Susan Stoops, Artist Martha Rosler: Bringing the War Home (1967-2004)//2007

Susan Stoops, Artist Martha Rosler: Bringing the War Home (1967-2004)//2007


I started assembling agitational works ‘regarding’ the Vietnam conflict, collaging magazine pictures of the Misfortunes and warriors of the battle – habitually by well-known photographers in heap business publications – with publication images that represented an idealized average-class life at the place. I was striving to register that the ‘there’ and ‘here’ of our system view, described by out conformed stories as separate or yet contrary.

Martha Rosler

is one of the prominent  American artists who work with video, photo-text, photography, sculpture, installation, and performance, she also writes about culture and art. Rosler’s work is focused on daily life and the public circumference, frequently with an eye to women’s expertise.
BornJuly 29, 1943 (age 75 years), Brooklyn, New York, United States
During the forty years since she embarked on the first ”Bringing the War Home images”, Martha Rosler has been recognised as one of contemporary art’s diverse esteemed and profound artist and influential critics, teacher and writer. Since the 1970s, she has worked with performance, video, photography and installation, inducing her feminist aspect and cynical eye to the visual depiction of ordinary life within a process she explained as, inserting public narratives into private ones’.

In the pioneering Taking the War Home Series,  a combination of 20 images from 1967-72, Rosler combined photos from the news of soldiers in the conflict, burning the villages and remains of the Vietnam War from the Life Magzine with images of a flourishing world war II America, consolidated by the native interiors multiplied in House Beautiful. In juxtaposition, primitive living rooms and sparkling kitchens were ‘penetrated’ by expatriates and panoramas of war. Built through the climax of the war, Rosler’s images were formerly propagated in the clandestine newspaper, anti-war publications and flyers or as photocopies.

  At the moment it appeared commanding not to display these works – especially the anti-war montages – in the context of art. To display anti-war confusion in such a framework leaned on the filthy, for its situation appeared more accurately ‘the street’ or the radical press where such matter could better marshall the troops, and that is where they obliged.

Manifested in the meaning of Rosler’s anti-war and feminist activism, these pictures typify the progressive goals of a counterculture that endeavoured shift not only in courses of war strategy but also human rights beyond social lines of gender, race and class. Conceptually, the montages were yielded from Rosler’s ‘impediment with the images we saw in television and print media, yet with anti-war banners and flyers. The images we witnessed were always far distant, in an improbable place. This work was also an early indication of what has enhanced a lifelong task for Rosler – the artist as citizen.

Martha Rosler, Balloons, from the series, "Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful," 1967–72.
Martha Rosler, Balloons, from the series, “Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful,” 1967–72.

My politicized manner began when I saw that things were left out of the information of the world that was essential to its perception, that there are continuously things to be said that are wrapped by the popular stories. The 1960s induced the delegitimation of all kinds of institutional stories, one after another. When I realised what it meant to sit that the war in Vietnam was not an occurrence, I practically stopped painting and began doing agitational works.

The images entered into the world of art can be traced back to the early 1990s, when they were printed from original collages as a limited edition and shown in 1991 at Simon Watson Gallery in New York City. As Rosler recalls, I realized that if I wished to have these works written into history, they would have to be somehow normalized. One of her motivations was to have them serve as models of image combat. Their appearance in art world context two decades after they were created not only brought this work fully into postmodern discourse, Rosler practice has shaped and helped but it has also coincided with the 1991 Gulf War. I

In an article by Brian Wallis a few months later in Art in America, that author insightfully contrasts Rosler’s low-tech montages with the then-current television spectacle of Gulf War Imagery: While computer-enhanced videotapes of smart bombs effortlessly tracking and painlessly exploding their targets made the Gulf War seem fictional and distant. Rosler’s photomontages invert this perception, matching scales, colour and perspective to make the horrific imaginary situation appear ”authentic” in these works, Rosler knew ‘it was important that space itself appears rational and possible; this way my version of this world picture as a coherent space – a ”place”. Her Vietnam war montages recollected experiences in life that had been falsely separated – a distant war and the living rooms in America – and expose the power relations between media representation and public opinion, politics and advertising, violence and sexism, militarized, ”outside world” and a Pacific interior.

Martha Rosler, Playboy (On View) from "Bringing Home the War: House
Martha Rosler, Playboy (On View) from “Bringing Home the War: House

Photomontage, with origins in German DADA presented in the furrow of world war1 (by Hausmann, Hannah Hoch and John Heartfield in particular) , has a history of holding an effective, aesthetic-political procedure, which, with its cut-and-paste method and ingrained imagery collected from the popular press, often-exposed the purpose of photography in creating artificial facts or obvious facts. Rosler said she managed to photomontage in the 1960s because in the most accessible way a photographic montage upsets the opinion of the real while nevertheless using photographic material, which articulates to people with a great level of immediacy. It has demonstrated to be an excellent factor for Rosler’s unbiased message pitched opposite what she called” the mythicism of everyday life. in which all the things that were assumed to be separate from one another truly were not in any way separate but intertwined practices.

Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful, 1967-72

Bringing the war home carried forward some of the feminist concerns in the other photomontages… All of them invoked the domestic interior, specifically, representations of the domestic interior, and the construction of separate categories and thus separate spaces. The subject was photos of, rather than simply experience.

