Today, when I was taking a walk around Brighton at lunchtime I passed the Fabrica art centre. I’m not sure why exactly but I haven’t felt especially inclined to go inside before. But on this occasion my eye was caught by a warning that the exhibits on show contained gruesome and explicit images of war and death. Windows onto the exhibits from the street had been covered with a plastic film that blurred the parade of horrors that lay beyond.
In a way I wasn’t shocked by Thomas Hirschhorn’s grim collage (collectively titled The Incommensurable Banner). Blown up, shot and mutilated bodies look like you’d imagine they’d look. We’ve been so well prepared by effective descriptive language that, in the end, all these photographs and video stills seemed to do was destroy any last remaining opportunity for human dignity.
I couldn’t quite work out how I was meant to respond to the work — artwork? protest? reportage? What was it even? I did feel an awkwardness about the art gallery setting. Did people dress up for the private view and sip warm Pinot Grigio in front of the smashed face of an Iraqi toddler?