“When our country deploys its military, we are all participants.”
Writing from the Weeks Gallery, the current exhibition on display is gaining a lot of attention. Veterans Book Project by Monica Haller is unlike typical art exhibitions. As a gallery assistant, it’s become natural for me to see the confused look on the faces of most who step into the dimly lit gallery and, instead of large paintings or drawings, see a long table filled with books, a table with iPads, and quotes lining the walls. The gallery has been transformed into a reading room, creating the perfect atmosphere for the exhibition.
The collection of 50 books was put together by the artist Monica Haller and several other individuals. The people Haller collaborated with all have first-hand experience of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the majority of these individuals are veterans, some are also family members of soldiers, and Iraqi or Afghan refugees. Haller’s main point in creating the exhibition has been to provide a means for veterans and others to share their memories and experiences of war.
What’s been great about this exhibition is the noticeable number of classes that have come into the gallery. The subject of war and how it affects us isn’t a major topic of discussion, at least not from the perspective of those who have experienced it first-hand. The perspectives gained from the books allow readers to see war from an entirely different viewpoint. Not only this, it sparks reflective discussion.
As said, it’s interesting to see classes come into the gallery and see and hear how other students experience the books. The conclusion by many has mostly been that they weren’t aware of many of the things contained in the books. To show this, one of the parts of the exhibition allows readers to write their thoughts on pieces of paper and put them on a wall, becoming a part of the project. A few of the responses from that wall include:
“I like the idea that the world now has first-hand sources of these wars instead of only biased mass media”.
“Maybe if people saw the damages of war, they wouldn’t support it”.
“Really cool information that is easy to connect and relate to, no matter who you are or where you’re from”.
“It’s interesting to see that these soldiers have actual lives that continue on while they are away. Just kind of seems like they are made out to be just a number from the outside”.
These examples are just a handful of the many responses from the wall. As you can see, the exhibition does something different for each person who experiences it. Certain books, authors, or stories can and have affected readers in a number of ways. The beauty of the exhibition that I’ve seen myself when I’m in the gallery is that it is so hands-on and interactive; everyone can take something unique away from the show and interpret it in their own way.
Veterans Book Project will run at the Weeks Gallery on the Jamestown Campus until December 11, 2014.