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Re-presenting America: Edward Kienholz's Portable War Memorial, Vietnam and Cold War politics

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Film critic ond historion Gilbert Adoir, in his
study of representotions of the Vietnom Wor,
(.l98.l:10) suggesis thot Americon ottempis to
'deol with' Vietnom in visuol nonotives either
foiled to fit neotly into the dominont strotegies
of norrotive closure, or were simply too crudely
resolved to signify ony reol coherence or
understonding.r For Rick Berg ond John Corlos
Rowe ( I 99] : I ), this form of 'excess' owes much
to the foct thot these representotions hove less
to do with the culture, society, hlstory ond
politics of post-coloniol Vietnom ond more to
do with the United Stotes of Americo (USA), its
notionol ond culturol identity, mythology ond
ideology, Phrosed differently, it con be soid
thot of the core of the dominont culturol
representotion of Americo, 'Vietnom' is en-
meshed in the 'unrepresentoble' - or rother, its
uncomfortoble surplus of meoning signifies
Americo's overwrought desire to represent
itself os o Superpower, to consolidote ond
stobilise lts meoning (Berg & Rowe l99l :.l3), As
Adoir (l98l:9) writes, 'here ot lost wos...
(Americo's) full frontol. Perhops even its Deep
It is in the context of this olmost'pornogrophic'
ideologicol instobility provoked by Americo's
'Vietnom' thot Edword Kienholz's Portoble Wor
Memoriol (l) needs io be reconsidered. This
work, which wos produced in l968 - o defining
yeor in the Vietnom Wor when both militory
involvement ond public dissent escoloted -
implicitly positions Vietnom os centrolto Amer-
ico's self-conception ond, by virtue of iis
encoded references, porticipotes in public
protest ond debote, Yet despite this, extont
interpretotions tend to ovoid issues of notion-
olism, ideology ond power, ond propose
insteod o morolising notion of reolism thot
simplifies the production ond reception of
meoning, ond os such, the tobleou's efficocy
os o site of culturol resistonce,
The Portable War Memoriol is o lorge-scole
instollotion which combines found objects ond
discorded moteriols of everydoy life wiih
fomilior notionol symbols ond personoges,
creoted either through unorthodox ossem-
bloges or by costing from live models. The
$s'*s*+ $g
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I Edword Kienholz. The Porfable War Memoriol(,l968), Mixed medio, 289,6 x 975,4 x 243,8 cm. Museum Ludwig, Cologne, (Kienholz: A Refrospective
1996: cotologue no. 6l),
fre-presenting *merica oRUTH LIPSEHITZ
work is orronged frontolly so thot, os Kienholz
noted, it 'reods os o book from left to right',2
The left-hond side of the work comprises whot
he colled 'propogondo devices'. First is o
figure mode from on up-turned gorboge con
to which o slighily disfigured heod (encosed in
o tronsporent contoiner) is ottoched, The
gorboge con hos o loce frill oround the top
ond o skirl mode of ploster of its bottom. The
figure hos stumpy legs ond weors gold period
shoes, ond the ossembloge is supported by o
metol stond. An electricol cord runs from the
figure io o woll plug in the first ponel of the
golvonised steel 'woll' thot forms the bocking
of the work. When plugged in, o tope recorder
mounted inside the gorboge con ploys Kote
Smith's fomous rendition of lrving Berlin's 'God
Bless Americo', ond the figure becomes
instontly recognisoble os Smith herself - the
gorboge con o visuol metophor for her rotund
physique. lmmediotely to the right of the Kote
Smith figure is o version of the well-known 'l
Wont You' (Uncle Som) World Wor I recruit-
ment poster by Jomes Montgomery Flogg
(1917). Poriiolly obscuring ihis imoge is o group
of five uniformed figures in o pose thot imitotes
the celebroted World Wor ll phoiogroph by
then Associoted Press photogropher, Joe
Rosenthol (2) of the Morines of lhe Second
Bottolion, 28th Regimeni. Fifth Division hoisting
the Americon flog on Mount Suribochi, lwo
Jimo, in .l945 (Morling ond Wetenholl. 1991 72),
lnsteod of plonting the flog on sovereign
Joponese tenitory, the figures in the instollotion
ottempt to roise o mock-up version of the flog
onto o poiio toble - the flog stoff is topped by
o gold Americon eogle. Behind the toble is, in
Kienholz's words, o 'blockboord tombstone'
which contoins, os he writes, 'some 475 cholk-
written nomes of independent countries thot
hove existed here on eorth but ore no longer'
(quoted in Edward Kienhotz 197O:1O2).3 At the
top of this boord is on inveded cross, the
horizontol section of which reods: 'A Portoble
Wor Memoriol Commemoroting V - (here is o
smoll blockboord squore for the oppropiiote
letteO Doy, i 9 - (onother squore for the dote)'.
