Western Exhibitions, Chicago, IL
September 8 – October 6, 2007
a collaboration with Jil Baker
At a time when America’s optimism about the war in Iraq is exhausted, we have just witnessed the unveiling of the largest US embassy in the world in Baghdad. With $592 million dollars of emergency funding, the embassy will house 21 buildings, a water treatment plant, and an electrical plant on 104 acres within the Green Zone of Baghdad on the banks of the Tigris River.
Artist Jimmy Baker and architect Jil Baker set out to comprehend the US embassy project with only scraps of data found on the internet. Their interpretations of the heavily fortified hermetic complex expose the disparity between U.S. foreign policy’s ideology of “democratization” and this new war-fortress approach to diplomacy.
A dark figure looms in the painting Succession, which features a hybrid portrait of L. Paul Bremer [Director of Postwar reconstruction, 2003], and ambassadors John Negroponte, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Ryan Crocker. This mutation shows an uneasiness and uncertainty toward the factual progression of oversight in Iraqi relations. This uncertain future in Iraq prompts us to imagine a Kafka-esque vision of further metamorphosis for the figure in Succession. The architectural site model, Invisible Fortress, employs a three dimensional replica of what the complex might look like based on layout images that the architectural firm Berger Devine Yaeger leaked on the internet before being shut down by the State Department. This model is a saturated solid gold city cast into a mass of clear resin. Many reports have described the design to be ‘suburban’ in nature, in keeping with many accounts of life in the Green Zone. The other walls include framed images combining computer renderings of the embassy complex and screenprinted imagery depicting the turbulent existence outside of this bubble. They contrast visions of development and disaster, as they look beyond the construction phase of this behemoth site, and into its placement within the origins of human development in the Fertile Crescent.