For Immediate Release
Aaron Hughe, IVAW
Operation Exposure: War is Trauma Bringing the War Home Through Street Art
CHICAGO, IL - “Operation Exposure: War is Trauma” hit the
streets of Chicago on Monday November 15th. This collaboration between the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative and veterans
and supporters from Iraq Veterans Against the War
(IVAW) is a direct response to the suicide epidemic and violation of GI’s right
to heal within the GI and veteran community. Veterans, artists, and supporters
met in Rogers Park in Chicago and split into teams. They divided up posters
that Justseeds had designed for IVAW and then wheatpasted the city. Teams hit
advertising spaces and boarded up buildings with messages of GI resistance and
“Operation Recovery” – a new IVAW campaign
aimed to stop the redeployment of traumatized troops and focus public attention
towards Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma (MST),
and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
“We recognize that we must stop the deployment of all
soldiers in order to end these occupations,” writes IVAW. “We see the
deployment of soldiers with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress
disorder, and military sexual trauma as particularly cruel, dangerous, and
inhumane. Military commanders across all branches are pushing service members
far past human limits for the sake of combat readiness. We cannot allow those
commanders to ignore the welfare of their troops. From multiple deployments
despite PTSD, TBI, and other injuries, to rampant sexual assault
within the military, soldiers are consistently being denied their right to
heal. This basic right is being denied and we must organize to get it back.”
The action was part of the “Chicago
in War” series that was organized by Aaron Hughes of IVAW. Metaphorically,
the prints covered up corporate ads and the corporate culture that pollutes the
city and perpetuates systems of inequality and oppression -- systems that
create public apathy to war. Twenty different posters were designed along with
three large stencils portraits that honored soldiers who have resisted the US
One stencil honored Camilo Mejia, a Florida National Guard
Sergeant who became the first US combat veteran to publicly refuse to redeploy
back to Iraq. Mejia had witnessed detainees being tortured and abused by US
troops in Iraq. He served nine months in prison for desertion and in August
2007 he was elected Chair of IVAW. Another stencil honored Suzanne Swift, a
23-year-old Army SPC who was continually sexually harassed and assaulted by
three men in her command while she served in Iraq. She suffered from PTSD and
went AWOL in January 2006 to resist redeploying with the same unit. She was
apprehended and imprisoned briefly in January 2007 and is now active in
anti-war and anti-rape campaigns. The last stencil honored Rodney Watson, a
29-year-old Army Specialist who served 12-months in Iraq. Watson refused
redeployment and is currently seeking refuge near Vancouver, Canada.
The stencils, prints, and street art action are meant to
increase awareness about the impact of war on soldiers and civilians alike in
order to get the public talking about GI resistance, GI rights, and stopping
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Photos of the action are posted here.
A month-long window exhibit of the prints is on display at Co-Prosperity Sphere in Bridgeport (3219 S. Morgan Ave, Chicago) and a print mural
is installed at the In These Times building (2040
N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago). The In
These Times exhibit opens on Thursday, December 9th at 5:00pm.
Intrusive thoughts are unwelcome involuntary thoughts,
images, or unpleasant ideas that may become obsessions are upsetting or
distressing, and can be difficult to manage or eliminate. Although they are
commonly unseen, there are silent signs of our current occupations in our local
communities, households, and memories. This show features work by veterans of
Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terror that brings these signs from
the shadows to the forefront and gives these traumas a voice in the political
and cultural discussion of today.
National Veterans Art Museum
1801 S. Indiana Ave, Chicago IL
Nov 2010- May 2011
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Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) advocacy group of veterans and active-duty U.S. military personnel who have served since September 11, 2001. IVAW’s Right to Heal Initiative is focused on holding the U.S. government accountable for human right violations of the health of Iraqis, Afghans and U.S. veterans. IVAW currently has over 2,500 members in fifty states, as well as in Canada, Europe, and Afghanistan.