Icons for a New Century Agent Orange : Collateral Damage in Viet Nam
November 17 through January 13, 2006
Icons for a New
Artists Matt Ernst and Rob Roy offer a look at the symbols that exemplify a new era in our history. Half way through the first decade of a new century and we can already count the conflicts that mark this new millennium. According to the web-site Global Security “much of the world [is] consumed in armed conflict or cultivating an uncertain peace. As of mid-2005, there were eight major Wars under way (down from 15 in 2003), with as many as 24 “lesser conflicts” ongoing with varying degrees of intensity. These conflicts are fueled by racial, ethnic or religious animosities as by ideological fervor.”
Cowboys, helicopters, fighter jets, oil storage tanks, gas pumps, soldiers and guns are the simple graphics that tell a complex story of desire, fear, insatiability and death. Yet, both these artists resist from making direct political or moral judgments, they simply reflect back to us images and objects from our everyday experience.
Matt Ernst and Rob Roy engage and challenge viewers by layering a multitude of meanings. These paintings are not “narratives” in the sense of telling a particular story but by using these disparate symbols they nevertheless impart meaning and force the viewer to ask questions about our society’s values, goals, methods and policies.
Matt Ernst lives and works in New York City. He received his degree from the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston. His work has been exhibited in New York, Florence, Vienna and Barcelona.
Rob Roy lives in Massachusetts and teaches at Montserrat College in Beverly. He received his MFA from Yale University, School of Art and Architecture in 1971. His work is in numerous private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Orange : Collateral Damage in Viet Nam
The startling black and white photographs by Magnum photographer Philip Jones Griffiths demonstrate for us the horrifying consequences of using the chemical Agent Orange during the Viet Nam war. The children in these photos were born almost 30 years since the US withdrew its troops from that country but what remained was the toxic chemical Dioxin which was used in the defoliant known as Agent Orange. The genetic mutations caused by Agent Orange continue to wage war against the civilians who continue to drink contaminated water and grow food in the contaminated soil.
Agent Orange chronicles the lives of those poisoned by the defoliant used to denude the forests and jungles of Viet Nam. The defoliation military strategy was called “Operation Ranch Hand,” and according to Griffiths’ book, took as its motto “Only We Can Prevent Forests” that were applied to the sides of the aircraft used to spray the deadly chemical. Defoliation, the “Chemical Scythe,” affected huge swaths of land. Dioxin is one of the most toxic substances ever produced and one that continues to impact the lives of Vietnamese children today.
Viet Nam vets suffered from the exposure to this chemical as well, contracting rare forms of cancer, lupus and other diseases but the link to Agent Orange was initially strongly denied by the American government but eventually $180 million dollars was awarded by the manufacturers of the chemicals through the US Courts.
Dioxin contamination also affects the reproductive system, the endocrine matrix, the immune system, and the nervous system. But the most dramatic affect takes place in the womb as it alters the cellular activity and produces deformed fetuses. In Viet Nam the human toll continues to be ignored. Most babies die shortly after birth but others live with missing or deformed limbs, mental retardation, without eyes, with internal organs on the on the outside of their bodies, spina bifida and cerebral palsy.
These photographs are Philip Jones Griffiths’ tribute to their grace and fortitude.
Philip Jones Griffiths was born in Rhuddian, Wales in 1936. Griffiths was studying pharmacy and working as a part-time photographer for The Manchester Guardian, and the moved to The Observer newspaper. He covered the Algerian war in 1962 and has since covered major conflicts around the world.
In 1971 his groundbreaking book Vietnam, Inc. was published and is widely recognized as changing US attitudes to the war.
Retrospective Look at the Tragedy of Agent Orange, a
lecture by Arthur W. Galston
Arthur W. Galston is the Eaton Professor Emeritus of Botany in the Department of Biology at Yale University and also Professor Emeritus of Forestry with the School of Forestry and environmental Studies. The author of more than 300 scientific articles in refereed journals and more than 50 articles on science and public policy, Professor Galston is a biologist specializing in chemical control of plant growth. His concerns about the social impacts of science led to his participating in a successful campaign to terminate the spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam (1970), becoming a charter member of the Hastings Center, his membership on the Federation of American Scientists' Committee on Biological Warfare, and his involvement in the Society for Social Responsibility in Science, which he served as president in the mid 1970s.
Ghost: Stories from Viet Nam
Diane Fox will be at the Housatonic Museum of Art Saturday, November 19 at 2pm to speak about her work with the disabled poor including those suffering from the effects of Agent Orange. This lecture is to augment the exhibition of select black and white photographs from the book Agent Orange: Collateral Damage in Viet Nam by Magnum photographer Philip Jones Griffiths.
Diane Fox, Teaching Fellow, Asian Studies program at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York earned a master’s from Portland State University and is working toward her doctorate at the University of Washington. She was most recently coordinator of the Agent Orange educational project for the Fund for Reconciliation and Development. Fox has written for Education About Asia, Viet Nam News and contributed to Synthetic Planet: Chemical Politics and the Hazards of Modern Life. While at Portland State she taught various courses on Viet Nam history.
This event is free and the public is cordially invited to attend.