From October 2017 to May 2018 the Imperial War Museum London presented ‘the UK’s first major exhibition of artists’ responses to war and conflict since 9/11’, Age of Terror: Art since 9/11. Drawing together 50 works of art by over 40 international artists into four themed sections (‘9/11’, ‘State Control’, ‘Weapons’, and ‘Home’) the exhibition met with mixed responses from critics, as well as mixed reviews by members of the public. Curatorial practices are, however, fraught by virtue of the necessity – an essential part of a creative practice – to leave certain things out. Paying attention to these ‘missing figures’ in Age of Terror in relation to the wider politics and power of the Global War on Terror as it has evolved and been studied offers insight into the everyday cultures of war that go unquestioned. More specifically, we can examine Age of Terror’s encounters with three missing figures of the war: the missing dead of 9/11 and missing information, which are curated as an ‘absent presence’ in this exhibition; the missing figure of the war fighter as opposed to the war casualty, which are only tangentially referenced; and the missing figure of the everyday practices of war cultures, as opposed to the cultures which represent war as spectacular. Collectively these missing figures, under-examined within the exhibition, are part of the forces that help to continue to make the Global War on Terror make sense almost 20 years on.
- Global War on Terror