Play War: Homemade Recreational Battlefields
At 6:30pm on a warm Thursday afternoon I walked into the Emory Center for Visual Arts to see Ruth Dusseault’s second showing of Play War. The gallery had selected twenty works, all of the same size, to be placed along its walls. This was a bit of a surprise since the photographer usually shoots with a wide format camera that lends itself to large prints. However, the intimacy of the 24×30 prints allowed the viewers to enter into the world that Dusseault has discovered.
Play War is a documentation of the culture of paintball within its landscape. Being a photographer within the College of Architecture, Dusseault is keenly aware of constructed environments. As she mentioned during her talk, she had just happened upon one of these massive constructions while walking in the woods. It is interesting to note the imaginations of the ‘architects’ of these constructions. Some structures were made out of turned over swimming pools, left-over construction bits, and sewer pipes. In some instances whole towns were built, which start to reflect what our society thinks of architecture. In this photo the idea of church is explored: a rose window, arched windows.
What began as a documentation of landscapes turned into a documentation of culture. The portraits began. What is so interesting about these people is that they are so creative! They’ve adopted the bright fluorescents of construction vernacular, as well as added an athletic twist. Some of the athletics are inspired from Motorcross, and others are inspired from the Hispanic flavor of futbol fashion, especially referee uniforms. In some instances of the paintball games recreations of historic battles are introduced, such as the Korean War, Vietnam, etc. These lead to intricate costumes, that come across as almost tribal.
Our culture is obsessed with fighting and violence. We live in an incredibly violent culture. The artist stated that her ten-year-old son received a plethora of [toy] guns for his tenth birthday. Her reaction was one of shock and surprise. Who do these people think they are giving her baby these mock-ups of annihilation? What does it mean that we raise our young to appreciate playing war? How can we expect them to know the difference between playing and practicing? Especially when the Army is two mouse-clicks away from almost any paintball website?
As I left the gallery, stepping out again into the warm night, my head was full of questions. How do girls fit into this culture? Should women even be involved with guns and playing war? I appreciate their creativity and enthusiasm so much, so why should I want to squelch someone’s game? In documenting the culture of paintball in a simultaneously empathetic and objective way, the artist leaves us in a state of quandary of our own relation to the subject of playing war.
Play War: Visual Center for the Arts Emory University
700 Peavine Creek Drive
Atlanta, GA 30332
Ongoing until April 23, 2010.
[ events, image, issue_7, Kelly Darby, photography, Ruth Dusseault, volumne_1 ]