A huge RV with a trailer is parked in a quiet courtyard on the University of Houston campus. The trailer holds the rusted, burned out hull of a car, with a sign telling observers this car was bombed in 2007 in a Baghdad marketplace. The occasional curious student wanders by and pauses in front of the car, where Jonathan Harvey is answering questions about the project.
“This was in a Baghdad marketplace, on Al Mutanabi street, it was an attack on a civilian marketplace.”
Student: “Innocent people that were just there, maybe in the street? And this is one of them, but there were a lot of cars?”
“Yeah, entire buildings were destroyed all along the block.”
Harvey is one of the regular members of the traveling exhibit called It is What it is: Conversations about Iraq. Nearby, UH student Josh Davis stands holding an odd-looking bright blue something or other that he says represents his thoughts on the war.
“I brought a crappy piece of modern art. It’s ugly. No one truly fully understands it and I promise you if I set it right over there and have these passersby walk by it, since it doesn’t directly impact their lives, I promise you by the time they’re over there their memory of it will blur and inevitably they’ll forget about it.”
Turns out Davis made the piece himself. In the second grade. Cherise Lee is a sophomore majoring in Spanish. She also brought a conversation piece with her, a necklace.
“To me this represents the war in Iraq in the sense of where like you know how some family members, they hand down jewelry, like my grandmother’s pearls and things like that, my mom’s earrings. This was basically, I thought of it as the necklace being Iraq and you know ancestors build it and make the culture and things like that. And then America comes over trying to make it better or polish it and what ends up happening is, you can’t really tell, but it’s broken.”
These are exactly the kinds of conversations Artist Jeremy Deller wants to encourage.
“Well because we’re on a campus you expect a certain kind of person to come up. And in that respect we’ve had that demographic, you know educated youngish people, who have been intrigued and curious about the object. That’s been really good.”
The Conversations about Iraq installation will be on view at Emancipation Park tomorrow from 11am to 4pm.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
Picture of exhibit courtesy of libbyrosof ‘s Flickr page. This image was captured at a different location than the story.