Combat Stress organization that collaborated on project.
"Public truth-telling is the common denominator of all social action...Survivors undertake to speak about the unspeakable, in public, in the belief that this will help others. In so doing, they feel connected to a power larger than themselves."
--Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery
* * *
The struggle for recovery from trauma — to ﬁnding a narrative voice through testimony — has a greater chance of success when performed asa public speech-act, even more so when directed as a social utterance to and on behalf of others. An act of public truth–telling has a restorative power. Psychologist Pierre Janet termed this act ‘presentification.’ The War Veteran Vehicle is designed to provide conditions for veterans to perform such acts of public truth telling -the acts of “presentification”.
* * *
‘Those who work therapeutically with trauma know that no pain is so devastating as the pain a person refuses to face, no suffering so lasting as suffering left unacknowledged.”
--Cermak TL, Brown S: Interactional group therapy with the adult children of alcoholics. Int J Group Psychother 32:375-389, 1982
The design of a vehicle is one of many critically needed responses to the veterans' emerging social, psychological and political needs. It responds to the veterans' need to communicate and reach the larger public, beyond the group of fellow veterans, and openly share in the public space their overwhelming war and after-war war experiences, especially these that are by themselves yet unacknowledged and not understood by the society at large.
The project’s general objective is to inspire, encourage and equip the Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families to live with their traumatic past in a more emotionally communicative, open, socially proactive and public way. The equally important task of the project is to inspire and help the non-veterans to bring themselves close to the veterans’ experience, to listen to them in an informed and emotionally charged way.
The War Veteran Vehicle project is intended to operate as a mobile unit, designed (using psychoanalyst D W Winnicott’s notion of the ‘transitional object’) to function as ‘transitory artiﬁce,’ a vehicle for cross- cultural communication, social reintegration and possibly, with the involvement of psychotherapists, a psycho-cultural communicative and expression equipment--a useful implement and supplement to clinical combat and post-traumatic stress therapy.
The War Veteran Vehicle public action was preceded by series of many meetings and conversations with war veterans—potential co-creators and ‘public speakers.’ These meetings turned into a kind of workshop, where the veterans discussed, wrote down, edited and recorded their public statements, critical comments, messages and testimonies of their wartime and postwar experiences. The material co-selected and approved by the veterans was then transformed into an audiovisual projection. In Denver, at the same time as the 2008 Democratic National Convention, an American Humvee was used as a base vehicle; in Liverpool a Land Rover Defender 110 with a powerful Christie Roadster S+20 projector. A special software has been developed, so the War Veteran Vehicle could project statements recorded "ad hoc," in a short time before the vehicle's action. The project included one veterans’ family member, a wife of one of the veterans as the speaker—the vehicle’s “crew member.”
For C_M_L, we have recorded interviews with an ex-soldier, Robert, and his wife Lisa, both of whom participated in the development of the project and can be heard in the projection. Additionally, text and audio from each fragment of the projection has been compiled for the C_M_L archive along with screenshots of the interface developed to prepare the projection.