“If the conflict in Vietnam was notable for open access given to journalists as the war played out nightly in bloody newscasts, the Iraq war may mark an opposite extreme: after five years and more than 4,000 American combat deaths, [internet] searches and interviews turned up fewer than a half-dozen graphic photographs of dead American soldiers...opponents of the war, civil liberties advocates and journalists argue that the public portrayal of the war is being sanitized and that Americans who choose to do so have the right to see ‘in whatever medium’ the human cost of a war that polls consistently show is unpopular with Americans.”
- Michael Kamber and Tim Arango, New York Times, July 26, 2008
Loss: everybody’s doin’ it. It is an inevitable part of our lives. We lose our innocence, our loved ones, our memories, our health, our money, our homes, our friends. And eventually, we all lose our lives, many of us sooner than nature should allow and too many of us in the monstrosity of war.
This loss, in particular, is mounting. How do we reconcile this loss? How do we grieve? We all censor our personal losses to varying degrees – we deny, we avoid, we make light, but how do we honor these service losses amid a censored and sterilized public portrayal of the horrific reality of war? Do we just put a blanket over our wounded, dead and dying and turn the camera away from the truth?
What about our soldiers who will live out their days with a missing limb or two as a constant reminder of their loss? This generation of warriors who in eras past would have perished from their wounds will now return home with an agonizing memento of loss for all to see.
With ‘Monument’, I address these issues with an incisive yet sympathetic approach, culminating in a sculpture and photo installation. Depicting an historic monument, I have erected a commemorative pillar of roughly hewn tiles representing our wounded and fallen troops, with a reflection pool of symbolic red Plexiglas – segmented and incomplete. Working in concert with the sculpture, the high-luster, resin-coated photographs of action-figure amputees satirically illustrate the government-mandated American media’s glossing over of the painful, graphic and disturbing human cost of war.
This installation is my memorial to loss, but it is not an attempt to answer questions, because I don’t know that there are any answers. If anything, I hope that it invites questions and provokes thought in its viewers on a subject that we as American citizens have been sheltered from. I’m not a soldier and I have never seen war. There are terrific horrors that our service men and women are experiencing that I can scarcely imagine. The least I can do is acknowledge their loss and pay tribute.
Troy Gua, 2010