What Does Post-9/11 Art Mean? Imperial War Museum Explores the Question in ‘Age of Terror’

Works by Ai Weiwei, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Coco Fusco respond to contemporary violence and conflict

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Jitish Kallat's "Circadian Rhyme 1" addresses heightened security measures © The Artist / Photo Thelma Garcia/ Courtesy Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris-Brussels.

The 50 works of art presented in the Imperial War Museum’s “Age of Terror: Art Since 9/11” exhibition range from haunting minimalism—Iván Navarro’s "The Twin Towers" highlights the titular buildings’ absence through strategically placed mirrors and lights—to shocking irreverence—Jake and Dinos Chapman’s "Nein! Eleven," in true Young British Artist form, alludes to the fallen towers with twin piles of mutilated Nazi toy soldiers.

This eclectic mix of artworks may seem out of place at the U.K.’s premier war museum, but in actuality, Jill Lawless of the Associated Press reports, the London institution has a thriving art collection and hopes to attract younger audiences by engaging with contemporary conflicts.

According to a museum press release, “Age of Terror” explores an array of artistic responses to violence and conflict in a post-9/11 world. Ai Weiwei, Gerhard Richter, Mona Hatoum and Coco Fusco are a sampling of the artists represented, and the mediums included range from film to photography and sculpture.

Curator Sanna Moore tells The New York Times’ Hettie Judah that the show “reflects on the continuing state of emergency we’ve been in and how the world has changed: mass surveillance, civil rights, detentions without trial.”

Works are grouped according to four main themes: direct or immediate responses to 9/11, state surveillance and security, humans’ tenuous relationship with weaponry, and the damage violence inflicts on landscapes, architecture and people.

As Judah of the Times writes, the show begins with pieces that directly address the events of 9/11, including Tony Oursler’s jarring footage from the day and Hans-Peter Feldmann’s "9/12 Front Page," an assemblage of 151 newspaper pages covering the attack.

Next, in the Big Brother-esque category of state surveillance, Jitish Kallat presents "Circadian Rhyme 1," a row of figurines receiving body checks, while Ai Weiwei renders a surveillance camera in marble.

Other exhibition highlights include Martha Rosler’s "House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, New Series," which juxtaposes war violence with images of domesticity, and James Bridle’s "Drone Shadow," a full-scale outline of the weapon mapped onto the floor of the museum’s atrium.

Bridle tells Judah that he wanted to translate his abstract conception of drones into a tangible reality.

“Drones are one of those technologies that seemed to go from science fiction to completely mundane without going through a critical-thinking stage,” he says. “It seemed to stand for so much: war, crime, violence and technology.”

“Age of Terror: Art Since 9/11” will be on view at the Imperial War Museum London until May 28, 2018.