ln keeping with Kienholz's oesthetic of viewer
porlicipotion, o piece of cholk ond o duster
ore provided so ihoi olterotions ond odditions
con be mode, both io the list of vonquished
notions ond to the victor's notionolist memor-
The right-hond side of The Portgble War
Memoriol forms whot Kienholz described os
the 'business os usuol' section ond is domi-
noted by three potio tobles (one with on
umbrello) ond choirs. They ore ploced in front
of o two-dimensionol imoge (printed onto the
steel ponel) of o couple of o lunch counter. A
gome of illusion ploys out os o three-dimen-
sionol stuffed dog 'emerges' from the scene,
os if lefl"outside, ond o reol leod ottoches him
to the mon's wrist The entire scene suggests o
typicol Americon 'greosy spoon' diner, com-
plete with o signboord odverlising 'Hot Dogs'
ond 'Chili' - the lolrer con perhops olso ollude
to other meonings such os the 'hot' 'dogs of
wor cnd the Cold Wor' respectively.a There ore
other signs of normol life such os on outside
bin, o clock ihot keeps current time ond o
Coco-Colo vending mochine. This mochine is
in full-working order but is no longer kept
' stocked, nor is the viewer ollowed to step into
the scene to operote it, However, the principle
underlying the instolloiion of The Porfoble War
Memoriol included the viewer os o compo-
nent ond it wos designed so thoi the viewer
would relox of the tobles, Coke in hond ond
fully inhobit lhe spoce. As Kienholz noted, it is
only by being physicolly 'involved' thot the
viewer gets close enough to notice the finol
disjunctive 'full stop' of this norrotive work: o
#* u#i** ss
fte-yresenting America e RUTH Lrps trr'lrz
2 US Morines of the 28th Regiment of the Fifth Division roise the Americon flog otop Mount Suribochi, lwo Jimo, on
23 Februory .l945, (AP photo/Joe Rosenthol),
smoll figure positioned of the centre bottom of
.'hre losi of the 'tombstone' ponels,s The figure is wiihout honds ond seems os if crucified - o
prophetic worning, Kienholz exploined,
** ;i*t* iS
Qe-yresenting America o RUTH Lt PS Er.trz
'indicoting monkind's nucleor predictobility
ond responsibility' (quoted in Edword Kienholz
l97O:l 02). The diverse elements of this work ore
visuolly unified by the predominontly mono-
chromotic ronge, os well os by the resinous
stoins which con be seen oll olong the bock
woll, on the soldiers' uniforms ond helmets, on
the choirs ond tobles, outside bin ond Coke
vending mochine. Also visible, porliculorly on
the floor oround the figurol group, ore hondles
to ensure visuolly ond procticolly the portobil-
ity of this unorthodox memoriol.
Despite its troditionol left-to-righi reodobility,
the norrotive structure of The Porlable War
Memorial is onti-illusionistic - more rhetoricol
ond referentiol thon literol. As such, its combi-
notion of recognisoble notionol icons ond
scenes of everydoy life creotes o discursive
spotio-temporol universe thot, in both structure
ond viewer oddress, odvonces on orgument
obout the historicol world. lt does this through
o visuol longuoge thot colls ottention to the
textuol ond intertextuol ploy of its constituent
ports ond, consequently, invites the viewer to
ottend not simply to the represented scenorio,
but olso to the workings of irony. porody ond
sotire within it.
Yet writers hove poid little ottention to these
reflexive modes of representotion ond, while
porody is mentioned, neither ihe significonce
of its oppropriotions nor their implicotions for o
politicolly engoged reolist proctice is devel-
oped, Although writers comment on the
imogery ond recognise the references to
estoblished notionol icons os o form of sociol
criticism, the onolyses fhey offer ore mostly
descriptive with little or no invesiigotion of ihe
socio-historicol ond politicol contexls thot
surround ond inform this work.6 Sociol com-
mentory is seen mostly in terms of o didoctic or
redemptive ontiwor 'messoge', provoked in
equol ports by o ploin-speoking reflection of
the horrors of wor ond o humonistic desire for o
better world.
