With ANZAC day coming up I decided to revisit a project I undertook as part of my art studies. Actually, it was a discussion about my art work with a local reporter that prompted me to think about the project.
This was a year long project where I questioned the use of on-line war games, especially first person shooter games that are used as recruitment tools by the military. Many countries, including Australia, Britain and the USA have on-line war games as part of their recruitment arsenal. The USA endorses first person shooter games as part of their games offerings. These games feed teenage desires for excitement, challenges and adventure with the aim that they will consider an army career. The young people become warriors and heroes in the relative safety of the own homes. The actions on the screen may be based on real world fighting but the home environment is far from the real battlefield.
Some of the players will decide they want the adventurous, exciting life projected in the games and enlist with the armed forces. For awhile, they will concentrate on training insulated from the realities of war. However, at some stage they may be sent to areas of conflict where suddenly war is no longer a game undertaken in the relative safety of the home or training grounds. It is real - it is gory - it is frightening - it is not just about soldiers fighting each other but often includes the death of non- combat citizens as well as children. Real people suffer real harm and death is real. Fear is real - fear of the unknown - fear of dying - fear of taking innocent lives - fear of never seeing family again - fear of the young child pointing a plastic gun at you. Feeling guilt is real - guilt of taking another life - guilt of taking innocent lives - guilt of not acting quick enough to save a mate - guilt of not being part of your own children's lives. Loss is real - loss of dignity - loss of lives - loss of mates - loss of sanity - loss of safety - loss of sleep - loss of health - sometimes loss of own family.
War is not a game. War is real horror. War kills. War destroys. War has an impact on all those who have lived through it. It especially has an impact on the soldiers who are tasked with kill or be killed. The mind can be a fragile thing and the horrors of war can be pervasive and corrosive to mental well being. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is now recognised, for many soldiers, as an unfortunate consequence of being deployed to a war front. Soldiers and veterans can become extremely mentally disturbed, reliving the horrors of war. They can become a danger to themselves, their families and to society when they over-react to stimuli. Their life can become unbearable. PTSD is difficult to treat and for a long time the military was reluctant to admit how extensive it was. This is slowly turning around but much more needs to be done.
How many teenagers being thrilled by the kill playing on-line war games give any thought to the true realities of war? How many thrill seeking, young recruits think about the horrific realities of war that can lead to PTSD? Why do we prepare youth for war by making war seem exciting, adventurous and thrilling? Playing war may be fun and safe - real war is not. Why don't we teach our young that war is not fun or even glorious? Why don't we teach our young that war heroes have heavy hearts and deep sadnesses that time cannot erase? Why don't we teach our young that many soldiers and innocent citizens die agonising deaths or are maimed with terrible, disabling injuries? Why don't we teach our young to find alternative solutions to disagreements than fighting? Are there any games that focus on the challenges of finding solutions to global (& local) disagreements through peaceful means - such games would have even greater challenges to excite the mind than resorting to violence - or is the concept of violence just too thrilling to give up?
On days such as ANZAC day, Remembrance day and other such memorial days we need to support our armed forces and veterans and remember those who never returned. We need to remember their contribution to our society and our lives, thank them for their bravery and console them for their suffering. We need also to be careful not to glorify war and we need our youth to hear the horror stories of war - the gruesome realities of war - told with heart breaking, tearful passion - not just a cold and distanced story telling. The young need to know what to expect if they choose to undertake military service because they want to be able to defend our country. They need to understand that there may be a massive trade-off for the exciting, adventure that an army career offers. That trade-off could be their life or eventually their sanity. They need to be able to counter the thrill of war games with knowledge of the reality of war. The story of the ANZACs & their suffering at Gallipoli needs to be remembered, reflected upon and learned from. LEST WE FORGET!
The project: The Games of War - Conditioning Children that War is Fun.
Children are encouraged by society and governments to engage with war as a fun and desirable activity. My focus is the targeting of vulnerable children and youth with war toys and video games that promote glorious fantasies of war and conflict, such as exciting adventures and the heroic vanquishing of the enemy. Toy soldiers, and a family set of dolls are actors in dioramas and shadow theatres showcasing the realities of war to offset the naive acceptance of war as fun. These realities include the physical horror of war as well as the mental stress of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder suffered by veterans and the suffering imposed on their families. The contrasts of childhood fantasies of heroism during war play to the reality of possible consequences of war are highlighted. These scenes are showcased through a series of still video images supported by a single triptych-style diorama installation that illustrates the private, subliminal nature of indoctrination and the hidden aspects of war horrors and PTSD. The darkened gallery immersion experience includes the sounds of an America’s Army war game. I encourage viewers to think about and discuss the propaganda use of toys and games to indoctrinate children.
Family at play, 2015.
71 x 40cm
War is fun, 2015
71 x 40cm
Dreaming of being a soldier, 2015
71 x 40cm
Living the dream, 2015
71 x 40cm
I must have read this wrong, 2015
71 x 40cm
Please, leave me alone, 2015
71 x 40cm
The war comes home, 2015
71 x 40cm
It is all over now, 2015
71 x 40cm
These are the scenes that are displayed in the diorama shown in the gallery.
Gallery set up. Photo in middle not the correct one but it still shows the idea.
Part of my evaluation of the project:
The cultural effects of war toys and games on the minds of children have been investigated by researchers and artists from nations around the world. Over the centuries the causes and effects of war and conflict have held the interests of academics and artists. My artist statement questions, through war toys and games, the indoctrination of children to accept war as fun and exciting. The body of work and the gallery design that I have presented successfully conveys the intention of my project and reflects the sentiments expressed in my artist statement.
The material use of dolls, including toy soldiers, and referencing of war video games, in particular, the propaganda recruitment videos, the America’s Army series developed by the USA military, gives the project strength. Presenting the developed images as video stills is a successful outcome. This provides a strong connection to the war video games while opposing the indoctrination of the games by showing a possible detrimental effect of enlisting as a soldier – Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
The gallery design successfully references the way that indoctrination darkens and closes the mind to alternative thinking. The gallery installation is in an uncomfortable darkened enclosed space. A sofa lounge has been added to the space to reference the family home where children are indoctrinated subliminally by war toys and games.
Note: This project was heavily researched throughout the year of undertaking it. Information was drawn from many research papers and academic sources as well as stories by veterans. Reading the stories from or about the veterans was, at times, very difficult. Tears flowed freely.
Until next time (with a cheerier blog)
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I have had a lifetime passion for drawing and painting. Realistic with an impressionistic touch is an apt description for my work.
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Artist Diary 4
Artist Diary 3
Diary of a tired artist continued
Diary of a tired artist.
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Blogging and other distractions!
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Something different - Games of War - a project addressing war games & PTSD.
A bit more about my drawings.
Write a blog they say!