Something moving happened today. Every week down on Santa Monica beach they set up a temporary war memorial, placing lines of wooden crosses in the sand, one for each US soldier killed in Iraq. These are the white and red ‘graves’ I photographed last year, for the sleeve of ‘This Gun’. It’s called Arlington West. So you have a sea of these crosses along the beach, plus several stalls giving information about the war. People go to look and protest and some go to personalise a cross for their lost family member.
Anyway, we needed to give the organisers some copies of ‘This Gun’ to show them and say thank-you. But, when I did, these people – who are dedicating their lives to highlighting the cost of war (not to mention helping people grieve) – acted as though I’d done something amazing, supporting their cause. It was lovely but it was weird though, I felt so undeserving and almost fraudulent, having just used their imagery for my artwork. It was just a powerful reminder.
When you travel around the US, especially through smaller towns, you do feel the place is ‘at war’ in a way the UK isn’t. You know, posters on fences welcoming home individual troops. That sort of thing.