The Daily Pic

12.11.13

Images of a Threepenny War

At MoMA, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin riff on Bertolt Brecht's take on conflict.
Plates 23 and 10 from Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin's "War Primer 2" (2011)
(©2013 Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. Left: Collection Tom Price, London; right: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Paradise Row, London)

These are two pages from “War Primer 2”, a gripping artist’s book by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin that I saw in the New Photography 2013 show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  The book is an intervention into another volume: Bertholt Brecht’s own “War Primer”, which he published in German in 1955. It consisted of press images from World War II paired with four-line poems that cast light – and doubt – on the photos’ meanings. Broomberg and Chanarin have simply taken Brecht’s pages (in their 1998 English translation) and collaged on images of our recent “War on Terror” that they found on the Web. It’s sad, but I guess inevitable, that over more than 50 years the issues and imagery have stayed so much the same. The artistic strategies have too, which is much more surprising. When they work this well there may be no reason to change them. 

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