War Primer 3
(2013 – 2015)
War Primer 3 is a reworking of Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s War Primer 2 itself a reworking of Bertolt Brecht’s Kriegsfibel. A remarkable critique of the relationship between war and photography, Kriegsfibel combines familiar conflict photographs with short poems inspired by the funereal epigrams of the ancient world.
In 2012 Broomberg and Chanarin updated Brecht by introducing images from the so-called War on Terror, each intended to resonate with Brecht’s original text. While in some respects brilliant, in other ways War Primer 2 was deeply problematic, particularly because of the use of unpaid, uncredited intern labour in its production. In the spirit of Brecht’s playful invocation not to ‘start with the good old things but the bad new ones’ I responded to this by reworking Broomberg and Chanarin’s book into a new work primer, a meditation on inequality, labour, capital and power.
By restructuring their book around the text of Brecht’s poem A Worker Reads History, and adding new images and text a third incarnation of the book comes into being, one designed as a tribute, and in some cases an epitaph, to the anonymous many who keep the engines of the world turning.
Shortlisted for the Bar Tur Book Award 2014.