Summer 2006

Artist Project / Chicago

Improving the “art of destruction”

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin

Below: photos by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, from their forthcoming book Chicago (SteidlMack). Given the international outcry that followed the April 2002 destruction of the center of the Jenin refugee camp, the IDF realized that it had to push its engineering corps to improve its “art of destruction,” which had apparently spun out of control. As part of these efforts, two months after the attack on Jenin, in June 2002, the military started to build a series of urban warfare training sites and to upgrade existing ones. The mock-up town of Shizafon (last image), located in the Negev desert and hidden from view by mountains, reflects Israeli Orientalist fantasy. Another small mock-up town called Chicago (first three images) and also located in the Negev, was upgraded into the world’s largest fabricated Oriental city since the filming of Ben-Hur. In fact the “urban” history of Chicago has shadow-tracked much of the history of the military operations that have taken place in the Middle East, reflecting a series of changes in how Israel imagines its security. The core of Chicago was built as a small training site for IDF urban operations in Lebanon. It later expanded to accommodate the training of IDF special forces for their aborted operation to assassinate Saddam Hussein in Tiqrit. Chicago further expanded before the Iraq war to allow for heavy military vehicles and was used for training by the US Marines. In the summer of 2005, training for the evacuation of the Gaza settlements took place there, with actors playing settlers barricading themselves within their homes. Chicago now includes an area called the Kasbah (a historical-looking market area with narrow alleys), an urban outskirts, a refugee camp, a downtown area, and even an adjacent rural village. Before some special training sessions, the IDF invites a stage designer, usually employed at a Tel Aviv theater, to provide and organize the relevant props.

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin are a photographic team based in London. They were the editors and principal photographers of Colors magazine and are the author of three photographic books. Chicago, their most recent book project, will be exhibited at the Steven Kasher Gallery, New York in October 2006. See [link defunct—Eds.].

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