Art Review


There's a remarkable show, Shock/Awe, currently in the back room at the Spark Gallery, 1535 Platte Street, 303-455-4435. This sophisticated exhibit features photos of television coverage of the Iraq war taken by Annalee Schorr, who's renowned for this kind of work.

Though Schorr is serious in her negative appraisal of U.S. policy regarding Iraq -- and of the big the role the media played in facilitating it -- she never loses her sense of humor. "I was 'embedded' with my TV set during the war," Schorr says. Her photos not only record the war as seen on cable, but the regular stuff, too. As bombers flew over Baghdad, sales were still being conducted on the shopping channels and the sitcoms were still running on the networks. And Schorr got shots of everything.

To take the images, Schorr set up a 35mm camera on a tripod and aimed the lens at her television screen. With the camera's plunger in one hand and her remote control in the other, she clicked the camera's shutter at the same split second she pushed the buttons on her remote. In this way she could go through thirty or more channels before running out of film.

Interestingly, Schorr created her first photos of television screens in 1991, during the first Gulf War, which was dubbed with the Hollywood-style nickname "Desert Storm" just as this time it's been named "Shock and Awe."

"I was inspired to do TV photos," Schoor says, "when I saw Martin Fletcher reporting from Tel Aviv -- and he was wearing a gas mask!"

Fletcher is one of a cast of characters from the first Gulf War who made repeat appearances, and Schorr has lined up portrait-style images of some of them, hanging the 1991 shots above their more recent photos. There's one exception, though: Since Bush junior wasn't around the first time, he's paired with Bush senior.

The then-and-now lineup is one element of Shock/Awe, which Schorr apparently intended viewers to see as a single installation; a detail is shown above. This topical show closes on May 25. -- Michael Paglia