War Primer 3: Work Primer is a reworking of Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s War Primer 2 itself a reworking of the 1998 English edition of Bertolt Brecht’s Kriegsfibel. In this unique examination of war and photography Brecht sought to extract the hidden meanings behind images of conflict with short poems modeled on the funerial epigrams of the ancient world. Broomberg and Chanarin in turn updated Brecht’s book by introducing images from the War on Terror, each intended to resonate with Brecht’s original text.

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While brilliant in some respects, Broomberg and Chanarin’s followup was also deeply problematic. I felt particularly uncomfortable with the book’s existence as an expensive, editioned art object, and the use of unpaid, uncredited intern labour in its production, things which seemed extremely difficult to reconcile with Brecht’s politics. In response to these concerns, and in the spirit of Brecht’s playful invocation not to ‘start with the good old things but the bad new ones’ I have reworked the digital edition of Broomberg and Chanarin’s book into a ‘work primer’ on economics and labour, past and present, at home and abroad.

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To do this I have replaced Brecht’s original epigrams with text from his poem A Worker Reads Historya meditation on the forgotten workers of history, and reordered the pages of the book to loosely match the words of the poem. To this new narrative structure I have added new text and images which overlay those already added by Broomberg and Chanarin. The result is a small tribute to the forgotten of today, the largely unacknowledged workers, labourers, and slaves that keep the engine of the world, even the fine art world, turning.

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View War Primer 3  book

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Download War Primer 3  PDF

 

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Lewis Bush

Photographer & Writer