During the years 1986 and 1994 we each watched, on average, seven-hours of television per day. 1986, an overview: the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy at Cape Canaveral; the first PC virus, Brain, spreads; Marcos flees; a Berlin discotheque is bombed; Chernobyl. We learn the meaning of glasnost and perestroika. We try to believe Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie. Fast forward to 1994: NAFTA is established; Nelson Mandela; the Cold War seems over, the last Russian troops leave their Eastern-block outposts; we watch a white Ford Bronco speed down a California highway. We wade through the aftermath of the Gulf-techno-War, Saddam Hussein remains cast within a haze of suspicion and fear. By October, troops are sent back to Kuwait. By December, Russia attacks the secessionist Republic of Chechnya.
For his upcoming exhibition, Robert Wiens will re-present two of his seminal early works, Little Boy (1986) and Desert, Jet (1994). While produced in response to the ongoing conflicts of their time, each work asserts a surprising resonance today, deconstructing the theatricality of media representations of warfare to shed light on the legacy of contradictions around how information is disseminated to the general populace. Exemplified by the remote technology of drones and high-tech satellite surveillance, modern warfare is an integration of communications technology and advanced weaponry. As Jan Allen notes, Wiens’ work reminds us that this synthesis “produce[s] a totalizing spatial interface that hungrily collapses all territory into the dream of power.”
Image credit: Robert Wiens, Desert, Jet (1994), Courtesy Susan Hobbs Gallery, Toronto
Photo credit: Cheryl O’Brien