Bodies performing war: Yasmeen Godder

Posted on August 26, 2011

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A while ago, my friend Emma pointed out a glaring omission from my “Design Manifesto” post. While I reiterated that visual art and design have world-changing power, I neglected to talk about other forms of art, such as music or dance. Emma is a dancer, so I asked if she would send me an example of dance used in this context. She sent me a link to the following excerpt, from choreographer Yasmeen Godder‘s “Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder” of 2004:

TRIGGER WARNING: Video contains intense and disturbing war-related imagery.

Background

Yasmeen Godder was born in Jerusalem but came to New York with her family in 1984, at the age of 11. She attended a performing arts high school, and received her BA from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. In 1999, she moved to Jaffa, Israel, where she has lived ever since. She created “Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder” during the Second Intifada, using a series of photographs from which she asked dancers to recreate images in 3D. Dancers switched between photographic “scenes” and played multiple “characters,” blurring the lines of victim vs. oppressor, male vs. female, wounded vs. able, etc.

Photo of Yasmeen Godder

Every day we are bombarded with messages and images that glorify violence, but rarely do these images show us the real effects or trauma associated with that violence. Yasmeen Godder’s “Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder” does not include literal images of violence or war (though it does show reenactments of real photographs). And yet, these abstract, bodily representations nevertheless get across the emotional effects of violence that seem in many ways missing from mainstream media.

What does it mean to be shown images of war? How is that meaning different for those who do or don’t experience war in daily life? What is effective about non-literal imagery in creating an emotional response? How does the nature and effect of that imagery differ from literal images of war or from glorified images of violence in movies or on the news?

What are your reactions? Comment below with your thoughts.

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