NET GALLERY (2003 - 2009)




Landscapes of Absence


Brandon Bauer



The project Landscapes of Absence explores the ethical issues around the use of ISIS propaganda within broadcast media. Beginning in 2014 a series of brutal beheadings of Western journalists made it too dangerous to report from areas under the control of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. This project examines the use of propaganda in the absence of reliable and objective images. While objectivity in journalism is a contested issue, the use of the term in this project is meant to indicate a fact driven, evidence based, and verifiable approach to reporting. The project uses images drawn from eight beheading incidents disseminated through ISIS media outlets. In this project, these images are digitally erased, leaving only the landscape and the absence of the dehumanized image as a metaphor for the larger issue of the absence of reliable reporting from this region. In describing these images as "dehumanized", I intend to convey that the images created by ISIS rob dignity from these victims of violence explicitly for the purpose of propaganda as a mediated spectacle. While there is an important lineage of erasure in modern and contemporary art, this project uses erasure for a different end. Much of the use of erasure in visual art since Modernism has been for iconoclastic ends, whereas this project uses erasure as a way to reassert dignity through the signification of the absence of the dehumanized image. The project includes a series of eight 22.5"x30" descriptive print works about the beheading incidents, four 40"x60" landscape mural prints, a single-channel video, along with a print publication with information about the project. The project was first exhibited in April of 2016 in the Caestecker Gallery at the C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts on the campus of Ripon College in Ripon, WI.



Terrain under which the self-proclaimed Islamic State exerts its control becomes a landscape of absence. The Islamic State emerged from the insurgency against the U.S. invasion of Iraq as an Al-Qaeda affiliate. This organization is known by several names and acronyms, such as: IS (Islamic State), ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham), ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), or in Arabic as al-Dawla al-Islamiyah fil Iraq wa al-Sham, leading to the acronym Daesh or Da'ish.(1) In February of 2014, Al-Qaeda formally cut ties with ISIS, disagreeing with their tactics and the group's focus on the seizure of territory.(2) By June of 2014, after successfully expanding its control over several Iraqi cities, ISIS proclaimed itself to be a worldwide caliphate.(3) The extra-legal territorial entity of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, has little precedence, and no desire to legitimately enter the world community. In the past, even the most murderous and despotic regimes, such as the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, or the Taliban in Afghanistan, found it useful to maintain standing in the United Nations or to develop international relations through the exchange of ambassadors. As Graeme Wood pointed out in his in-depth article in the Atlantic titled "What ISIS Really Wants," to the Islamic State, accepting these kinds of international norms is equivalent to heresy, and would constitute the recognition of "an authority other than God's."(4) Several western politicians and media pundits have described ISIS in hyperbolic language as a spreading "cancer."(5) While this moralistic language oversimplifies the issues surrounding the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the territorial governing body they have brought into being insists upon an existence defined by a set of rules different than any recognized international norm. Currently, the Islamic State's sphere of control is imposed upon multiple existing national territorial boundaries, and its borders are in continual conflict and flux. As the Islamic State's boundaries shrink in Iraq and Syria, they further expand into areas as geographically dispersed as Libya, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Russia.(6)

With the succession of brutal beheadings of journalists operating in ISIS territory that began in the autumn of 2014, objective reporting in ISIS controlled territory effectively ceased. News agencies stopped sending journalists into these regions due to the dangerous situation on the ground, and some major global news agencies stated they will not accept work from freelance reporters working in areas controlled by ISIS discouraging others to risk their lives.(7) ISIS issued its own rules for journalists operating in their territory. The first rule requires all journalists within their territory to swear allegiance to the Islamic State.(8) Given the lack of regular and reliable reporting, little is known about daily life within what has been described by counterterrorism expert Brian Fishman as a "governmental amoeba" constituting the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Fishman coined this term in a March 2007 essay titled "Fourth Generation Governance," written for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. His essay described the theoretical foundations for the justification of a modern Islamic nation-state by ISIS in their document "Informing the People about the Birth of the Islamic State of Iraq." With this document, written before ISIS claimed any territory, they envisioned an Islamic State as an amorphous state of constantly shifting zones of control, with borders extending "so far as men stand with guns to defend it."(9) ISIS propaganda directed at the West focuses on war, provocation, and intimidation, but in the areas it controls or is attempting to take over, it paints a picture of the caliphate it wishes to build as a family-friendly, Islamic utopia.(10) Reports from refugees and others who have escaped ISIS territory reveal a different reality. As a United Nations report outlining ISIS war crimes in Syria states:

