Space, time and war: kennardphillipps’ Time Difference

 

This is an image of a photomontage by kennardphillipps from 2005 that I’ve been using at the start of academic talks on my research over the course of the last year or so. While it may at first glance appear relatively straightforward, for me it continues to prompt associations with thinking on war and geopolitics in cultural and political geography.

It suggests something about the division of space under sovereign power, the way that power is projected across space via military force, and how it often converges on urban spaces (as explored by writers such as Stephen Graham). The arrangement of the clocks triangulates Iraq as the war zone between the US and UK and evokes a situation where, while life runs as normal in New York and London, in Baghdad, time is determined by militarised conflict. There’s some ambiguity about where the clocks might appear – such arrangements are familiar from cinematic and televisual representations of war rooms, news rooms or corporate headquarters. That ambiguity can no doubt be read in alignment with kennardphillipps’ concern with the close links between political, military, media and corporate power as well as their direct opposition to the Iraq war. And the work would no doubt be viewed very differently by different people depending on their experience of and knowledge about the war. When we start to unpack such issues, the work is by no means straightforward.

The image also resonates with thinking on the meaning of war-time and how this changes with shifts in technology and the social organisation of war. This theme featured heavily in Derek Gregory’s recent British Academy talk (audio and slides here). A big message that I took from the lecture (which concluded with some images from Martha Rosler, another key practitioner of war-related photomontage) and which I take from Time Difference is that both the command and experience of time and space in war are complex, and need to be understood as such.

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