You Are What You Beat

Behind the Lines: Mapping Identity Through Conflict
By appt.
Through Feb 3
i2i gallery
2110 McCullough

In an era of political upheaval and global violence, the numbing effects of casualty counts and war propaganda can confound even the most patriotic American. Our split political personality screams out for consistency and searches for a sturdy definition of American identity. Yet, ironically, there’s nothing like war to leave a permanent mark.

Connecticut-based Ted Efremoff explores the personal and social implications of warfare in his installation at i2i gallery, employing hand-drawn maps of the world, stickers, photography, and video to reflect upon the personal travel diary of one United States soldier. Laden with images of tattoos and scars from the soldier’s body, the maps explore the subject’s conflict-ridden personality. These ghastly, painful, and often eerily playful forms permeate the borders of tumultuous nations such as Columbia, Iraq, and Indonesia. The images redefine boundaries; country borders are no longer simple lines, but a reflection of this soldier and his army.

The southern wall of the gallery features a continental world map marked at various locations with tattooed red stars. The northern wall, covered in a menagerie of fanciful winged devils, skulls, fish, and images of the soldier, reveals an enlarged version of each starred site. Images of the soldier in various poses is portrayed in bird’s-eye perspective. The figure often sits in a closed position with arms tightly wrapped around drawn knees, ducking his head toward the earth. These photographs fail to offer a full view of the soldier’s face and his expressionless presence successfully amplifies the emotional charge of the installation.

The many portraits of the soldier are surrounded by images from his tattooed body. A trio of razors, bullets, and nails (a tattoo from his left arm) marks the border of Panama and Columbia, while dancing devils and ominous skulls dot the landscape of the Middle East. Perhaps the most poignant image is the repeated undulating form of two Koi, beautifully rendered in turquoise and cobalt; closer inspection, however, reveals a flaw. A large pink oval gashes the abdomen of one fish, mirroring the scars that cover the soldier’s body — each shiny pink blemish is a reminder of the repercussions of war. The juxtaposition of tattooed icons and war wounds not only reflects the pain of the soldier, but the political turmoil surrounding each country. Suddenly the tattooed figures reveal greater meaning. Dancing devils now represent the conflict in Iraq as well as the conflicting elements of the human psyche. Efremoff grafts the skin of this man onto each country, creating a travel diary outlined in physical pain and emotional dichotomy.

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