Miniature War in Iraq …and Now Afghanistan is a project by New York artist Brian Conley that simulates recent battles from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The project was presented at Pierogi’s satellite exhibition space, the Boiler, for a 45-day installation and a one-night performance. The performance took place on March 6, and is documented in this video.
The project began in March 2007, when Brian Conley worked with a group of historical miniature gamers at the Las Vegas Games Expo. Conley asked them to play / fight recent battles from the war in Iraq. Working from Brian Conley’s instructions, the gamers built a diorama that first represented a town in the Zarga region near Najaf. Although beginning from historically accurate circumstances, their games were not simple reenactments. The events proceeded not only according to military strategy, but via rolls of the dice. Thus, the play yielded ahistorical outcomes.
The installation at Pierogi’s Boiler space presented the original game-table as it stood after the final Las Vegas game, video documentation of the Iraqi games in play, news materials gathered by the Arabic-speaking research team, and large-format photographic portraits of the miniature figures.
On March 6th members of the East Coast Historical Gaming Miniatures Society played a new game in a live performance, based on current events in Afghanistan.
More information after the jump.
Brian Conley: Miniature War in Iraq …and Now Afghanistan / The Boiler, Pierogi, New York. Live Performance, March 6, 2010, 9 – 11 pm.
> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.
From the press release: Miniature War in Iraq….and now Afghanistan takes up Conley’s long-term interest in violence, communication, and group- and collaborative behaviors. In particular this project explores the collision of entertainment and suffering, immediacy and imitation, fiction and fact, via performance, installation, and documentation. Photography, video, print and online news-sources, eyewitness accounts, rumor, memory, and conjecture are intrinsic to the relay of facts in global culture, while the use of models, maquettes, and game-boards to plan military maneuvers and train soldiers goes back to early forms of chess. Thus, as the miniature war games progress and chance begins to influence events, conditions move not farther away from the reality of armed conflict, but closer to it. By assigning values to particular dice-throws, the gaming rulebook accounts for variables in ballistics, terrain, weather conditions, fatigue, injury, etc., a blending of computation and happenstance that speaks to the intensely technical and profoundly random conditions of battle. Gamers report that during play they enter a “magic circle” in which the diorama comes alive with the stress, elation, calculation, and uncertainty of combat. For Conley, it is in such volatile zones of reality and fantasy that collective violence can be explored and simultaneously questioned.”¨”¨
Conley is a New York artist currently living in San Francisco. From radio performance to sculptural, research-based, and collaborative installations, Conley’s artistic practice operates across the divides between science, art, and politics. His multimedia works inquire into biology, linguistics, and group behavior to construct new morphologies that humorously and provocatively challenge our perceptions of animality, violence, and consciousness. He has exhibited in Bitstreams at the Whitney Museum, Statements at ArtBasel, Becoming Animal at MassMoCA, and Insight/Out: Eight Americans at the Wanas Foundation in Sweden, as well as producing a commissioned work in residence at the ArtPace Foundation for Contemporary Art in San Antonio. Recent projects include exhibitions at Pierogi Gallery in Leipzig, Germany, and at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Conley is founding co-editor with Sina Najafi of Cabinet Magazine. From 2005-08, he was Chair of the Graduate Fine Art Program at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he is now professor.