Project in collaboration with Rectangle (Lizzie Malcolm and Dan Powers)
“What does it mean to defend the dead?” Christina Sharpe, 2016
Over the duration of the exhibition, the names of 11,431 civilians alleged to have been killed by US-led Coalition strikes against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, were projected alongside the social media reports from which they were gathered. The names were grouped by assessments made by the nongovernment organisation, Airwars, which has monitored reports of civilian casualties since the conflict began in August 2014.
At the time of the exhibition in Detroit, the US-led Coalition had conceded just 1,190 civilian deaths over its four-year campaign against the so-called Islamic State. Conversely, by listening to social media, local news and speaking to monitors on the ground, Airwars had recorded over 28,000 alleged deaths.
In 2017, a New York Times article called the civilians killed by Coalition strikes, “the uncounted”. For the philosopher, Judith Butler, they are the “ungrievable” – those whose deaths exist outside the dominant frames of war.