an exhibition

Battlesight is an exhibition of photographs from the central fronts of what was formerly called the "War on Terror," in truth two separate wars lead by the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq, and touching Pakistan, Iran and the whole Middle East/Southern Asia region. These are wars that, despite their long duration (the first troops were sent to Afghanistan in 2001, shortly after 9/11), the American public knows relatively little about, and today sees even less of, mostly brief clips on TV and a decreasing number of images in the press. Today, unless you are, have been, or know someone in the military, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (renamed the "Overseas Contingency Operation" by the Obama Administration) are being fought far from American awareness. Battlesight features the work of internationally renowned photojournalists Cheryl Diaz Meyer, Balazs Gardi, and Teru Kuwayama. Sometimes embedded with US or Coalition forces, sometimes working independently, these photographers have risked their safety to bear witness to the realities and consequences of warfare on combatants and civilians. For their work, they have won numerous international awards, including a Pulitzer Prize. 

     The Center for Documentary Arts at The Sage Colleges is an education center founded to address humanitarian issues through documentary art. As director, I've organized Battlesight to make a statement about the Center's chief mission, which is, through the work of documentary artists, to take part in the public conversation about issues that confront individuals and the world community. Whether the conversation is a polite exchange or passionate debate does not matter nearly as much as the fact that it expands and deepens our engagement with the world. Documentary artists are committed to reporting the factual and emotional truth of the world. The term you will encounter again and again on this site, the central thrust of my concern, is bearing witness. This simple act, when undertaken by caring artists, transforms reportage into an act of empathy, the first step toward compassion and the ethical foundation of the Center for Documentary Arts. In posts to come, I will talk more about the Center's mission and plans for Battlesight. I'll post images, news, essays, and interviews, and explore the issues that surround the show and work like it.

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