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Simulating Iraq


August 15, 2011

Imagining the war before the war.

These photographs were made on military bases within the U.S., in fabricated spaces designed to mimic Iraq and Afghanistan. The simulations include the use of specific architecture, objects and costumes, and Americans (both soldiers and civilians) who role-play as Iraqis and Afghans.

In some respects, a visit to these places can be confusing. One wonders, who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? Who is a real Iraqi and who is a fake insurgent? What does it feel like for a soldier to play the role of her or his enemy? What does it mean to a young soldier who has his or her first encounter with difference in this environment? These spaces are meant as imitations of reality, but they take on their own realities for soldiers on their way to a real war zone.

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Claire Beckett is a Boston-based artist. Originally from Chicago, she earned a BA in anthropology at Kenyon College. She worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin, West Africa, before going on to earn an MFA in Photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Represented by Carroll and Sons Gallery, Boston, her solo exhibitions have included Carroll and Sons, Bernard Toale Gallery, the University of Rhode Island, and the Wadsworth Atheneum (opening November 2011). Group exhibitions have included Mass MoCA, the Chelsea Museum of Art, the Haggerty Museum, and others. Beckett is the recipient of an Artadia Award and a Mass Cultural Council Grant.

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2 comments for Simulating Iraq

  1. Comment by luis on August 15, 2011 at 11:51 am

    os felicito, la nota me parece exhuberante y profunda, mis respetos a uds. luis

  2. Comment by Max Pearl on August 24, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Whoa — these are astounding, I’m curious:

    – what was the purpose of the ‘role-playing’? I can understand re-creating specific sites of conflict in order to acquaint soldiers with the territory and the way that combat works amidst this specific type of architecture, but how does role-playing, such as is seen in the vignette with the outdoor tea party scene, prepare soldiers for combat? Trying to acquaint them with local cultural practice?

    – how did the photographer get access to these sites? Was she also doing photo correspondence and spun off a separate art project?

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