Commission Control

        Air war, ground war, media war -- power to manipulate opinion rivaled only by the power of munitions. In the wake of the commercial browser war, we are confronted with the urgent and stunning spectacle of real death and the promise of more carnage to come. How does one curb the destructive energy and domineering impulses of industrialized nations driven to distraction by corporate media and technological fascination?

        Commission Control draws upon divergent representations of contemporary warfare. Begun before the escalation of war in the Balkans, this work responds to the anti-social imperatives of war industry, and to the relationship between military industries and the media. With regard to the ongoing conflict in Kosovo, the authors' perspective is not neutral, but above all their aim is to focus attention on the war in Yugoslavia, encouraging people to investigate beyond the blind suppositions of 'clean' war that are so prevalent on television in the United States. The pattern of remote, high-speed, pyrotechnic violence must not be understood only through the sanitized analytical abstraction of attack chronologies, not only through filtered announcements from press secretaries and generals. Having engineered the virtual absence of impartial reporting from the field, the Pentagon portrays the grave toll of warfare as inevitable, calculable. The artists are largely unconvinced by the rhetoric of moral imperative that is trotted out for each successive war. It is largely through the ineptitude and lack of vision of foreign policy that nations have recently found themselves in these supposedly noble 'humanitarian' war efforts. Notwithstanding the potential consequences of non-intervention, a pacifist position must be presented coherently to the public.

        Facts and documentary (digital) photography culled from a diverse assortment of sources from across the ideological spectrum, the intended effect is often the repurposing and recontextualization of dominant representations of war. The control theme, integrated with the use of the remote control as central navigation metaphor, addresses several forms of control. While users control events that take place primarily within the scope of the personal computer, through the remote control interface, the agency of the user, the ramifications of the user's knowledge or ignorance, action or inaction, are called into question. The metaphor alludes to the high tech military with its myriad tools for conducting warfare from a distance. It points to the emerging 'globo-cop' role of NATO in international affairs, and it also suggests the inverted control of mass media over the public that selects from its offerings. Resonant with this question of control are the juxtapositions of images, facts, and statements about current and historical wars. One sees in them the disturbing uncertainty of contemporary wars whose results are widely reported according to the propagandistic press announcements of the combatants. The remote control is under control of the user, but the representations produced are a muddle of competing interests, and ultimately the events depicted are compelled onward with a broken logic not unlike that of bad software.

Andy Deck and Joe Dellinger