operations room 

at Rio Hondo College Art Gallery

April 5 – May 3, 2019






















photo courtesy of Shane F. King




photo courtesy of Shane F. King


photo courtesy of Shane F. King



An ongoing concern, Global warming has been the background weather news that is meant to warn us, and the critical ‘red’ light has been pulsated for the past few decades, and within the apathetic lament, groan and exhale of emptiness, the irreversible earthly destruction, rewind-plays the footage of the cascading glacier into the darkest water of either the Arctic or Antarctic, the last frontier where all nations are merging towards only to find liquified land. 


Taking account of the millions of iron tonnage from the Pacific War (WW2) that sunk into the sacred ecosystem of The Coral Sea, discharged massive oil spills coagulating into the emerald waters, there were no Al Gore’s in FDR’s cabinet to conserve or protect nature (of foreign nations) over humans. Perusing through the Pacific War photography from the National Archives, the voluminous shots of aerial surveillance photography depict battle actions at every front. The consecutive still images evoke a sense of slow motioned playback of the event.  For the vast ocean and lack of territorial boundaries, the material association and impression from these black-and-white photographs have the semblance of carbon-copies (self-publishing), heavy Xerox prints (punk rock), and action paintings from the immediate postwar art aesthetics of Abstract Expressionism. In the mire of heavy crude oil, saltwater, and abrasive sand, what is there to claim? 


“operations room” is part of the “Coral Sea” project which begun as a series of contradictory ideas that explored the semantics of this space and time in history; a triangular body of water represented as an ecological paradise flowing in and an unattainable utopia flowing out; the first naval engagement in history in which the participating ships never sighted or fired directly at each other; aircraft warfare became the new remotely controlled offensive;  the crucial speed of communication and decision-making which had significant affect; and an intuitive sense which required more than analysis. 


What is important is the place, and only then the manner of occupying it. Of taking it, holding it, setting oneself up there. Setting one’s foot on it. The foot, here, is the trace of a thesis, and the wall of colors, the noise, is at once battle and racket, the two strategies – material and logicial, hardware and software – of taking place and getting a foot in the door.” (Michel Serres, Angels, A Modern Myth 1995).


Thinking of space in terms of territorialism, colonialism, and nationalism, what is actually owned by any nation? How do these claims change hands? There are disputed lands in the far reaches of borderlands. On a planet where water mass surpasses the 30% of terrain we hang onto, could there be another way of evaluating territory? “What if the sea areas were nations? Where will the national borders be visible?” The body of waters are in constant flux, flowing into every other micro/macro universe, there are no traces of history or human footprint on the undulating surface. 


“The blank place is the place of the continuous cession. There is no blank white place, there are only the blank white ones who step aside. There is no blank place, there is only a blank step, the step of giving up a place, there is only the trace of a step, that white foot, exquisite, alive, in the midst of the noise.” (Michel Serres, Angels, A Modern Myth 1995).


Now at 83, still physically healthy with a slightly developing amnesia, my mother has been reminiscing events from her youth that she would never disclose before—as in her account of the family’s long walk fleeing the Tokyo Air Raids; leaving, losing everything and told never to look back at the engulfing red inferno. Our parents’ generation, born between 1925 to 1938, were the coming of age, innocent children who grew up through the truculence and incessant pyrotechnics of World War Two. Their parents (our grandparents) inherited experiences of cataclysm through the Great World War (One) that was supposed to end all wars. And the warpath threading weaves deep into previous ancestors of abused youths. The highly regarded living poet Shuntarō Tanikawa, who also was a ‘child of war,’ lived through the ricocheting air raids, the fake victories, the ultimate surrender and complete destruction of a country that desperately accelerated into Imperialism, technological production, and Westernization, either in competition or to maintain a true alliance with a European leader. 


Tanikawa's poems are spiritually driven ideas of humanity in its utmost self-reflective form. The Shinto faith exudes incandescence in the pursuit of life, survival, patience, and honorable death. “From a poem titled "Ikiteiru," or "To Live," in which the poet lists a number of definitions for what it means to be a living human. The last of these reads: “Kakusareta aku wo chuuibukaku kobamu koto” — in translation—"[To live] is to ferret out whatever evil may be hiding deep within us." (Juliet Grames, Tanikawa Shuntaro, The Greatest Living Poet You’ve Never Heard Of  2009)  


In our time, war relics have become sources for children to build, play and experience; from plastic model kits, simulated board games, and to the ubiquitous accelerated video games. The night raid is a surprise tactic that dismantles the opponent’s psychological disposition. Dramatic and theatrical, weather conditions contributed to the affect in conjunction with daylight/moonlight visibility and the undulating waves on which the stage was set on. Navigating between the infinitely encompassing astral sky and the boundlessly rippling waves below could as well be outerspace. The superimposition of a code-generated animation of an illuminating skeleton from an actual warship over a projection of real historical battle footage that is displaced through editing, initiates dialogue about fictitious and real sources alternatingly overwriting history.


—Kio Griffith, April 2019