The “Hellfire Story” began as a series of small framed ink drawings begun in April of 2009 and has been expanded for this exhibition to include 175 hanging placards and a wall painting. The original 125 drawings source their text content from the system chronology of the Hellfire missile system as told on an Army website (no longer accessible). The chronology begins in 1966, continues into the 1990’s and is told as a series of short, one or two sentence developmental milestones. The drawings are hand rendered as drawn text with loosely appropriated scientific illustrations. My intention with this “part of the story” is to create a sense of association with the chronology, on the part of the viewer. This combined with the dense, closely packed arrangement of the 125 drawings will give the viewer, I hope, a greater understanding of the scale and magnitude of weaponry development and an opportunity to consider their position as participants living in this world as these weapons are developed.
The next “part of the story” explores the current deployment of the Hellfire Missile through targeted attacks via unmanned aerial drones. For this I created 175 two-sided hanging placards, which has the stats of a drone attack on one side and an excerpt from the bible on the other. The placards mimic gospel text signs that I have noticed alongside the roads near where I live here in rural Maine. The clearly religious nature of this missile system’s name and an ongoing curiosity on my part about the relationship of our nation’s Christian heritage, my own Christian upbringing and what feels like an ever-increasing involvement of religion into politics, which, in turn, translates for me as “power”, has inspired me to read the bible and incorporate its text into my art. I have found to my surprise a great feeling of catharsis in finding passages of despair, anguish, violence, hatred, helplessness and destruction that are the timeless stuff of societies. For these placards I have gleaned expressions of destruction and violence from random perusals of Old Testament text. My intention again is to present a sense of scale and magnitude, in this case, with the use of a weapon that is deployed as a remotely operated robotic form of warfare. Though all weapons, with the exception of knives and fists are remote to a certain extent, it feels to me that we are entering a new era of disconnect with the use of robotics for warfare. Words like “surgical strike” create a false sense of minimal “collateral damage” or the idea that a doctor is fixing a disease and making the world healthier, when in reality death and destruction are in fact the end result.
Purchase the catalog or view all 125 drawings:
Drone Warfare by Medea Benjamin
Wired for War by P.W. Singer
The Predator War: What are the risks of the C.I.A.’s covert drone program? by Jane Mayer, New Yorker Magazine, October 26, 2009
The Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)