Los Angeles art exhibition features the National Training Center

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — A new art exhibition featuring the National Training Center and Fort Irwin is on display at the LAXART gallery in Hollywood from March 3 to April 7. The multi-channel video installation, created by Israeli artist Nira Pereg, contemplates the nature of authenticity, simulation, fiction and the theater of war.

Upon entering, visitors are immersed in a low-lit world reminiscent of a museum auditorium. A series of four screens placed along a low, stair-step shelf display footage of the Box training area that Pereg took during her visit to the NTC in 2016.

The first screen in the series simply shows the text of military cadences, read aloud by an electronic voice. Two of the other screens run footage of informal interviews with “Rock Star,” a civilian reenactor originally from Iraq who balances stones into gravity-defying towers, as well as an NTC Soldier who shows Pereg pictures of his paintings on his phone. Another screen depicts Soldiers reading the script of a training scenario in Razish, a city at the NTC.

Playing in a loop on the wall beyond these screens are ghostly geometric figures that are animated using motion capture from first-person shooter video games.

Two adjacent rooms show footage of Soldiers on patrol. In one room, the Soldiers patrol through a town in Iraq. In the second room, they patrol through the streets of Razish. Standing from across the gallery, the two rooms can be viewed simultaneously, so that the footage appears as mirror images.

A third and final room is dedicated to burros. Videos of burros stopping cars in the Fort Irwin Town Center, chasing dogs and cropping grass in Jackrabbit Park play on several screens, accompanied by the sound of burro hooves clopping on pavement.

Pereg entitled her work “Melt Away Before You” or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Battle!” It is the second part of her “Redemption” trilogy, a body of work that deals with the heritage of ideology. In an LAXART press release, she explained:

“I think of the exhibition space as a ‘total institution’ (to quote sociologist Erving Goffman), incorporating different scenes and elements from ‘real’ and ‘staged’ events, and blurring the boundaries between the two. In this work, we see a performance staged in a realistic mock-up of a generic Middle Eastern village, with real soldiers depicting civilians; real Iraqi-American immigrants depicting real Iraqi citizens; shipping containers depicting Middle Eastern bazaar streets; and finally, real soldiers firing fake ammunition. For me, it was a rare opportunity to peer through a performative crack into the army’s ideological structure, masquerading as entertainment at Fort Irwin.”

The exhibition can be viewed for free at LAXART, located at 7000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, Calif. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, contact info@laxart.org or call (323) 871-4140.

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