For more photos check out our slideshow: "L.A. vs. War II"
Equally as superficial and reductive as its title, the "L.A. VS. WAR" exhibition in The Vortex last weekend was a hollow chorus of misdirected angst. Less a commemoration of 9/11 as it was a circle-jerk of tired grievances common to college freshmen drunk on a cocktail of Howard Zinn and Banksy, sentiments as trite as "Fuck Deportation" and "Close All Prisons" obfuscated any meaningful reflection on how America has changed in the past ten years since the attacks.
Whether or not the show successfully promoted the "unity and education" trumpeted in its mission statement is unlikely. Most representations expressed utter hopelessness at best, and cheap jokes and uninspired ironies at worst. What it did pay tribute to, sadly, was the proliferation of poster art by any schmo with access to a silkscreen. The effect was little more than a naive cacophony of inflammatory sound bites. Is this how America has changed in the past ten years: have we turned into a bunch of angry children, fat on cheesy Daily Show headlines? Take for example, the image above.
It's a great example of a message lost in its medium. The President and the Secretary of State's heads have been pasted on to the bodies of Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl in their poster for the movie Killers. Okay, got it. Obama and Clinton are ostensibly responsible for sending hundreds to their deaths in the Middle East, hence they are murderers. Rich. Now what? It's an artistic dead-end, an emotional cul-de-sac. The cutesy movie poster trope undermines the gravity of an accusation that is neither funny nor terribly clever. What's worse, it's empty and tiring.
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More valuable than the art show, however, were the Teach-Ins coordinated by the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. Notably, a robust showing for the Iraq Veterans Against the War, a group founded in 2004 to mobilize the military community to withdraw its support from the war, gave voice to the complicated, often unanswerable state of global peace and conflict.
In opposition to the one-liners papering the gallery walls outside, this intimate circle of people in a make-shift classroom sought to put a thoughtful conversation behind their arguments and beliefs. Opinions based on experience and rational debate? After a diet of cheap poster candy, it was a meaty bone for citizens tired of irony and irreverence.
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