I have a vivid memory of the second Gulf War. Not from experiencing it first hand, but from walking into my friend’s room, seeing her TV blaring as she excitedly exclaimed, “they’re bombing Baghdad RIGHT NOW and we can watch it!” with a big smile on her face. I was struck with a wave of disgust because she was right, CNN was live-streaming the US military bombing Iraq. I was like, “why the FUCK would you want to watch that???” And at that moment, I realized I was the weird one because millions of people were tuned in to salivate over chaos and destruction from the comfort of their homes. Chaos and destruction wrought upon another nation, sanctioned by lies and greed and the total ignorance of what it must be like to be on the receiving end of those bombs.
Otto Dix’s paintings of World War I are far more vivid than those night-vision CNN images that are burned into my brain. His visions are more real than the “reality” coldly displayed in whatever massive pixel format TVs have reached by now. They show emotions; they strike fear into my heart and churn my stomach with stunning colors and flamboyant death strokes. These aren’t images you can enjoy. They’re images of real death and terror, and somehow they abstractly capture the sensation of rats crawling across frozen feet and eardrums ringing with the aftershocks of shells. The war to end all wars didn’t. How is it that the closer we can get to “reality,” the further we get from experience?