Oh Dude
3 May 2011

Oh Dude

2 channel video installation
1 minute DVD loop

Oh Dude breaks with the heroic or benevolent war narrative that commonly framed images from Iraq as they were presented to a mainstream Television news audience. In displaying segments of footage outside the framework of a news narrative, a clearer perception arises, a closer view of the realities of technological warfare.

In April, 2004, during the US led Fallujah Offensive, a video clip was released by the Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad as part of their regular briefing sessions. It showed an airborne missile attack that took place over the city of Fallujah on April 10th of that same year.

The video, as seen through the cockpit monitor of an attacking F-16 bomber, shows a group of about 30 people moving down a street between buildings. From this vantage point it is impossible to tell who these people are: civilians or rebel fighters. A request to attack is made and immediately given the go ahead. Ten seconds later an explosion is seen in the area where these people are moving; a voice from the cockpit exclaiming: “Oh Dude”

Due to its explicit content and ambiguous nature this footage was never broadcast by mainstream American media outlets, but was made available by various alternative news web sites.

In a war of information where statements and images released by the US military are carefully chosen to represent a benign motivation, this video clip is an irregular document. Like the Abu Ghraib photos, which disclosed the interrogation activities of American prison guards, this video reveals the random nature of American airborne military strikes.

In a wider sense, the piece also explores the distance that exists between a Television viewer and the realities of a war zone, creating a self-reflexive moment – “if this is closer to a reality of what is happening, let me revisit and re-examine the narratives that I have digested…”

Perspectives and points-of-view
In re-presenting this incident I did not want to posit the viewer as a perpetrator of a missile attack by placing them inside the pilot’s cockpit or the pilot’s point-of-view. My aim was to create a site where the incident could be witnessed, where an audience could find distance to observe the events taking place before them.

By creating two screens displaying simultaneous and inter-related content (stock footage of an F-16 pilot in motion and the actual cockpit video), a third perspective is made available, a space to choose and shift one’s focus between the pilot’s presence, his point-of-view, his actions and the results of his actions.