"Invasion: Diaries and Memories of War" in Iraq opens on March 14, 2013 at The Bronx Documentary Center in New York.
When the invasion began in 2003, Lt. Tim McLaughlin drove a Marine Corps tank into Iraq. Writer Peter Maass and photographer Gary Knight drove SUVs rented from Hertz. This project is the result of their paths crossing in the Iraqi desert-turned-warzone. Invasion: Diaries and Memories of War in Iraq, which opens March 14 at the Bronx Documentary Center in New York City, is a multimedia exhibit that features McLaughlin’s remarkable war diaries along with photographs by Knight and texts by Maass. The exhibit is timed to the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
Conceived and designed by Knight and Maass, the exhibit breaks new ground in documentary storytelling. The exhibit displays an innovative grid of 36 pages from McLaughlin’s diaries, each page blown up to poster-size. McLaughlin was at the Pentagon on 9/11, commanded a tip-of-the-spear tank during the invasion of Iraq, and his American flag was memorably draped on the statue of Saddam Hussein at Firdos Square in Baghdad. In the diary, McLaughlin writes of stumbling through the smoke-filled Pentagon after it was attacked, of the Iraqis shot and killed by his tank’s guns in 2003, and of the chaos when his flag was placed on the statue in front of a global television audience. The grid, which includes pages with pictures, maps and poems, operates as a text about war and also an artwork about war. Because McLaughlin’s account is in his handwriting, rather than the flat look of a computer font, its impact is unusually personal and emotional.
The exhibit evokes the invasion in a multi-dimensional way, with an innovative mix of visuals, text and sound. Knight and Maass, after encountering McLaughlin’s battalion in the first days of the invasion, reported on the battles it fought on its march to Baghdad; the exhibit includes their work. Knight’s photographs were featured in Newsweek, while Maass’s stories were published in The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker. The exhibit also features a video installation using news footage from 2003 to enhance the atmosphere of the invasion era.
The exhibit is the result of an unusual collaboration between McLaughlin, Knight and Maass, who raised funding through a Kickstarter campaign and with the generous support of Canon USA. “We hope this exhibit brings people back to the invasion and shows them, directly and without the usual filters of the government or the press, what the invasion truly consisted of,” they said in a statement. ”After ten years, we feel it is time for a thoughtful examination of the invasion before it is forgotten or romanticized.”
The Bronx Documentary Center is a non-profit gallery and educational space devoted to documentary projects from around the globe. Located on the ground floor of a recently revitalized building in the South Bronx, the BDC aims to create an engaging environment for local and international photojournalists, artists, filmmakers, critics and educators committed to innovative methods of non-fiction storytelling.