Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Project. Coco Fosco: “Buried Pigs with Moros”.

Coco Fusco.

In line with her ongoing questioning of war and torture methods, Coco Fusco’s latest exhibit at The Project focuses on the Moro Insurrection against the US occupation of the Philippines. The first American war against Islamic people, the insurrection was also the first time American military confronted suicidal warriors, juramentados, who were ready to give their lives in the battle against Christian infidels. Faced with opponents who were not afraid of death, U.S. officials had to devise a different tactic to
prevent the juramentados’ attacks. Legend has it that under the leadership of General “Blackjack” Pershing, the army devised a method of killing that proved intolerable for the juramentados’ religious beliefs. Not only were gun bullets dipped in pig’s blood, but the juramentados were buried facing away from Mecca and covered with pig entrails. Apparently, the pig blood method was very effective, and has circulated as truth among post 9/11 military and intelligence experts, as well as among U.S. senators.

In Buried Pigs with Moros, Fusco explores American military tactics that deal with extremist opponents. Born during the Vietnam War and having lost a brother in a 1980’s Special Forces covert mission, Fusco has been questioning war and war politics in a lot of her recent work. Her video, Operation Atropos, and her performance A Room of One’s Own: Women and Power in the New America, have been selected for the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Both works deal with the new role of women in the military. Her focus on war and war strategies in Buried Pigs with Moros, then, is nothing new. Yet the way she has chosen to present Buried Pigs with Moros places the viewer in a rather different role from her work in performance and video.

The exhibition is divided into two. The first room displays a collection of historical artifacts and memorabilia relating to the Moro Insurrection. There are a five minute clip from The Real Glory (1936), a letter written and signed by General Pershing regarding the pig blood method, and various articles and annals from the time. In this first room, we are exposed to the literary and visual language used by Americans to deal with the question of the Moro insurrection in the early 1900’s. Next door, a disembodied audio installation dramatizes a university lecture by a former Special Forces member and security expert. The lecture focuses on interrogation methods and the use of torture. It was given in 2005 and was posted on Wikileaks in 2007. As the lecturer gives his talk, words that reiterate or clarify his language are projected onto a dark wall. The words function both as echoes and as subtly differently repetitions of the concepts the voice is dealing with. The effect is haunting, as the voice relentlessly advocates the use of torture and we are offered visual reminders of what the lecturer is talking about.

With the display and the audio installation, Fusco creates a juxtaposition of two historical archives that places the viewer in the position of researcher rather than spectator. While the organization and choice of the artifacts on display depends on Fusco, viewers are given the possibility to discover history at their own pace. Fusco’s critical perspective is clear, yet the exhibition does not have the feel of a patronizing political statement. By accosting the two war tactics and letting the viewer engage personally with the material, Fusco leaves a lot of space for personal discovery and reflection.

Coco Fusco: Buried Pigs with Moros
The Project
Through May 2, 2008

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