Michael Callaghan Torture Memo 2010

A deft visual communicator with a penchant for satire, this work was a culmination of Callaghan’s artistic and political concerns, crystallising its themes and demonstrating his continued relevance to the Australian cultural landscape.

Michael Callaghan created The Torture Memo whilst the recipient of the ANU 2009 H C Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship administered by the Research School of Humanities and the Arts in association with the ANU School of Art.

The works focus on the military strategies and methods used in the Iraq war – from suicide bombing to waterboarding, and the grave issues – from civilian casualties to the notion of Western moral intervention that are this war’s result. Deeply aware of the power of the repetitious slogan and doublespeak, Callaghan uses the language of the Iraq War against itself, revealing its futility and grim irony.

These disingenuous catchphrases of war, – ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’, ‘Shock and Awe’, ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ and ‘Regime Change’ - form a pattern in the backdrop to war’s true brutality – the fighter bomber, the bullet, the cruise missile, the poison gas cloud which dominate these large prints.

The pattern of slogans, written in both English and Arabic, is interwoven with phrases which describe the mundane activities Iraqi civilians must conduct in a warzone – ‘going shopping’, ‘going to work’, ‘meeting with friends’, ‘going to school’ – a stark contrast between everyday humanity and remotely-detonated militarism.

Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom


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