To mark sixty years since the original publication of Bertolt Brecht’s Kriegsfibel I have drastically revised and updated my 2013 book War Primer 3, and republished it as a new e-edition.
War Primer 3 is a reworking of Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s War Primer 2 itself a reworking of the 1998 English edition of Bertolt Brecht’s Kriegsfibel. In this unique examination of war and photography first published in 1955, Brecht sought to extract the hidden meanings behind images of conflict through a series of short poems modeled on the funerial epigrams of the ancient world.
Broomberg and Chanarin in turn updated Brecht’s book by introducing images from the War on Terror, each intended to resonate with Brecht’s original text. While in some respects brilliant, in other ways Broomberg and Chanarin’s follow up was also deeply problematic. I felt particularly uncomfortable with the book’s existence as an expensive, editioned art object, and the use of uncredited, unpaid workers in its production, things which seemed difficult to reconcile with Brecht’s politics.
In response to these concerns, and in the spirit of Brecht’s playful invocation not to ‘start with the good old things but the bad new ones’ I reworked Broomberg and Chanarin’s book into a work primer, a meditation on inequality, labour and capital. By restructuring the book around the text of Brecht’s poem A Worker Reads History, and adding new images and text, I sought to produce a small tribute to the unacknowledged workers who keep the engines of the world turning.
Producing this new revised edition has involved completely re-photographing a copy of War Primer 2 and using these images to build up a new, high resolution version of War Primer 3. Many of the spreads have been redesigned in the process, with different images used in order to explore the subject of inequality in more depth, and with more nuance. The e-book also includes a comparative section showing the evolution of War Primer across its three versions, and also a selection of essays on the project.
You can now download the e-book of War Primer 3 here.
You can also download a press release about War Primer 3 here.