If you hear voices emanating from the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Union Square, don’t worry — you aren’t going crazy. Beginning this week, Lincoln will serve as a projection screen for a work of art by Polish artist Krysztof Wodiczko. The 23-minute video features edited interviews with 14 U.S. veterans about the trauma of war and the difficulty of coming home. As they speak, their faces are projected onto Lincoln’s face and their hands gesture atop the president’s frozen body.
Like much of Wodiczko’s work, “Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection,” on view in Union Square Park from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day through December 9, is an attempt to give marginalized groups a chance to tell their own stories. (His 1986 project “Homeless Projection: A Proposal for Union Square” projected still images of objects associated with homelessness onto four monumental sculptures in the park.)
For “War Veteran Projection,” Wodiczko didn’t limit himself to survivors of our current war: the work features interviews with a wide variety of veterans from Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They include Luis Crossman, a 63-year-old vet from Vietnam who describes cleaning up blood as it seeped out of body bags, and Lyndsey Anderson, a member of the Iowa Army National Guard deployed to Iraq in 2003.
“Lincoln himself was traumatized by war. He was a veteran of the worst war in U.S. history,” Wodiczko told the Wall Street Journal. “The most important aspect of this project is the psychotherapeutic effect for people who are speaking. When they come here I hope they will see themselves speaking to the world and to the public, and what they say they will internalize and absorb back, and this will really give them more confidence, more power and also recognition of the truth of their experience.”
As one participant told the WSJ, “Most people are not coming to see the vet part. They are coming to see the art part. But through art they will hear the vet story, and maybe this will change and broaden their minds.”
— Julia Halperin
(Image: Krzysztof Wodiczko’s rendering of the planned “Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection,” 2012. Courtesy the artist, Galerie Lelong.)