Unofficial war art? War zone street art? Even if you’re familiar with the work of recent official Australian war artists (for example, in war zones, Charles Green and Lyndell Brown, or Shaun Gladwell, and in peacekeeping zones, Jon Cattapan and eX de Medici) you’re unlikely to have seen what the soldiers themselves are up to. Only from George Gittoes’ movies (notably Soundtrack to War, shot in Iraq in 2004) do we gain some sense of the culture of everyday life for members of the armed services in such arenas as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Unofficial war art is another thing altogether. Here we see the work of the stencil artist ZEROSIX downtown in the Kandahar ISAF base. While you might say that the work of the official war artists is largely a matter of matching their highly protected experiences of being embedded against their existing personal styles and strategies, in this case it is the vernacular of street artists like Banksy and others which provides a set of visual conventions for ZEROSIX and others to work with.
David Fincher’s 1999 film Fight Club – based on a 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk – created the character Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt), who is also ambiguously the narrator of the film. While Fincher makes no claims for Tyler’s beliefs – “[the] movie couldn’t be further from offering any kind of solution” – here ZEROSIX revisits Tyler’s values in a much more challenging context.
The Kandahar base is a massive fortress housing approximately 30,000 personnel. Its incongruous village-like atmosphere (the boardwalk, the fast food franchises) was criticised last year by the “notoriously sober” General Stanley McChrystal, who was reported as having said: “This is a war zone – not an amusement park.” Closing the fast-food outlets was an unpopular decision, since reversed. However it’s not so surprising that in any community of this size you will find at least a couple of artists. In this otherwise bleak environment, it’s probably the only mode of creative release available. That 06’s street art – or his tag – is permitted at all is itself unexpectedly humane.