Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann at Kunstraum München

Artists: Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann

Exhibition title: abandoned positions

Curated by: Nina Holm

Venue: Kunstraum München, Munich, Germany

Date: February 6 – March 8, 2020

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and Kunstraum München

The exhibition project abandoned positions deals with the Iraq war of 2003 and its direct and indirect consequences for the region and Europe. Between 2015 and 2018, Sebastian Hirn and Lisa Hörstmann interviewed activists (who had travelled to Iraq in 2003 with the aim of preventing the invasion), Iraqi refugees, aid workers, journalists and American Iraq war veterans. In a compilation of interviews, documentary film and sound material, lines of development are shown that range from the reorientation of American foreign policy after the collapse of the Soviet Union to the political situation of the present.

On the upper floor of the Kunstraum, a three-channel video installation turns the space a panoramic view as well as LED panels on the floor with tickers running across them that include texts and slogans from U.S. neo-conservative think tanks. On six monitors downstairs, a selection of the more than 50 individual interviews conducted by Sebastian Hirn and Lisa Hörstmann can be watched in full length.

The broad spectrum and depth of the interviews allows for a multi-layered reading of the conflict and undermines any schematic division into good and evil, victim and perpetrator. Both the activists and the American soldiers acted largely out of moral conviction. Most of the Iraqis interviewed described a great ambivalence towards the Americans who liberated their country from a dictatorship while creating a vacuum that made the current civil war-like conditions possible. The guilt that many soldiers felt for having been involved in the destabilization of Iraq and the region is still carried as a moral injury and reinforces post-traumatic stress disorder in many of them.

The American soldier Diana Oestreich, for example, realized in the first weeks of her deployment that the use of firearms was against her Christian convictions. She decided not to reload her gun anymore and to protect her comrades or Iraqi civilians using only her body. Today, she is committed to making amends in Iraq through the private Christian initiative Preemptive Love. Israel Del Toro suffered third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body in a bomb blast. Although he was only given a 15 percent chance of survival, he was able to fight for his rehabilitation with the help of his faith. He now teaches Air Force cadets in Colorado Springs. Kevin Benderman took on a 13-month prison sentence in order to defend himself as a “conscientious objector” to a second deployment in Iraq.

The exhibition gives space to the different, sometimes contradictory perspectives and experiences and lets them stand side by side without comment. Visitors are given the opportunity to form their own opinions beyond the conventional reporting of this controversial military operation of 2003.

Sebastian Hirn and Lisa Hörstmann began their artistic collaboration in 2012 and since then have exhibited projects at various venues such as the urban art space MaximiliansForum and the contemporary art space Lothringer13 in Munich, Ballhaus Ost in Berlin, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska and Tabacalera in Madrid. Sebastian Hirn works at the interface of visual arts, performing arts and music. He has produced numerous works in the fields of installation, theater, opera, stage design and video. Lisa Hörstmann is an art historian and has published various texts on South African modernism. Together they were Artists in Residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute, New Mexico and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Nebraska in 2018.

This exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the Verein Ausstellungshaus für christliche Kunst e.V. and the Bezirk Oberbayern.

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling

Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann: abandoned positions, Kunstraum München 2020, © Sebastian Hirn, Lisa Hörstmann, Florian Schilling