including the work of Emily Pederson
The Dedee Shattuck Gallery is pleased to present WITNESS TO CONFLICT: The Art of Documentary. This exhibition focuses on art from conflict zones—featuring the paintings of Iraq War veteran James Razko, sound art and photography from New York Times reporter Andy Mills, and images of Sierra Leone’s jungles by photographer Kipp Wettstein.
Razko’s ‘Night Vision’ painting series depicts scenes of what he terms ‘violent beauty’– the iridescent green glow of explosions as seen through night vision goggles.
Mills, the producer of The New York Times podcast “Caliphate”, presents sounds and photographs from reporting in Mosul and surrounding refugee camps.
Wettstein’s photographs are part of an early effort to explore and contextualize a small piece of what remains of Sierra Leone’s primary and secondary rainforests. Since the end of the civil war in 2002, these forests have been reduced to less than five percent of their original coverage. This project also explores the realities and challenges of life in a place that experienced the recent and devastating effects of Ebola, war, and poverty, all of which have stories linked to the rainforest.
I am interested in exploring the human experience of war, trauma, and memory through painting. In an ongoing effort, I am building many series of paintings, each with a distinct visual language. This work twists, combines and reimagines traditional genres of two-dimensional art making while being Informed by pop-culture, current affairs, and personal experience. Throughout each series, ambiguity serves to discourage any particular narrative, allowing for internal and external discourse, revealing projections of self. With this work, I strive to engage the current sociopolitical environment while challenging belief systems, biases, and cultural ideals.
James Razko was a soldier and clandestine operative who conducted numerous special operations missions while deployed to Iraq. His work is inspired by the current sociopolitical environment and the transformative events he experienced while overseas. Razko completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Stockton University in 2011 and completed his Masters of Fine Arts degree at the New York Academy of Art in 2015. During his time at the Academy, he received the Academy Scholarship, the New Jersey Heart of a Hero Scholarship, was awarded a summer residency in Moscow, Russia and was one of six nominated for the Chubb Fellowship. Razko is a 2018 grant recipient of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation. His work is published in the acclaimed book, The Figure. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Night Vision Scope Paintings
Landscape seen through night vision (NV) goggles is both eerie and sublime. An alien shift in reality. It’s a technology that allows you to look into usually impenetrable voids of darkness, translating events into high-resolution, electric-green monochrome.
These circular NV Scope paintings mimic an actual scope—encasing a moment of violent beauty in a resinous “lens.” The work intends to highlight our proclivity to indulge in, and bear witness to, acts of destruction from an unnatural distance. We are eager to see violence, as long as it is presented through a modifying agent like a screen.
Scenes of war through night vision are part of our cultural fabric: children playing video games launch missiles at virtual enemies; some adults sitting behind similar screens launch actual missiles at targets thousands of miles away; the movie industry constantly uses explosions and the mystique of night vision to draw a bigger audience. These paintings ask viewers to question what it means to find events of unimaginable destruction engaging, entertaining, and beautiful.
Website | CV
These photographs are part of an early effort to explore and contextualize a small piece of what remains of Sierra Leone’s primary and secondary rainforests. This is the beginning of a project that will hopefully contribute to a better understanding of a unique landscape that is currently in a state of crisis and that has borne witness to a complicated and often unspeakably sad human story. Since the end of the civil war in 2002, these forests have been reduced to less than five percent of their original coverage. They are considered critical havens of biodiversity and the speed at which they are disappearing is astonishing. The parallel aim of this project is to be a mechanism by which to explore, process, and understand some of the very uncomfortable realities and challenges of life in this place for both the society and the artist.
Beginning life in a U.S. Forest Service work camp on the north rim of the Grand Canyon and subsequently moving to the glaciated suburbs of Juneau and to the temperate rainforests of western Oregon, it could be said that early engagement with the landscape was less a pursuit than a state of normalcy. But it wasn’t until the college summers fighting wildfire in the mountains of Oregon and Colorado that this state of normalcy began to evolve into a pursuit of understanding the relationship between modern society and our collective ideas of nature. Questions began to crystallize during the time spent working in the photography department of The New Yorker magazine and after leaving the position in 2005, Hurricane Katrina brought an opportunity to work with Robert Polidori on his exhaustive work that documented the devastation of New Orleans. The experience raised even more questions about our sense of place, history, expectations, and ultimately society’s collective literacy in its interpretation of a landscape.
Now, after 14 years living and working in New York and yearly trips to document change in the Great Basin of the Western U.S., an opportunity presented itself to explore different societies and to examine these relationships abroad. In 2017, Kipp’s wife was selected to join the Foreign Service for the Department of State. Within a few months of acceptance, they were sent to Freetown, Sierra Leone for their first tour.
The role of the war reporter has a storied legacy in writing and photography. As digital audio grows as a medium, I’m exploring the ways we can best use its unique strengths to cover conflicts throughout the world.
Andy Mills is a reporter with The New York Times, and the producer of the podcast Caliphate. He also helped create the The New York Times podcast The Daily. For many years, Mills worked at Radiolab, making stories about addiction, friendship, and forgiveness. He spent July, 2017 in Western Mosul to report on Iraqi forces driving out ISIS. Mills lives and works in New York City.
These audio pieces all involve recordings from war zones, and might not be suitable for children. Audio recoding 3: Interrogation, includes discussions of sexual violence.
An audio postcard from a roof top on Sinjar Mountain, Iraq.
2. INTO MOSUL:
Reporter Rukmini Callimachi, myself and our translator Hawk drive and then walk into Mosul, Iraq on the day that ISIS' rule their ended. We were on a mission to hunt for secret ISIS documents in the rubble of the city.
(This is an excerpt from Chapter 8 from a complete podcast series called: “Caliphate”).
Inside a make-shift jail where ISIS fighters who had been captured on the battlefields in Mosul were being held - reporter Rukmini Callimachi, myself and our translator Hawk allow a young woman to confront the man who held her prisoner.
(This is an excerpt from Chapter 9 from a complete podcast series called: “Caliphate”).
UNTIL WE FIND YOU
On September 26, 2014, a mass disappearance sent shock waves through Mexican society. That night, students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College were traveling by bus in Iguala, Guerrero when they came under attack by police. The series of shootouts left over 20 students wounded and three dead, one of whom was tortured and found the next day with no eyes or face. During the attacks, police abducted 43 of the students. They have not been seen since.
This series follows the aftermath of these attacks for the community of the 43 missing students. The case, which implicated the city's mayor, every police force in the area, and the military, sparked a mass protest movement led by the families of the disappeared. It became a potent symbol for Drug War corruption and the more than 30,000 missing people across the country. Despite the outcry, inconsistencies, manipulation and deception in the government’s investigation have signaled a coverup, and the students’ whereabout remain unknown.
Like the families of other missing people across Mexico, the loved ones of the 43 students are consumed and tormented by uncertainty. They have no body, no answers, no justice, and no closure. Three years later, they continue to demand the truth and search for their missing sons.
Emily Pederson is an independent documentary photographer and filmmaker. Raised in Rhode Island, USA, she has spent most of the last four years in Mexico, covering social movements and the impact of Drug War violence. Her work has been supported by Field of Vision and published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, El Faro, and The Huffington Post, among others. She holds a degree in Photography and Human Rights from New York University.