FORMAL GRAFFITI, 2011, archival inkjet prints on Hahnemühle paper
Formal Graffiti is a series of digital images dealing with the lessons that devastation delivers. Ongoing wars prevent children from going to school; nevertheless, they learn from the loss that abounds. With this in mind, I took photographs of the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh as it was being torn down, finding equivalences between an American hospital demolished for peaceful purposes to those destroyed by militaries abroad. US coalition forces have bombed Iraqi hospitals in Baghdad, Nasriya and Rutbah and the al Quds, al Fata and al Wafa hospitals in Gaza were shelled in Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09.
The imagery in Formal Graffiti could easily document rubble from destroyed buildings almost anywhere. In some cases, decorative remnants of cartoon and nursery wallpaper attest to the youth that once inhabited the buildings. Meant to cheer, they remain in stark contrast to dangling chunks of cement and rebar and mounds of raw debris that echo lives crushed or hanging by a thread — elsewhere.
Letter diagrams from an Arabic handwriting lesson book, with outlines for filling in and guiding grids for proper proportions, are superimposed on top of these images of ruin. The calligraphic letters (not words) become the A, B, C’s of destruction. This alphabet, preceding meaning, is elemental and foundational, representing the fundamental education our actions teach.