29 September 2005

Keep Your Eyes on the War

Symposium on Steve Mumford

It’s the stillness in the corners that gets me. Part of “watching videos” seems to involve just milling around. Only the figure in the lower left really looks on. Maybe also the man whose hands we see. And then a straight line runs right through these two. A helicopter hovers just above the wires. Flushed faces stand out under such a sketchy sky. But if the victim’s bleeding it’s sepia toned. The scene remains provisional.

One soldier leans forward grimacing. Another almost seems to smile. It’s the stillness in the corners that gets me—the boy gnawing a finger doesn’t seem ready to leave just yet. Someone else passing resembles a self-involved teenager, unaware the sun’s catching his neck. The bandaged man might have a gun poking him from behind. But the scene remains provisional. What I first thought was a green arm turns out to be a tank’s front.

Kids scrambling for candy in Baghdad

Kids scrambling for candy in Baghdad

With the kids’ limbs flailing it’s hard to tell if the tank’s in motion. The gun on top might be spinning around. The scene remains provisional (the back of the vehicle bears a passing resemblance to a smiley face). Nobody’s sitting but there’s stillness in the corners. That’s what gets me. I see one soldier on guard and only then see others behind him. Things aren’t as dim on this side. There’s another tank coming.

Posing with Catfight girls

Posing with Catfight Girls

The scene remains provisional. Nobody does anything. There seems to be at least one too many men. Faces pushing out from the overhead shadows thin. The soldier with his back to us has the best curves. The lucky man’s shoulder strap probably means a dangling gun behind. The catgirls are actually pretty catlike. The cameraman has a boulder face. The hand holding the camera is a giant paw. The stillness of that camera gets me. 

Text by Dushko Petrovich. Paintings by Captions by Andy Fitch.

Image: Men in the market watching videos of beatings. Steve Mumford.


It’s the right thing to do.

Sign up now to start receiving the magazine that believes history isn't over just yet.

Subscribe now »

  • Dushko Petrovich
    • Gunpowder Empire

      Like any good hitter, Ruscha swings with precision. He has a smooth stroke, which often gets called “cool,” and is often misunderstood as dependable. But Ruscha swings at a lot. More…