I created this installation at GASP gallery artists studio projects in Brookline, MA in summer 2007. Jay Bordage and Gilly O’Flaherty were both showing photos in the adjacent space. Jay, I challenge you to do the five-day thing.
The show opened on Memorial Day and closed after Independence Day. For the opening reception, three of us performed the repetitive action that is shown in the final image. A man emerges from the office into a stark, white room and hands me a clip board. Some of the pages on the board are blank. I shred those. Others contain just one name. I use special ink and a nib pen to carefully transcribe the name to a white shipping tag, which I hand off to be hung from the grid on the ceiling. After I write the name, then I shred that page. I repeat until all the pages on the clipboard are shredded. The inked names transcribed on the tags slowly disappear and the tags go back to white. The shreds of paper overflow from the garbage can and carpet the floor. I left supplies in the gallery and prompted visitors to don the coat and perform the task of transcribing, shredding, and hanging tags. I went in once a week to refresh the clipboard, transcribe, hang, shred.
The names came from a website that tallied coalition casualties in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. http://www.icasualties.org/ I counted the dead American troops. I realized that no one was counting the Iraqi and Afghani casualties. As I worked on this installation I thought about who has the privilege to be counted, and whose lives seem to matter more. I thought about redaction and white washing and secrecy and cover-ups. The seemingly interminable rows of rounded tags hanging overhead remind me of the tombstones rising from the ground at Arlington cemetery. When the show opened there were 3400 American fatalities. At the end of the exhibition I titled the piece, “4000 and Counting.” Thanks to Susanne Slavick for encouraging me to submit this project to http://www.10yearsandcounting.com/ in 2011.