Saturday, November 27, 2010

Countless of Unknowns

They really don't make any sense. I'm saying it with shame, guilt and sadness. So far on Day 8, I have writing around more than 1,700 of unknowns. They are the people who died but yet identified. So, the media did not know thier names, according to Iraq Body Count.

Maybe that's why Tony kept quoting Stalin's quote "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic".

I am reading Michael Otterman's "Erasing Iraq" now. In the forward section, I found the following words by Harold Pinter really powerful when he commented on the War in his 2005 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

"They are blank. They are not even being recorded as dead."

What Pinter said is haunting. But what even more haunting is that what he said is true.

Writing at home

Giving up 1 hour of sleep/work/play time to write the cards every day is really not easy. It takes planning to make sure that I do it before midnight. I have been doing it at around 10:30 pm to 11pm. Sometimes, I am actually a bit sleepy while doing the writing. They are not as meditative as I thought. Often, instead of thinking about these civilians and their lives, I would think about something. So, as I said in my previous post, I am still searching the meaning or the unmeaning of this project.

I am also thinking that perhaps 1 hour a day is not enough for me to feel the magnitude of the destruction. So, should I write for longer hours, say 8 hours or more a day? Or at least until my hand and my back hurt?

Day 1 - Performing at Grace Exhibition Space

So, this was it. I actually didn't know how long I was writing the cards for. Little less than 2 hours, maybe? I think I wrote around 70 cards. Anyway, it was a lot more intense than I expected. The crowd, the kind of lighting, the noise and the air at the space all put my body and mind in a state of unease. They were a bit disturbing, especially the smokey cigarettes floating in the enclosed space filled with people.

Couple minutes after the performance started, people gathered around my table and looked at what I was doing. But it was not until at least 15 minutes after that someone asked me if he could pick up the books and read them. I then said yes. Itt was the only time I was interacting with people. One man, behind my back, said to me that he thought what I was doing was really great. I ignored him. There was also someone picking up an already written card and looked at it. Overall, I was happy with the reception.

But what do that 70 something cards or names, or innocent victims mean to me? I really don't know. Writting down their names and where they died etc. has forced me to read the data carefully. For instance, I read that a family died near a US Amry check point. But then what? I am actually afraid to admit that I am as detached as I was before. I am anixous to find out what I have to say about what I feel in say a month or 3 months.

Friday, November 19, 2010


In less than 24 hours, this project is going to kick off at the show at Grace Exhibition Space. I practiced wrting the cards this afternoon and wrote for 1 hour. An hour is actually not as long as I thought.

Today, a colleague of mine said how come I pick such a time-consuming project to work on. Yes, the scale of this project is scary, not to mention the subject matter which I do not konw much about. Does it mean that I should not do it? I don't know, I really don't know. All I know is that I finally realize and admit that I am doing this Iraq War project for myself and I finally have the courage to allow myself to do so. This project has almost become not about the innocent people who died but about me who is trying to find out my relationship to my work as an artist. Does it make sense?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Hour a Day

After tomorrow, I am planning to write the cards for an hour every day until I'm done. Why 1 hour? For I don't think I will achieve my goal to feel this number of victims if I do it in any durations that is less than an hour. Can I really do it? Am I willing to put aside 1 hour every day from my busy schedule to write the cards?

Honestly, I am afraid to make this commitment. But this is also exactly why I have to do this.
I want to see how long I can do this. I want to see how much I care about what's going on over there. So, there is a possibility that I am not going to finish the writing. And if that is the case, does it mean that I fail? Should I be afraid of failure? Tony has a quote on his email signature from Beckett that says:

"…admit that to be an artist is to fail, as no other dare fail, that failure is his world and the shrink from it desertion….I know that all that is required now, in order to make of this submission, this admission, this fidelity to failure, a new occasion, a new term of relation, and of the act which unable to act, obliged to act, he makes, an expressive act, even if only of itself, its impossibility, of its obligation."

I did not understand what it meant until I decide to do this project.

After I talked about my struggle regarding if I should do this project or not in my Performance Projects class, my colleague Anthony Montuori wrote the following on the class blog:

"I think its ok to admit that a work cannot be carried out. Or that a work is not worth the effort. Or that it isn't going to be effective beyond its conceptual origins. Or that there aren't enough hours in the day to ever finish larger projects. Or that an idea needs to be shifted even after we feel we've reached a point of no return. Or that we might waste money. Or that our audience is def or no where to be found. Or that some battles are not ours to fight. Or whatever.

Be honest and enjoy the art you make even if it hurts to make it. Don't do anything unless you absolutely believe you must. "

Thank you Anthony!

What am I really doing?

As I'm preparing and printing the excel documents, I finally realize what Jeannie said on my review board in Spring. By copy the names from the excel doc to the index cards, what exactly has I done? I don't feel that i'm transforming the data at all. So, I think at this point, what makes this work still meaningful is for me to experience the numbers of death via writing the names down.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Writing 107,594 names?

I'm going to write the names of the documented Iraqi civilians who died in the Iraq war using data from Iraq Body Count ( on recycled index cards. As of October 29th, 2010, the count was up to 107,594. So, that means I'm going to write over hundred thousands index cards. My idea is to experience the magnitude of the destruction through my action. I also what to challenge myself to see how much time I am willing to put aside from my daily routine to do this. Honestly, I do know what writing these names mean to me especially most of the names would be 'Unknown' as most victims are not yet identified. But I think I would never know until I do it.

I don't what I am going to do with the index cards yet. Depending on how this project goes, I hope I can show them in the future.

I will start this process by writing it in public at Grace Exhibition Space, Brooklyn as part of the 'Future Is Now!' show as a durational performance on 11/19/2010.