Theater of war in a house of peace

Posted by Tegan O'Neill

"Theater of War in a House of Peace" signals the first attempt at a year-long initiative on the part of the Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Rick Chrisman to foster a campus-wide reflection on war.

The exhibit, as the title suggests, is located in Wilson Chapel. Chrisman procured art for the exhibit from Jason Blue Lake Hawk Martinez with the intention of sparking conversation about America's wars. The exhibit opened on Sept. 21 and runs through Oct. 11.

"We have been a nation at war for eight years and it is unthinkable that we have pushed it to the back of our minds. We read the paper and we see clips on TV, but nobody asks us to really think about the war and express what we feel about it," Chrisman said.

The project was partly inspired by a touring production called "Theater of War," which presents readings of Sophocles' tragedies "Ajax" and "Philoctetes" to military communities in the U.S.

The exhibit includes a series of 14 paintings titled "Stations of the Crass" as well as a sculpture titled "Kiva." Martinez incorporates elements of Native American and Roman Catholic traditions to represent the effects of war on humanity. According to a statement written by the artist, "Each painting corresponds with the traditional Roman Catholic Stations of the Cross combined with Pueblo and Judeo-Christian end time scenarios."?

Martinez uses the image of the Kachina doll, a symbol in Pueblo culture, to represent the suffering of Christ prior to his crucifixion. "The paintings represent the pain that humanity feels because of war. Christ stands for humanity. Humanity is being crucified by war," Chrisman said.?

In his paintings, Martinez depicts party balloons on the cross and uses a light color pallet. "It is lovely when you first look at it but frightening and disturbing when you examine the content," Chrisman said.

The sculpture, "Kiva," is also an unconventional religious depiction. A Kiva is an underground meeting place used by the Pueblo peoples for spiritual ceremonies. In the bowels of Martinez's "Kiva," a tape-recording plays the sounds of an atomic bomb going off.? "Basically, it forces us to get down on our hands and knees and think hard about destruction — something that we generally just gloss over," Chrisman said.?

Chrisman also hopes that the exhibit will shed light on what he believes to be the injustices of the recruitment policy. "We place the costs of war on very few people. Just the other day, Secretary Gates warned that we are slipping into this state of having a professional fighting class, which is contrary to our country's founding principles," Chrisman said.

Chrisman advocates a Universal National Service that would require all citizens from the ages of 18-22 to serve in the military, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, hospitals, urban schools, etc.?? Chrisman feels that the Universal National Service would alleviate the burden of war that befalls a small portion of the population.?

On the closing day of the exhibit, Oct.11, there will be a round table discussion with Martinez in the Chapel.

Upcoming exhibits include a series of photographs taken by an Iraqi student who rebuilt a school in his community, a short ballet piece produced by the dance department and a play presented by the classics department, among other events and installations.?

"It is going to take the entire year to build up a body of expression for the community to be able to reflect on war and articulate what it means to be a nation at war," Chrisman said.

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