War Primer 2 – Brecht, Broomberg and Chanarin


The original War Primer by Brecht consisted of photo-epigrams, this is a newspaper clippings of images from the Second World War, accompanied by a 4 line poem. It’s a classic example of appropriation of images and text to produce a postmodern piece of art. The book was a satirical, practical manual on how to read press photographs. War Primer 2, however, takes the original War Primer and images of conflict from either side of the “War on Terror”. These images have been found on the internet, edited, then added directly on top of the original. When viewed in reality, the ‘new’ images feel as though they have been literally stuck on top of the original book, which I think is a very clever touch. This makes the viewer feel War Primer 2 “simultaneously a betrayal and a homage” to the original.


This piece is a critique of contemporary conflict in a similar way to Martha Rosler’s “Grey Drape”, a photomontage of the Iraq and Vietnam wars. They comment on history repeating itself, suggesting that human beings are still the same, only our methods, techniques and technologies have advanced since then. The human condition is unaltered.


The original “War Primer” had a far more literal connection between the poetry and the images. Whereas, the use of the original text with the new images creates new metaphors, narratives and gets the viewer is pushed to explore the symbolism behind the images being used, trying to connect it in a more abstract sense. I think that this was done either unintentionally, due to the difficulty of finding images that relate perfectly to the original newspaper clipping and the poem that where literal. Or it was done intentionally, as they wanted to add a different layer of meaning, making the metanarrative of the book very poetic and using the connection between the image and language in a far more abstract way.


This book links to my project, as I believe that my current work is very similar to a visual essay. (However, mine wouldn’t be about war or currently plan on sticking images into an existing book.) It links to my collage work and research into other artists who work with collage, photomontage and text. This piece will influencing my composition and my style.


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