A Splendid Little War / Still Savages & Lost Loves / Love Lost

Above: Installation Documentation for A Splendid Little War / Still Savages
Running time: 1:20

A Project by Nadia Hironaka & Matthew Suib

It is a well-worn aphorism, alternately attributed to Winston Churchill and Walter Benjamin, that History is written by the victors. But here, the question of attribution raises still more questions about the meaning and veracity of historical records. Historically designated sights like the USS Cruiser Olympia, for all of the historical detail and rich narrative they contain, illuminate just a slice of the historical record. Hironaka & Suib are interested in reanimating or re-visioning these histories by looking at the real-world events that fell outside of the Historic Record, and reconsidering the meaning of a historical site in our contemporary context.

As a key player in the United States’ first military effort to project power overseas, the Olympia led the artists to explore the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars, in which the battleship was involved around the turn of the 20th Century. From our current vantage point, we can neatly trace the expansion and contraction of American Empire that began on board this ship and others in the U.S. Navy fleets of that era. Hironaka & Suib’s work in Artship Olympia uses media and motifs from the late 1800’s to encourage a critical dialogue between viewers and institutional narrative presented on board the historical war ship.

A Splendid Little War / Still Savages comprises a pair of large-scale projections on the hull of the Cruiser Olympia, a flagship for the US in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars around the turn of the 20th Century. Graphically framed by the words of John Hay (U.S. Secretary of State during the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars) and Thomas Edison, who produced some of the very first documentation of war in motion-pictures in Cuba and the Philippines. These ghostly moving-images, projected onto the Olympia and considered in our historical moment, point towards a uniquely American obsession with military power that persists to this day.

Lost Loves / Love Lost

Installation Documentation for Lost Loves/ Love Lost
Running time: 1:30

Lost Loves / Love Lost, located on board the Cruiser Olympia uses a pre-cinematic special effect called a Pepper’s Ghost to envision a grouping of what could be a sailor’s most cherished possession––a silver locket––rising and falling inside of his living quarters. In place of the weathered photo of a sailor’s sweetheart that one might expect, these lockets picture a chronology of regional, national and international figures that the United States has alternately fought for, with and against, as the tides of American political, economic and military interests have shifted over more than a century. This chronology charts a century-long arc of American Empire and its casualties from Filipino revolutionary Emilio Aguinaldo to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The exhibition Artship Olympia was presented by Philadelphia Sculptors in collaboration with the Independence Seaport Museum and curated by Leslie Kaufman in 2016.

Installation Views