ISIS has perpetrated murder and other inhumane acts, enslavement, rape, sexual slavery and violence, forcible displacement, enforced disappearance and torture. These acts have been committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population […].(11)

Without regular and reliable reporting these horrific conditions remain out of sight, while at the same time the 24-hour broadcast news cycle in the United States churns out the Islamic State's own sophisticatedly crafted propaganda images of shock and horror, or the ISIS battle footage of black clad militants marching defiantly and triumphantly into cities as B-roll footage and visual shorthand for the group. As Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department's special envoy leading the international coalition against ISIS under the Obama Administration stated, "When that file footage gets out there it actually risks bolstering their image, and can contribute to foreign fighter recruitment and supporting the myth of their invincibility."(12) These images inspire fear and outrage as they cycle on in the media, and they are meant to. The U.S. State Department and the Pentagon have urged broadcasters to use alternate images of the conflict, for instance footage of U.S. troops training Iraqi security forces or video of airstrikes against ISIS targets.(13) These suggestions would supplant a narrative of the conflict with an official U.S. counter-narrative, but would unfortunately get no closer to the truth for those living within the self-proclaimed Islamic State. In the absence of objective counter-images uncovering the reality of the situation, the propaganda ISIS creates is a seductive spectacle, yet these images continue to underscore the narrative they intend for us to see.



ISIS crafts provocative propaganda for maximum impact and shock in the West, yet these atrocities are all too present in the areas under ISIS control. The creators of these images exploit the spectacular nature of the propaganda they create. As the insightful cultural critic Susan Sontag noted in her book, Regarding the Pain of Others, the nature of the spectacle is a privileged position. As she writes, "To speak of reality becoming a spectacle is a breathtaking provincialism. It universalizes the viewing habits of a small, educated population living in the rich part of the world, where news has been converted into entertainment."(14) As Sontag so eloquently points out, the rhetoric of spectacle conceals the all-too-real lived experience beyond the facade of the images we consume. The brutality of the Islamic State's medieval sense of justice is put on display in the public squares of the cities they control, but their brutality is also crafted for Western audiences through sophisticated networks of communication where "YouTube becomes the pike on which the severed heads are displayed."(15) The sensational spectacle of beheadings is meant to serve several simultaneous purposes; as gruesome propaganda calling attention to ISIS and their aims, as direct provocation to Western governments and religious authorities, as a demonstration of the Islamic State's medieval sense of justice, as a way to lure new recruits, to assist fundraising, and finally as an assertion of the Islamic State's control over their own image. The highly sophisticated propaganda videos by ISIS seem to be created specifically to circulate through Western broadcast and social media. The now infamous beheading videos do not actually show the details of the gruesome acts. As Alex Gibney, a documentary film director and producer, commented:

It is an interesting aesthetic choice not to show the actual beheading, I can't be sure, but they seemed to dial it back just enough so that it would get passed around. In a way, it makes it all the more chilling, that it was so carefully stage-managed and edited to achieve the maximum impact.(16)

