American culture relishes guns, violent movies, and video games that “dull our sensibility to human suffering,” says designer and artist Dirk Hagner creator of the “Disasters of War” (#Belli Clades) project
. “Sometimes the anticipation of something horrid about to happen can be just as bad or worse than the real event. We all see what is being done to people ‘over there’, to ‘them’, in other parts of the world, but we are certain it can’t happen to us, not here. Well, as the proverb says, what goes around comes around.”
This project, Disasters of War, #BelliClades, uses iconic California postcard images, idyllic scenes, with overprints of ominous drones and billowing smoke. The series has 7 large images, 22 x 30 full sheet prints, letterpress over digital, and an artist book – photo album style – with 17 different postcards on the topic. There is also a short video Hagner’s Instagram account #belliclades.
What was your inspiration?
I had those vintage postcards for a long time because I appreciated the evident beautiful lithographic production of them. They had this dreamlike, wholesome feel. When 9/11 happened that shattered what in Germany is called the “Heile Welt”, an “untroubled world”. For years I never again could look at the silhouette of a low flying airplane in the same way.
I actually started the first version of prints after the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with planes only, then, as the Iraq war intensified, I added drones. (See the examples below). Over time though, seeing planes in the sky lost their dread a bit and that of drones increased, so they replaced the planes completely. Of course Goya was a key inspiration.
Has this been cathartic in any way?
It is cathartic to me because putting a name to an unease or worry strangely takes the edge off a bit, although it also lays it out more clearly. In this case it is not done with a name, but images instead. The pieces define moments before something is about to go down, kind of bracing oneself for the impact. Putting it down on paper seems to make fears a bit more knowable.
What has been the response?
I don’t know yet. I just started to release them one by one as an emailer and on my instagram site. If any of your readers want to comment I’d be happy to hear it. I really would like to show the work alongside with a selection of Goya’s etchings. Goya’s original suite “Disasters of War” has been revisited often, like Otto Dix and others did, and I look at mine as a contemporary version. We live in a society where we expose ourselves gratuitously to violence in movies, tv, games as fun and entertainment. It seems that depiction of human injury, dismemberment and death is normal and not disturbing any more. Anticipation of something to happen, however, can still terrify us.
Wouldn’t it be a powerful animation?
I make very simple, short videos for my Instagram postings, adding some zooming effects and sounds to them. Yes, animation would be a great idea, but I don’t know enough about it. I would need some collaboration to pull that of.