How will a proud, threatened nation internalize defeat? How will it absorb its weary troops as it begins to bring them home? How does a nation’s consciousness change as it is forced to concede—not through words but through strategic withdrawal—mistakes made on such an overwhelming scale? War Sequence is my attempt to describe an American male consciousness forced to confront our tragic blunder and loss in Iraq.
Machismo is defined by its inadequacies. As I see it, our collective misunderstanding of masculinity sparked an attempt at collective catharsis through a deranged lashing-out at the Iraqi landscape and its people. But since public opinion in the United States has shifted against the war in Iraq, pulling out—removing ourselves from the violence, if you will—has come to look increasingly enticing to an increasing number of people. How, I wonder, will the decision to pull out affect, if at all, the American man’s understanding of himself?
The images in Violence Removed are stills taken from war games. The violent imagery I have removed may have taken the form of bodies, a player-controlled gun, symbols of weapons, bullets or "lives remaining." I imagined at first that the process of removing violent imagery would bring a certain peace to these otherwise violent scenes. I realized, though, that the removal process created a freakish offshoot of landscape photography—one haunted by the conspicuous absence of, and simultaneous promise of, senseless or psychopathic violence.
Violence is promised, not only because we know what to expect from such games, but because we have come to suspect such antagonism from our own "actual" landscape. For me, the "removal" of violence only seems to have infused these places with the certainty of an unknown and possibly unprecedented kind of antagonism, or with what we have come to know as "terror."