This deliberateness speaks to the sophisticated nature of their efforts. These are not the crude low-quality ransom videos that have been created by other militant organizations that have proliferated particularly since the 2002 abduction and beheading of the American-Israeli journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan.(17) These videos are scripted and planned, shot in High Definition video using multiple camera angles, and employing state of the art graphics and logos. There has been much speculation about the manipulation of images in their videos using advanced techniques like green screen production and rotoscoping.(18) Beyond the advanced production techniques of the videos, ISIS has also found ways to magnify their message through social media channels with the use of Twitter bots, hashtag hijacking, and by as J.M. Berger pointed out in his 2014 Atlantic article: "to focus-group messaging and branding concepts, much like a Western corporation might."(19) Years before the headlines concerning the hacking of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections and the use of social media to amplify divisive messaging by Russian troll farms, ISIS was exploiting social media platforms to deliver their message in a manner greatly disproportionate to their actual base of support. By continuing to circulate these images western broadcast media became unwitting accomplices further amplifying ISIS provocation as it echoed around the globe.



Beyond the dehumanization of the victims in the beheading videos, ISIS has also been waging a war against world heritage by destroying culturally important archeological sites within their sphere of control. These acts of destruction were broadcast for a worldwide audience as another act of ruthless provocation. In response to these acts of destruction there have been several absurdist articles making the connection between the iconoclasm of ISIS and the provocative statements made by the Futurists a century ago, making the claim that this kind of cultural erasure is a barbaric fulfillment of the iconoclastic language found in early Modernist literature. The foremost example being the call to "destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind" found in the 1909 'Founding Manifesto of Futurism.'(20) As an example, the April 1, 2015 article published by the editors of Hyperallergic titled "ISIS to Exhibit Floating Pavilion of Art Destruction at Venice Biennale." This article describes an unauthorized Islamic State pavilion on a boat in which Biennale participants bring artworks to destroy, create viral videos, and leave with limited edition ISIS tote bags in hand.(21) While being an April Fool's Day prank, the article cites the clear iconoclastic lineage these early Modernist provocateurs gave rise to. They cite works such as Robert Rauschenberg's 1953 drawing Erased de Kooning, the Jean Tinguely's 1960 self-destructive sculpture performance Homage to New York, Ai Weiwei's 1995 photo-documented Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, as well as the "Art Amnesty Project," a 2015 exhibition at MoMA's PS1 by Bob and Roberta Smith, in which the public was invited to throw their art into dumpsters. These citations are familiar justifications for continued acts of contemporary artistic iconoclasm, and this thread of art history continues to inform and celebrate a wide range of acts of cultural negation. This connection between Modernist provocation and the actual destruction of world heritage sites calls into question an art historical lineage founded upon the ideas of self-proclaimed fascists who also stated in the same manifesto "We will glorify war—the world's only hygiene."(22) Despite all of the gallows humor about the art historical precedents for the destruction of these archeological treasures, the ruination of these sites represents an immense cultural loss for the world. As Irina Bokova the head of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) stated:

You deprive [people] of their culture, you deprive them of their history, their heritage, and that is why it goes hand in hand with genocide. Along with the physical persecution they want to eliminate – to delete – the memory of these different cultures.(23)

This statement echoes the German Romantic-era writer and critic Heinrich Heine's observation in his 1821 play, Almansor: "That was only a prelude, there where they burn books, they burn in the end people."(24) This quote is memorialized on a bronze plaque as a part of the Book Burning Memorial at Bebelplatz, the site of the infamous 1933 book burnings by the Nazi Party in Berlin, Germany. Heine's quote was a reference to an earlier act of destruction and dehumanization, the burnings of the Quran and persecution of Muslims during the Spanish Inquisition.(25) ISIS has shown the world once again the destruction of culture goes hand in hand with mass murder.

