Lesson: Jeremy Deller: Conversing about Conflict

  • Grade Level: High School (9-12 grade)
  • Subject Area: History, English, Social Studies, Visual Arts, and New Media
  • Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.
  • Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.
  • Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.
  • Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.
  • Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.
  • Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.
  • Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.Installation detail of "It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq," 2009.

Introduction

Written by Dina Weiss, G:Class Educator
A high school collaboration exploring the exhibition “It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq” by Jeremy Deller.

“For the past seven years I have been obsessed with events in the Middle East, principally Iraq. It has been on my mind constantly, either at the forefront, or as a nagging buzz at the back of it. No doubt it has had an effect on many decisions I have made and actions I have taken. In that respect for better or worse it has changed me. I suspect I can’t be the only person to have felt this.”

Jeremy Deller, February 2009

Jeremy Deller is an artist who takes on many different roles to create his work, such as curator, writer, editor, filmmaker, activist, and educator. He is interested in highlighting pivotal cultural moments through a variety of means – exhibitions, films, performances, parades, and historic reenactments. Deller works in a similar manor to an anthropologist, where he archives, examines, and creates social happenings in order to highlight vital cultural issues. In this exhibition, he is focusing on Iraq and the horrific impact the war has had. Deller is providing a forum inside the gallery space to encourage an open dialogue between museum visitors and the people he has invited who have first hand experience of the region such as journalists, Iraqi nationalists, scholars, artists, and veterans.

Objectives

  • Students will learn about and engage in a discussion on the Iraq War.

Vocabulary

Anthropology is the science of human beings, especially the study of human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture; theology dealing with the origin, nature, and destiny of human beings.
Culture is the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.
Invasion is an unwelcome intrusion into another’s domain.
Intervention means to occur, fall, or come between points of time or events; to come in or between by way of hindrance or modification.
Nationalist is an advocate or believer in patriotism; a member of a political party or group advocating independence or strong national government.
War is a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations.

Materials

Jeremy Deller’s images from the digital archives
Journals, pencil, paper, and digital cameras

Lesson Strategy

Open Discussion:
1. What do you know about the Iraq War?
2. Where did you learn about the war? Through media? Friends, parents, teachers?
3. What events led up to the Iraq war?

  • A search for weapons of mass destruction.
  • The tragic events of 9/11

4. What does it mean to invade another country? And what reasons are there for invasion? Who has the right or a reason to invade a country? Possible reasons:

  • Liberate people from a dictatorship
  • Democratize the government

5. What result has the war brought to the Iraqi people? Results so far:

  • New leader
  • Democratic government
  • Failing Infrastructure
  • Insurgence violence and suicide bombs
  • Thousands of deaths

Questions:
What is daily life like for the Iraqi people? And more specifically what would life be like as an Iraqi teenager today?

Project:
1. Discuss the Iraq war and research Al-Mutanabi, the famous Iraqi poet and the street named for him, which became the cultural and literary hub in Baghdad. The street was bombed in March of 2007, and thirty-eight were killed and hundreds injured at a crowded book market. It has just recently opened again.

2. Explore and document through journal writing and taking photographs of your local community. Select sites that represent significant cultural hubs, such as community centers, music and/or art venues, schools, and restaurants. The goal will be to juxtapose these local images with the journal writings about Iraq.

3. For one week students will imagine that they are an Iraqi teenager and write journal entries logging their daily activities. Asking questions such as: What is your commute to school like? What social activities happen after school, on the weekends, with friends and family?

4. Print and discuss the photographs along with the journals. As a group identify the main issues explored. Select a photograph and journal entry from each student

5. Present and exhibit selected photographs and writings for your peers, teachers, and family to view at your school in the hallway, in the classroom, or another school space.

6. Reflection: Allow the class to discuss their project and the responses from its school community.

Assessment

Evaluate student participation through their discussions, journals, photographs, and survey.

Extending the Lesson

Connect with an Iraqi high school and develop a pen-pal relationship. Allowing students to ask each other questions about their lives and gain an understanding of their similarities and differences.

Additional Resources

Project website: http://www.conversationsaboutiraq.org/index.php
Selected passages from Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag