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JENNIFER KARADY: SOLDIERS STORIES FROM IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN

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JENNIFER KARADY: SOLDIERS STORIES FROM IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
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Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan is an interdisciplinary art project and traveling exhibition, which reveals the invisible ways that war affects individual veterans and their families, and gives voice to the large unseen and underserved population of veterans. Karady collaborates with American veterans returning from these wars to create meticulously staged narrative photographs that depict their individual stories and reveal their difficulties in adjusting to civilian life. The project consists of twenty-one photographs, presented with sound or text stories, an interactive sound installation for veterans’ stories, public events for soldier civilian dialogue, and a documentary film. In 2019-2020, Karady is working on a new branch of Soldiers' Stories: Dissonance, an immersive, experiential multi-channel video and sound installation (see below).

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DISSONANCE, a new branch of Soldiers' Stories

Karady is currently working on a new branch of Soldiers' Stories: Dissonance, an immersive, experiential multi-channel video and sound installation, will reveal the unexplored rupture between the public visual display of patriotism on the Fourth of July and the way that soldiers privately experience this holiday. The project is inspired by the numerous stories veterans have told Karady about reacting to or avoiding the sounds of fireworks because they are similar to the dangerous sounds of war.

The spectacle of patriotic imagery on five screens, featuring mesmerizing video of fireworks, will contrast with the intimacy and vulnerability of veterans describing how they experience fireworks—with fear, apprehension, and avoidance. The sound component of the installation, consisting largely of the human voice, will explore the language of trauma by highlighting similarities and patterns in the words that veterans use to speak about this phenomenon. The voices, each given a bodily presence through their own speaker (5-10 speakers), will relate to, react and answer each other. At points, the voices will come together in harmony, diverge or create duets, but by the end, each voice will contribute to a shared, unconventional narrative. The video will further articulate the discontinuity of the world for people who have experienced trauma—how innocent displays of patriotism can be imbued with violence and memory.

SOLDIERS' STORIES: PHOTOGRAPHS AND STORIES

Since 2006, Jennifer Karady has worked with American veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to create meticulously staged narrative photographs that depict their individual stories and reveal their difficulties in adjusting to civilian life. After an extensive interview process with the veteran and his/her family, Karady collaborates with the veteran to restage a chosen moment from war within the safe space of their everyday environment, often surrounded by family and friends. The collision between or collapse of the soldier’s world and the civilian world evokes the psychology of life after war, and the challenges that adjustment to the home front entails. The process of making the photograph is intended to be helpful for the veteran subject, and is conceptually inspired by cognitive behavioral therapy.

The careful  process of making each photograph takes at least 6 weeks and involves several extensive interviews (recorded), collaborative conceptualization, location scouting, producing a sketch, discussion/approval from veteran, propping, makeup, costuming, rehearsal of physical action, training local assistants, set construction, casting extras, artificial lighting and the photo shoot. The process of making the photograph culminates in a highly choreographed installation/event. There is no digital manipulation whatsoever in order to ensure the truthfulness of the staged moment and the authenticity of the veteran subject's participation.

Each large-scale color photograph is accompanied by a recounting of the veteran’s story in his/her own words. So far, Karady has produced twenty-one photographs in the series with veterans in New Hampshire, upstate New York, New York City, Nebraska, Michigan, California, Florida and Virginia and she hopes in the end to complete a series of twenty-five photographs.

Working more like a painter than a photographer, Karady's work differs from other staged narrative photographers in that she works with real people to dramatize their stories through both literal depiction and metaphorical and allegorical means.

Critically acclaimed, Soldiers' Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan has been featured and reviewed on the PBS NewsHour, on NPR's Weekend Edition, in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Frieze, Kunstbeeld, and The Wall Street Journal and in books such as Suffering from Realness (Prestel), Bending the Frame (Aperture), Aftermath: The Fallout of War--America and the Middle East (University Press of Florida), Art and Agenda (Gestalten) and Out of Rubble (Charta). This important work is in the permanent collections of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Albright Knox Gallery, amongst others.

Please go to www.jenniferkarady.com to view the photographs and read the accompanying stories.

Support for Soldiers' Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan has been provided by New York State Council for the Arts, the Compton Foundation, The Institute of Humanities at The University of Michigan, The Penny Stamps Art School at the University of Michigan, SF Camerawork, CEPA Gallery, The Palm Springs Art Museum, The Puffin Foundation, Swords to Plowshares, The Corporation of Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, The Blue Mountain Center, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, The Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council, Inc. and individual donors.

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