In approaching this project, I wanted to address the gravity of dehumanization for propaganda purposes, and I felt erasure was an important element to consider. With that in mind, I also wanted to distinguish how erasure was used in this project from the iconoclastic strategies employed since Modernism. Erasing the image of these victims kneeling with their executioner standing over them is not an act of iconoclasm or negation. It is an act to restore humanity and dignity. In many ways this project began with a set of questions: How should I, as an artist, respond visually when the only image we have of the areas under ISIS control is through the lens of their propaganda and provocation, when human beings are deprived of their dignity and their gruesome murders are circulated around the globe as a purposely-crafted, horrific spectacle? This project and the approach of creating landscapes beyond the image of the executioner and victim began with a brief moment of realization one evening as I was watching the news. As the execution of James Foley began breaking in the news cycle, and the images began circulating, all at once in a brief but powerful moment I became stunned by the bright blue sky behind the menacing image. It hit me the same way it did on September 11th, 2001, when another act of terrorism cut into the bright blue sky of a beautiful September morning. All at once as I watched, the blue sky consumed me and I saw the landscape beyond the image of horror they wanted us to see. As this realization grew I became acutely aware of the many signifiers ISIS was consciously constructing for us. With this project, I wanted viewers to think deeply about the kinds of images circulated as spectacle, and how broadcast and social media becomes an unwitting accomplice in the continual dissemination of these images.

When beginning the project, I considered several ways to approach these images and the ideas I wanted to communicate. Initially I considered some physical rather than digital approaches. For example, I considered printing and scrubbing the images out with solvents and chemicals, or crudely painting over the images with a cover-up like one sees over graffiti on the street, I considered creating large landscape paintings omitting the images of the executioner and victims and rendering the artifacts of enlarged digital imagery as abstract passages in paint. I also considered digital approaches in the early stages of the project. For example, I considered creating digital images with crude black redaction blocks covering the dehumanized images. As I began the project I started by making a series of tests in Photoshop. I made crude digital redactions, I experimented with abstract overlays, as well as a variety of approaches to erasure. Finally, I began to use the clone stamp tool to erase the figures as a way to create a reference image to begin a painting from. It was with the clone stamp tool and this technique of digital erasure that I began to consider more thoroughly the nature of the tools I was using. I realized that these tools of digital manipulation were essentially the same tools employed by ISIS in the creation of their propaganda. With that realization, I felt I needed to critique their use of these tools and methods in their manipulation of digital imagery with the same tools and methods. From that point, I was satisfied with continuing in this direction of clone-stamp erasure to create the landscape images, but felt this body of work would also require a reference point from which to understand these bare landscape images. I decided to create not only the large landscape mural prints, but to also create a complimentary set of descriptive prints to serve as the reference point to the large mural prints. These descriptive works would be a key to the whole body of work. The descriptive prints were created using a one pixel wide outline of the figures as a referent to the original images, and would describe in plain language the beheading incidents, the people involved, and the stated reason for the executions using only factual information that could be verified by multiple reliable sources. Because these images by ISIS were circulated primarily through propaganda videos I decided that the body of work also needed to have a video element. These three elements, the large landscape prints, the smaller descriptive prints, and the video, became the final body of work for this project. Each of these elements employed erasure in slightly different but intentionally complimentary ways through the series.

The approach to creating the large landscape mural prints was inspired by two art historical precedents. On one hand, I felt that these works continued a conversation in the history of photography that begins with Roger Fenton's photograph titled "Valley of the Shadow of Death". Fenton's work was taken in 1855 as part of his documentation of the Crimean War, and has been described as the "first iconic war photograph".(26) This photograph while being the first iconic image of war, was also interestingly an image that was staged. The fact that this image was manipulated and staged, with cannon balls scattered along the road for dramatic effect, along with the noticeable absence of the human figure in a landscape of conflict became an important art historical and conceptual underpinning to what I was creating in this series. The other influence on the final shape of this work was Thomas Ruff's JPEG series, a body of large scale works that "uses the pixel structure of the found pictures, which is inherent in the data source (and results from the algorithm of data compression), as a visual and substantive compositional component."(27) Ruff's series foregrounds the digital nature of the images he presents by making explicit the pixel artifacts in the enlarging of found images from the internet he used for his project. This series was an important inspiration in that it makes explicit the digital nature of the images, as well as alluding to their circulation as digital ephemera. The descriptive prints in the series contained smaller versions of the large landscape mural prints with the added elements of a one pixel width outline of the figures from the original images, and an overlay of the transparency raster grid pattern to reinforce the digital and manipulated nature of the images from which this work was drawn from. The descriptive prints also contain the language describing the beheading incidents, and when displayed in an exhibition context also provide a timeline when hung in succession.

