Investigation into underground zine production by US troops stationed in south-east Asia.
By Amin Musa
With my last exhibition barely off the walls I’m now getting set to open the next, this time acting primarily as curator rather than photographer alongside my friends and colleague Monica Alcazar-Duarte. Our new show Media & Myth: Mass Media and the Vietnam War explores the role of the media in the reporting and memory of the Vietnam conflict and opens this Thursday 9th October at Hundred Years Gallery, in Hoxton, east London.
The exhibition consists of works by ten participants in London College of Communication’s NAM project, including pieces by myself and my co-curator Monica Alcazar-Duarte. The outputs from this research project have included photography, video pieces, graphic design, and research essays. Because of the essentially visual nature of a gallery exhibition we have prioritised works with a strong visual component. However we have also endeavoured to include essays which correspond to the wall based visual work wherever possible. These accompanying research texts will be on display in the gallery space for anyone who wants to read them, housed in specially made folders, designed to emulate the appearance of millitary intelligence dossiers.
The show will also include some material drawn from the Stanley Kubrick archive, which is housed at the London College of Communication and formed an important resource and reference point for many of the participants in the project. After spending several days at the archive looking through material we selected a number of fascinating images produced during the pre-production of Kubrick’s 1987 Vietnam War film Full Metal Jacket. Both Monica and myself were drawn to the extensive visual research that was undertaken by Kubrick’s team to facilitate their transformation of Becton Gas Works in east-London into something resembling the destroyed Vietnamese city of Hue.
As part of the process of transforming Becton, the art department would photocopy location photographs of the site, blowing them up to A3 sizes, and would then draw directly on to the photocopies in order to show what changes they might make to the buildings at the site to make them look more battle scarred or to make them look more like Vietnamese or French colonial architecture. We’re very pleased to have been given permission to reproduce some of these original photocopies and will be displaying them in the gallery.
Our motivation for putting on the show was three fold. Firstly as participants in the NAM project we were both aware of the wealth of excellent material that had been produced in the course of this project but which had been little seen outside the London College of Communication. We were keen to draw attention both to this excellent student work and also to the remarkable archival resources held at the college (Kubrick’s archive is just one among several fascinating collections). Second the timing seemed resonant for an exhibition of the work. 2014 marks fifty years since the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, a skirmish between North Vietnamese patrol boats and the USS Maddox, an encounter which served as the pretext for the United States government to escalate it’s involvement in Indochina. The case for escalation was made and heavily supported by a series of indistinct, blurred photographs taken during the Tonkin incident.
Thirdly and finally, the role of the media in making the case for war, documenting its execution, and recalling its lessons remains vital. Media channels remain often the only yardstick by which we can judge the arguments and actions of our governments and armies, and they continue to play a vital role in helping us to challenge the often dubious official pronouncements on war. As we once again bombard a middle eastern country from the skies it seems like now is a fitting time to note the perils, pitfalls and possibilities of media representations of conflict.
Media & Myth is at Hundred Years Gallery, Hoxton from 9th – 18th October.
On 10th October at 3pm There will be a panel discussion at the gallery featuring NAM co-ordinator Paul Lowe, participant Steve Mepsted and film maker Pratap Rughani.