Returning to New York City from Spain, Ivan Cortazar asked, “Where is the war?” as he explored his daily life searching for local evidence of the devastating USA invasion of Iraq. In sequences of irreducible photographic fragments, Cortazar discovered in our trash the essence of a destruction both distanced and calculated.
Cortazar’s photographic salvage focuses on discarded newspapers thrown into New York City’s typical wire garbage cans. This enclosure—like barbed wire, permits a perceptual field, which is both contained and permeable. With a fierce visual grace, Cortazar’s black & white photographs capture random newspaper headlines and image fragments of the hysteria, paranoia, brutality and ruinous waste of this prolonged siege.
The sanitized miscalculations of USA policy are here captured in our trash, discarded reductions of daily tragic history. The power of these elegant photographs is in their very darkness, the repeated mesh through which he allows us to see a frail debris, a haunting implication of incommensurate loss and suffering.
“Looking for Evidence” is a documentary project about the 2nd American war against Iraq.
As an alien in the USA, I wanted to document the streets of NYC during the war. I don’t have any relatives in either the US or Iraq. I don’t know any person fighting in that country nor any person directly involved in that conflict. When the war started I was a complete outsider living in a country at war. From that perspective, I tried to find the evidence of that war in the streets of NYC. For me, the city seemed to be the same and only few demonstrations, policemen in the subway and the constant 24-hour news broadcast made me feel that something was not “normal”. I kept living the same life; went to the movies, had dinner with friends and if I didn’t turn on the TV at night or buy the news, everything would be the same as before the war started.
I realized that basically, the signs of that war on the streets of NYC were newspapers spread through out the city massively. I could see people everywhere buying the news, reading them and soon afterwards, throwing them. All the garbage cans and sidewalks in the city were filled up with text and images that were telling a distant story. I wandered the streets of NY searching though the trash for evidence of a war I couldn’t and didn’t want to see with my bear eyes.
I felt so attracted to the fact that image and text were randomly mixed with the trash making natural collages. I say natural because only chance played in their creation, giving those collages a Dadaist flavor but without a Dada artist behind. Bullets were placed next to banana peels and popular culture debris were mixed up with an image of a chemical mask. The garbage cans were silent witnesses of what was happening, digesting everything and waiting the next day to get more. The garbage cans didn’t care about the tragedy of the conflict. They didn’t care about the dead people or the politicians’ words; they just played a foolish game making their own non-sense statements.
Just few weeks after the war started, it became harder and harder to find those signs of war on the streets of New York.