The Hellfire Story
In the Main Space
This is the story of the Hellfire Missile system as told in a series of drawings by artist Kenny Cole, using hand drawn text copied from 125 expressionless milestones listed on an Army website chronicling decades of development from early laser research in the sixties to full blown deployment in the nineties.
The story continues into the larger exhibition space with 175 hanging two-sided placards that chronicle the use of the Hellfire Missile as the weapon of choice for drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004. On one side are the attack stats and on the other biblical text.
A Draw-A-Thon, sponsored by Code Pink Maine, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, Maine Veterans for Peace and The Union of Maine Visual Artists, will take place Thursday November 11 from 10am to 4pm in the large gallery as a part of the campaign to “Bring Our War Dollars Home”. Artists interested in signing up to participate are asked to contact Pat Taub at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hellfire Story
The Hellfire missile first gained my artistic attention in 2006, while I was creating “Prison Papers”, a series of drawings on found prison record forms, in which I depicted weaponry from the world’s arsenal of missiles and bombs. I had decided to create that series many, many years after the first Operation Desert Storm, which, at the time, had felt to me like the beginning of a new era of warfare, in that we (the U.S.) would even fight another war in a post-Vietnam world, and several years after 9/11, which was a truly galvanizing experience for me in terms of steering my artistic pursuits more determinedly towards trying to understand what I perceived to be a burgeoning militarization of the world. In researching the various missiles and bombs for the “Prison Papers” drawings I became enamored with their cartoon-like nomenclature. They had names like Walleye, Bull Pup and Shillelagh and I wanted to explore the immense contradiction this presented within the context of the hideous nature of these weapons. Out of the many weapons that I depicted, the Hellfire stood out as having a name with more than the average amount of emotional, psychological and religious baggage and thus deserving of deeper exploration on its own. Further study of its etymology revealed that this missile’s name was the irresistible, inevitable compounding of its original function as a Helicopter fired missile into the singular, but clearly more suggestive, Hellfire missile. In our current times, as it has come to pass, this missile is now actively deployed in our war against terror via unmanned Predator drones for targeted assassinations of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban individuals. The “Hellfire Story” began as a series of small ink drawings begun in April of 2009 and has been expanded for this exhibition to include 175 hanging placards and a wall painting. The original 125 drawings source their text content from the system chronology of the Hellfire missile system as told on an Army website. The chronology begins in 1966, continues into the 1990’s and is told as a series of short, one or two sentence developmental milestones. The drawings are hand rendered as drawn text with loosely appropriated scientific illustrations. My intention with this “part of the story” is to create a sense of association with the chronology on the part of the viewer and an opportunity to consider their own personal history living in this world as these weapons are developed. Additionally I hope to engender a greater understanding of the scale and magnitude of weaponry development. The next “part of the story” explores the current deployment of the Hellfire Missile through targeted attacks via unmanned aerial drones. For this I created 175 two-sided hanging placards, which is the number of drone attacks in Pakistan (Did you know we are fighting a war there?) by the U.S. since 2004, including anticipated attacks for the remainder of 2010 (Wikipedia). On one side are the attack stats and on its reverse are expressions of destruction and violence, which I have gleaned from random perusals of Old Testament text. The placards mimic gospel text signs that I have noticed alongside the roads near where I live here in rural Maine. My intention again is to present a sense of scale and magnitude, in this case, with the increasing use of a weapon that is deployed as a remotely operated robotic form of warfare and to question our relationship toward this latest form of warfare.