The video created for the series titled Cut: [The Sea Is All That Remains] also relies on erasure, but does so specifically in the language of video editing. The piece is as the title suggests, cut and edited. The visual imagery from the original source is edited down to only reveal the establishing shots of the landscape. The video uses as its source material the ISIS propaganda video A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross. The video was released in February of 2015, and depicts the beheading of 21 people in Libya along the Mediterranean Coast. The dehumanized images and sounds from the video are removed leaving only the shots of the sea. The propaganda images by ISIS are replaced with basic descriptions of the edited construction of the video, and the transitions are replicated between the descriptive shots. The original soundtrack which relied on the sound of the crashing waves for dramatic effect was replaced with a new soundtrack consisting only of the sounds of crashing waves of the Mediterranean Sea. When experiencing the exhibition, this sound permeates the exhibition space adding the auditory element to the viewing experience of the exhibition as a whole.

Erasure was important as a method to achieve the conceptual sense of absence I wanted from this project. I desired to create images that allowed for a contemplative memorialization of these victims. In that, this work shares a similar sensibility in the act of creating a space of absence with the work of the sculptor Micha Ullman, and his Empty Library Memorial in Bebelplatz as a part of the Book Burning Memorial in Berlin. The Empty Library consists of a plate glass window embedded in the cobblestones of the plaza where the Nazi book burnings took place. Peering in the window one sees an empty space lined with bookshelves, enough to hold the reported 20,000 volumes the Nazi's incinerated. As Ullman has said of the work, "You can see the emptiness and the silence. Those are the two important materials the monument is made of."(28) I, too, felt that a moment of contemplative memorial silence, not just for the victims of these beheadings, but for all the unseen crimes carried out in the territory ISIS controls, is an appropriate response to their clamor of propaganda and provocation. I find this response especially important for myself as an artist living in the West, and not directly affected by the violence of daily life within the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

There are many brave artists and activists working within these conflict zones who are asserting their own voices and the right to their own image. A prime example is Abounaddara, the Syrian 'emergency film' collective. In their videos and exhibitions they attempt to reclaim their images from what they describe as hyper-mediatized images of victims in situations of war. As they state in their concept paper titled, "A Right To The Image For All":

The images of the human debris of human madness are too frequently about mutilated and starved bodies, not about persons; they are too frequently images of the dystopian landscapes of wretched camps and the ruins of devastated neighborhoods and not images of the network of social relations and forms of collective cultural and political life that sustains individuals in their struggle for life in dignity and peace.(29)

In this paper, Abounaddara, claims the right to the image is a human right "from a holistic reading of the existing corpus of international human rights law."(30) Their work asserts a complex human portrait of those affected by their daily life within areas of conflict.

Hito Steyerl, the German artist and writer, viewing the Syrian conflict from the Turkish border asked a profound question for artists of conscience working in the current moment: in her piece "Kobanê Is Not Falling," published in e-flux in 2014, she asks: "What is the task of art in times of emergency?"(31)For the Abounaddara film collective, it is to reclaim a humane image from the hyper-mediatized images of victimhood. For me, I feel this project has helped to chart new territories in the conversation about images and their ethical interpretation. This has been one of my most successful projects to date in the kinds of conversations it has sparked and the interest it has generated. Since the work was first exhibited it has been exhibited in whole or in part in several venues and has been featured and published through a variety of publications. One of the most interesting interpretations of the project was by the curator for the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival at Ithaca College, Dr. Dale Hudson. Of the project, he stated: "By erasing contemporary human presence – both executioners and victims – from the Deash videos, the resulting images somewhat ironically re-render landscapes into scenic views whose alleged absence of human intrusions so captivated the Orientalists centuries ago."(32) While irony was not my intent, his interpretation does raise ideas related to the cultural legacy of colonialism that must be grappled with, and an ethical lens of interpretation can help in that regard. Postcolonialism as an academic discipline often concerns itself with ethics and the interpretation of history. As Okwui Enwezor stated in his essay for Documenta 11, "What is an Avant-Garde Today? The Postcolonial Aftermath of Globalization and the Terrible Nearness of Distant Places", an exhibition that responded to the new formations of terrorism and conflict at the dawn of the 21st century:

While postmodernism was preoccupied with relativizing historical transformations and contesting the lapses and prejudices of epistemological grand narratives, postcoloniality does the obverse, seeking instead to sublate and replace all grand narratives through new ethical demands on modes of historical interpretation.(33)

This wrestling with the ethical contestation of images and their interpretation is the heart of this project. With the Landscapes of Absence project, I offer that artists, living in what Susan Sontag described as "the rich part of the world," have a special ethical responsibility to examine our privileged provincialism and to think deeply about the images we consume and the images we create. We need to counter this targeted spectacle not with absurdity, reactionary iconoclasm, or with hyper-mediatized images of victimhood; we need to counter these images with an assertion of humanity and dignity.



James Wright Foley

James Wright Foley, an American journalist and freelance war correspondent was abducted November 22, 2012, while working as a reporter during the Syrian Civil War.  He was beheaded on August 19, 2014, in response to American airstrikes in Iraq, thus becoming the first American citizen killed by the self-described Islamic State.




Steven Joel Sotloff

On August 4, 2013, Steven Joel Sotloff, an American-Israeli journalist was abducted while working as a reporter during the Syrian Civil War. On August 19, 2014, ISIS released a video titled "A Message to America", showing the beheading of fellow journalist James Foley. At the end of the video, ISIS threatens the President of the United States, Barack Obama, telling him that "his next move" will decide the fate of Sotloff. On September 2, 2014 a video, entitled "A Second Message to America", was discovered purportedly ahead of its intended release showing Sotloff's beheading in response to American airstrikes on the Mosul Dam in Iraq.




David Cawthorne Haines

In March of 2013, David Cawthorne Haines, a British humanitarian worker, was abducted while working to help the internally displaced in Syria. He was shown at the end of the Steven Sotloff beheading video as the intended next victim if airstrikes against ISIS did not cease. The UK Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond revealed that David Cawthorne Haines was one of the intended targets of a failed American rescue mission on July 4, 2014. His beheading was depicted in a video entitled "A Message to the Allies of America", released by ISIS on September 13, 2014.




Alan Henning

Alan Henning was a British taxicab driver, turned volunteer humanitarian aid worker. He was part of a team of volunteers delivering goods in December 2013 to people affected by Syria's civil war. Masked gunmen abducted Alan Henning on December 26, 2013. A video released by ISIS on October 3, 2014, depicted his beheading. The executioner blamed the UK for joining the U.S. led bombing campaign against ISIS. At the end of the video, the American aid worker Peter Kassig is shown as the next intended victim.




Peter Kassig (Abdul-Rahman Kassig)

Peter Kassig worked in Syria and Lebanon as a humanitarian worker for a non-governmental organization he founded in the Fall of 2012 to provide refugees in Syria and Lebanon with medical assistance, supplies, clothing, and food. He was abducted on October 1, 2013, in eastern Syria delivering food and medical supplies to refugees. While in captivity, Peter Kassig converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdul-Rahman Kassig. His parents released a video in which they stressed that his conversion to Islam was not forced, and that his path to conversion began before he was taken captive. On November 16, 2014, ISIS posted a video showing his executioner standing over a severed human head.  The beheading itself was not shown in the video. The White House later confirmed the person killed was Peter Kassig. A Daily Telegraph security expert speculated that Kassig may have defied his captors, and refused to provide a beheading video statement.




Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto

Haruna Yukawa was a private military contractor providing protection to Japanese companies in areas of conflict. In April 2014 while in Syria, he was abducted by the Free Syrian Army. Japanese journalist Kenji Goto was brought in to interpret, and secured Yukawa's release. Both went back to Japan, but Yukawa soon returned to Syria and was again abducted. In October 2014, Goto returned to Syria to try to secure Yukawa's release once again when he was abducted. The two appeared in a video in January 2015 in which ISIS gave the Japanese government a deadline of 72 hours to pay a ransom for their release. When the deadline passed, a video of Yukawa's beheading was released. By the end of the month, the group released another video of the beheading of Goto, in which the executioner proclaimed to Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe "Let the nightmare for Japan begin."




Kidnapping and Beheading of 21 in Libya

Twenty Egyptian Christians were kidnapped along with a man from Ghana in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte in two separate incidents in December 2014 and January of 2015. On February 15, 2015 a five-minute video titled "A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross" was published showing the beheading of the captives on a beach along the Mediterranean coast. The lead executioner speaks in fluent English with an American accent, and emphasizes that the fighters are a part of the broader Islamic State group. He implies that the executions are revenge for the killing of Osama bin Laden by American commandos and his burial at sea. After the executions the ISISleader states, "We will conquer Rome, by Allah's permission". The video bears the logo of Al Hayat, the self-proclaimed Islamic State's media arm. Unlike the cellphone videos typically made by Libyan militants, the video is as polished as previous Islamic State videos, with slow motion, aerial footage and the quick cuts of a music video. The only sound in much of the background is the lapping of waves. Following the release of the video, several experts argued that it had been digitally manipulated and that the actual murders were likely filmed in front of a green screen and then superimposed onto the footage of the beach. On February 21, 2015 the Coptic Pope Tarwadros II announced that the victims will be considered martyrs of the Coptic Orthodox Church and that their deaths will be commemorated every February 15th.




Execution of 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya

On April 19th 2015, a video was released by the media arm of the self-proclaimed Islamic State depicting the execution of two groups of Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya. The 29-minute video titled "Until There Came To Them Clear Evidence" depicts two groups of men, one in orange jumpsuits and the other in black, being killed in separate locations in Libya, according to the video's narrator. One group is beheaded on a beach along the Mediterranean Sea, while the other group is shot in a Southern Libyan desert location hundreds of miles away. A masked fighter brandishing a pistol delivers a long statement, saying Christians need to convert to Islam or pay a special tax prescribed by the Qur'an. After the statement is read, the video switches between footage of the two executions. With the confirmation of the deaths of their nationals, the Ethiopian Parliament declared a three-day national mourning period to honor the victims.






(1) ^  Faisal Irshaid, "Isis, Isil, IS or Daesh? One group, many names" BBC News, December 2, 2015.

(2) ^ Liz Sly, "Al-Qaeda disavows any ties with radical Islamist ISIS group in Syria, Iraq" The Washington Post, February 3, 2014.

(3) ^  Sylvia Westall, "After Iraq gains, Qaeda offshoot claims Islamic "caliphate" Reuters, June 29, 2014. 

(4) Graeme Wood, "What ISIS Really Wants" The Atlantic, March 2015.

(5) Michael J. Boyle, "The Problem With 'Evil': The Moral Hazard of Calling ISIS a 'Cancer'" New York Times, August 22, 2014.

(6) ^   Caitlin Forrest, "ISIS's Regional Campaign: May 2016"  Institute for the Study of War, June 3, 2016

(7) Michele Leridon "Covering the 'Islamic State'", Agence France-Presse – Correspondent, September 17, 2014.