Rosler’s Vietnam series started in 1967, the year that the three major TV networks began broadcasting fully in colour, and ended in 1972, the last year that life magazine was issued as weekly. ‘Life Magazine’, Rosler recalls, ‘was in my living place each week from initial childhood on. Her juxtapositions influence on the montage image of life, where sheets of photo-essays documenting the news replaced with lifestyle and entertainment characteristics, all of which seamlessly passed into advertisements for the latest appliances, the excellent mattress, the designer sofa or the perfect lawn.

The war in Vietnam came to be recognised as the ‘living room war’ and the TV cover, which drew images of everyday slaughter (obstructed by ads for customer satisfaction) into places beyond America, Rises in Rosler’s early montages. But Rosler inclusion of the translucent glass of the modern picture window causes the outside world even closer and on a human range. With drapes partially drawn or dispensed with entirely, it designates the transition zone – or no transition between ”there” and ”here”, public and private, danger and security. Compared to the relative distancing provided by the smaller TV screen, the window expanse provides only limited protection from the surrounding violence and indeed threatens to melt away as is suggested by Cleaning the Drapes.

House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home c. 1967-72
House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home c. 1967-72

The picture window’s traditional role of framing a manicured landscape now describe a radically different scene: bodies of slain Vietnamese (House Beautiful) and destroyed villages patrolled by soldiers and armoured tanks. Rosler often positions us on the inside, where we share the point of view of the residents who are so engaged in their own lives that they are obvious to the soldiers and victims ambling through their homes, or to the nightmarish conditions just outside the window.

In scenes of estrangement- Vietnamese victims moving uneasily yet believably through fashionable American Homes, A GI sitting outside his one familiar suburban home, Rosler emphasizes the irreconcilable gulf and the nonetheless imaginary lime between ‘there’ and ‘here’, ‘us’ and ‘them’ by formally pushing figures well into the foreground or through strategic combinations of black and white and details of colour. Elsewhere, Rosler visual collision of domestic life and the war take the form of a consumer product paired with a war zone setting, which challenges us to consider the economic and social connections between disparate realities- – a luxury Cadillac convertible alongside a riderless, ruined bicycle on a booby-trapped road, a model’s eye in a make-up ad replaced by a blindfolded Vietnamese women surrendering at gunpoint, a mattress ad complete with lounging family set in a flooded and destroyed dwelling.


Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful, New Series, 2004

Driven in 2004 to create a new series – collectively titled Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful, New Series – by her renewed sense of gravity and outrage in reply to US war on Iraq and its subsequent occupation, Rosler also was familiarised of the design the ‘news preference’ of politically motivated art is ultimately ‘substituted by mythologized, universalized report. People can view at the Vietnam war operates now and see a universal message. Which is why it was time to do a new series. Notwithstanding the presence of Photoshop technology at this time, Rosler was dependent on her hands-on, cutting and pasting method, ‘you can do this’ collage process, preferring its subtle traces of the seams between images, which remind us of the photos ‘origins in the popular press’.

In the Iraq pictures, Rosler both supports earlier subjects and tactics and refreshes them to display the latest technologies and trends, the new perpetrators and sufferers. She resists us with the chilling juxtaposition of narcissists figures and burkha clothed women, roaring fires and leading tech kitchens, wounded prisoners and calfskin sofas. The place Baghdad (Saddam’s place, Abu Ghraib) and faces (Geroge and Jeb Bush, Lynndie England, Muqtada al-Sadr) are particular to this battle. Views of this war are not confined to the sensible spaces, including the living rooms, the picture window or the flat-screen TV – they emit over any accessible surface from the Pillow, Oven mirror, book cover and picture frame to the ubiquitous cellphone screen.

Point and Shoot”
Point and Shoot”

In images including photo -op and cellular, Rosler uses our current obsession with digital cameras and cellphones ‘at home ‘ to expose a cultural disconnection from the distance effects of war. Depictions of a young woman absorbed with their cell phones, oblivious to the chaotic scene behind them, represent what Rosler identifies as an ideal projection (from the corporation that cells cell phones) of what you should be worried about-peering deeply into some obscure little image on a tiny that is a narcissistic bubble. As if attempting to direct their -and -our – attention towards the world stage Rosler inserts Iraqi images into their cellphone screens.

but the images of Iraq – notably those consolidating Abu Ghraib penitentiary photos – also reveal the part that this technology {and the internet as a medium of dissemination} has performed in the lives of soldiers and martyrs, and how these appropriate photos uniquely developed perceptions of this war throughout the world. As Rosler perceives, while trophy photos have prolonged been a part of US soldiers’ significances, the utter volume and propagation, the instantaneity, indicates a new moment in their use. Wherever once the technologies of data expected many levels from production to distribution to entry into our peculiar spaces, now the rate of communication is dizzying, the steps obscure, and the miles traversed all but eradicated.

Martha Rosler's Powerful Collages Are a Wake-Up Call to America
Martha Rosler’s Powerful Collages Are a Wake-Up Call to America

This unprecedented instantaneity in which the intimate converts in to known, moreover obscuring traditional barriers between inside and outside, ‘us’ and ‘them’ is indicated in the Iraq montages. Encountered together, the Vietnam and Iraq series make explicit the effects of the media evolution associated with each of these conflicts, as it is described by architectural historian and media scholar Beatriz Colmina; Each war throughout the twentieth century can be identified with different forms of media – an evolution from newspapers and television to computers and cellphones – that redefine our sense of public and private, inside and outside.[…]

Martha Rosler about, Bringing the War Home



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