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A project like "Killer Entertainments," by Jenny Terry and Raegan Kelly, is necessary in a time of war. This project recalls the response of many reporters, teachers and activists to the Vietnam War. That historical antecedent is crucial because we are addressing many of the same issues as forty years ago with our current military involvement in Iraq. "Killer Entertainments" builds upon the Vietnam War's legacy of gonzo journalism and teach-ins while using new approaches to scholarship and technologies.
In "Killer Entertainments," we have gonzo multimedia on the role of video in the War in Iraq. This project does not strive for an unerring objectivity, but rather bring us into a subjective relationship with videos produced by and around the War in Iraq. The tripartite screen structure reminds us of the sectarian divides that are ripping Iraq apart and of the multiplicity of viewpoints operative in this militarized zone. We can be focused on one video, or be distracted as we watch three simultaneously. There is no privileged framing of one video over another. They are called forth from numerous video sharing sites on the Internet. Terry and Kelly have taken the videos from their original contexts and offer them up in a new space of appropriation and reuse. Scholarly notes and observations that are connected to each video are literally strafed across the screen with each click of the mouse. Our desire to be spectators produces links that pierce the screen as bullet holes, the ultimate bullet points. The project's reflexive thrust—from its performative aspects to its interface design to the videos themselves—reminds us that our watching these videos must come at a cost.
As active participants in this project, we also must make sense of it. What knowledge does this project call forth? What are we to do about these various video practices? In this regard, "Killer Entertainments" reminds me of a teach-in. There is much to learn and know about video's new wartime roles, and Terry provides us political, regional, cinematic and technological histories to make sense of some of these roles. But most importantly, these videos are not virtual abstractions. The War in Iraq is happening. These videos capture the human costs of war. In a second set of bullet points that appear at the bottom of the project, Terry and Kelly provide us with specific and local meanings that are connected to each video we are viewing. Numbing ourselves to the spectacular nature of these videos is not an option.
Finally, the project takes advantage of the Vectors space to bring these videos to our attention. We do not just read about these videos, we experience them. In their stunning variety, we are sadly reminded of the paucity of images we view on our television sets nightly, and the limits of our current political discourse on the War in Iraq. Most of these images are absent in our collective consciousness. "Killer Entertainments" reminds us forcefully that acts of viewing are political acts, and our society's inability to see this War clearly is not the fault of video cameras.
- Richard L. Edwards, Indiana University's School of Informatics, 09.24.2007