At the close of the First Gulf War, feminist architectural historian Beatriz Colomina wrote that “war today speaks about the difficulty of establishing the limits of domestic space.” That conflict of 1990-91 is most often cited as the first to pull the waging of war fully into the digital age and therefore into a blurring of boundaries of all kinds. Yet, most modern wars have introduced technological innovations that transform social relations and modes of communication and representation. In this paper Caren Kaplan focuses on a period that includes the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and extends into the “War on Terror” through a consideration of Martha Rosler’s photo collage series “House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home” (1967-2004). The technique of collage reinforces the artist’s emphatic effort to bring together seemingly incommensurable elements—images of exquisite domestic interiors, glamorous consumer commodities, and landscapes and bodies damaged by warfare. Literally bringing wars waged by the United States throughout this long durée into the hyper commodified environment of fashion layouts and magazine advertisement, Rosler demonstrates the impossibility of limiting domestic space, an impossibility that challenges representation across genres and practices—televisual, photographic, cinematic, social media, analogue, digital, etc. Such disturbances of “here” and “there,” “now” and “then,” resonate as powerful “aftermaths” of wars visible and invisible, always already underway.
Caren Kaplan is Professor of American Studies at the UC Davis. Her research draws on cultural geography, landscape art, and military history to explore the ways in which undeclared as well as declared wars produce representational practices of atmospheric politics. Recent publications include Aerial Aftermaths: Wartime from Above (Duke 2018) and Life in the Age of Drone Warfare (Duke 2017).