(8) Lizzie Dearden "Isis issues rules for journalists forcing them to 'swear allegiance as subjects of the Islamic State'", The Independent, October 7, 2014.

(9) ^   Brian Fishman "Fourth Generation Governance: Sheikh Tamimi defends the Islamic State of Iraq",   Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, March 23, 2007.

(10) ^ Jamie Tarabay, Gilad Shiloach, Et al, "To its Citizens, ISIS Also Shows a Softer Side" Vocativ, March 20, 2015.

(11) ^ Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic "Rule of Terror: Living under ISIS in Syria", United Nations Report, November 14, 2014. 

(12)   Michael Crowley "Stop using ISIL footage, Obama administration asks networks", Politico, May 13,2015.

(13) Ibid.

(14) ^   Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others, (New York: Picador, 1993), 110.

(15)   David Carr "With Videos of Killings, ISIS Sends Medieval Message by Modern Method", New York Times, September 7, 2014.

(16)   Ibid.

(17)   Adam Taylor, "From Daniel Pearl to James Foley: The modern tactic of Islamist beheadings", Washington Post, August 20, 2014.

(18) Barbara Herman, "Is ISIS Beheading Video Of 21 Egyptian Christians Fake? Film Experts Argue 'Yes'", International Business Times, February 22, 2015.

(19) J.M. Berger, "How ISIS Games Twitter", The Atlantic, June 16, 2014.

(20) Apollonio, Umbro, ed. Documents of 20th Century Art: Futurist Manifestos. Brain, Robert, R.W. Flint, J.C. Higgitt, and Caroline Tisdall, trans. (New York: Viking Press, 1973), 22.

(21) The Editors "ISIS to Exhibit Floating Pavilion of Art Destruction at Venice Biennale", Hyperallergic, April 1, 2015.

(22) Apollonio, Umbro, Documents of 20th Century Art: Futurist Manifestos, (New York: Viking Press, 1973), 22.

(23) Madeline Grant "Head of UNESCO Accuses ISIS of Trying to 'Delete' Civilizations", Newsweek,November, 14, 2014.

(24) Na'ama Rokem, Prosaic Conditions: Heinrich Heine and the Spaces of Zionist Literature. (Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2013), xi.

(25) Ibid.

(26) ^   James Estrin, Roger Fenton: The First Great War Photographer, New York Times, Lens: Photography, Video and Visual Journalism , January, 18, 2018.

(27) Markus Kramer, Thomas Ruff - Modernism. (Kehrer, 2011), 65.

(28) Ofer Aderet "Israeli Sculptor Gives Rare Tour of His Book-burning Memorial in Berlin", Haaretz, September 7, 2014.

(29) Abounaddara Collective "A Right to the Image for all", Vera List Center for Art and Politics, October 22, 2015.

(30) Ibid.

(31) Hito Steyerl "Kobanê Is Not Falling", e-flux, October 10, 2014.

(32) Dale Hudson, "FLEFF 2016 | Interface/Landscape", 28.

(33) Okwui Enwezor, What is an Avant-Garde Today? The Postcolonial Aftermath of Globalization and the Terrible Nearness of Distant Places, Documenta 11_Platform 5: Exhibition Catalogue, (Hatje Cantz, 2002). 45.


Brandon Bauer employs art as a space for critical and ethical inquiry. His work examines issues relating to mass media, terrorism, and nuclear abolition often by examining critical histories embedded in cultural ephemera and through other conceptual approaches. His work utilizes photography, video, collage, and installation. Brandon's work has been exhibited and screened nationally and internationally.Brandon received his BFA in painting from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 1996, and his MA (2008) and MFA (2010) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Brandon is currently an Associate Professor of Art at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. https://brandonbauer.org/






NET GALLERY (2003 - 2009)





where no other claim is indicated.