Robert L. Pincus (.l990:68), for exomple, writes
thot Ihe Portoble Wor Memodol cements the
relotion between times of wor ond those of
peoce in order io worn of 'the potentiol
demise of civilizotion' in ony society, He osserts
thot the work both evokes o specific historicol
ero ond rises obove it to confront o more
pervosive 'world of cruelty ond violence'
(.l990:70), As such, its overoll tone is 'elegioc
rother thon porodic' (.l990:68). However, by
downploying the work's biting interploy of
meonings, ond by tronsferring the specific
ond notionol to ihe generol ond universol,
Pincus's humonistic opprooch depoliticises
meoning ond ploces it outside of process or
history, ond beyond contestotion, lt presents
The Porloble Wor Memoriolos o moroliiy tole -
o pleo to tronscend inhumonity to which-the
viewers, by virtue of their common humonity,
simply ond emotively respond.
ln effect, while o humonistic interpretotion
lends closure to meoning ond renders recep-
tion possive, it olso works ideologicolly to
noturolise 'Vietnom' os o tenible mistoke by
o society thot lost its woy. As Berg ond Rowe
(.l99.l :l ) point out, this kind of orgument distorts
not only the historicol reosons for the USA's
presence in lndochino, but olso the issue of
politicol occountobility. For, os they note, it
obscures the foct thot Americo's 'Vietnom'
wos on extension of the mony coloniol wors
thot occurred in Southeost Asio ofler 1945.
Exposing this connection links 'The Americon
Wor of Aggression' (os it is known in Vietnom
(Lippord ]990:ll)) noi to the defence of
democrocy ond freedom in the foce of o
Communist incursion, os it wos populorly
fromed (Adoir 1981:46), but to the post-World
CC't* tc ffiS.
lfte -yresenting America o
Wor ll history of Western imperiolism, coloniol-
ism ond Cold Wor politics.T
I will orgue ihot it is precisely these links os well
os thot question of politicol responsibility ond
its misrepresentotion thot lhe Porfable War
Memoriol oddresses, ond thot it does so by
interrogoting, from within the ideologicol ond
symbolic order of notionolism itself, the meon-
ing of 'Americo' - its volues ond principles,
politicol ond historicol stotus, imperiolist ombi-
iions, ond strotegic struggle for self-represento-
iion. By considering the use of reflexive
strotegies, both in the treotment of formol
elements ond the use of irony, porody ond
sotire, I will re-exomine the issue of reolism in
ihis work ond propose thot the relotion be-
tween the work ond the viewer, ond by
extension, between the work ond the socio-
historicol world it re-presents is more complex,
politicolly chorged ond open-ended ihon
previously suggested,
A notion, os Benedict Anderson (.l983:.l2)
suggests, is neither on ontologicol entity nor
an o priori historicol presence. Insteod, the
construct of notion is o porticulor formotion of
<nowledge ond power oligned not simply with
coliticol ideologies, but with culturol systems
:ut of which, os well os through which, it is
imogined'. This does not imply thot notion-
^ood is 'imoginory', but thot it is produced in
:lscourse ond therefore inherently ombivolent
:nd open to contestotion (Bhobho .]990:2).
\,lotionol identity, if it is to sustoin itself, thus
'equires orgonisotion into o set of dominont
-=cresentotions thot consolidote ond noturo-
se fictions of common belief, shored volue
:^d sense of purpose. Notionhood is, in other
words, the product of o negotioted process
thot eroses the signs of its construction ond
disploces historicol complexity into reodoble
frogments. Or, os Edword Soid (.l994:xiii) writes,
'notions themselves ore norrotions'. borne out
in orchetypol heroes, histories of greot deeds
ond greot men. This symbolic currency, whot
Croig Owens (.l983;65) would coll o 'moster
nonotive', not only invents o sense of belong-
ing ond identity, but olso lends intelligibility ond
legitimocy to the presenf through perpeiuot-
ing o definoble heroic post.
The moster norrotive ihot shoped Americo's
involvement in lndochino. following the 1945
surge of notionolism under Ho Chi Minh's
sociolisi leodership, is inextricoble from the
ideology of the Cold Wor ond the USA's post-
World Wor ll role ond stotus in it (Mogdoff
1978:74). The Cold Wor's division of the world
into Communisi ond non-Communisi entoiled
not only opposing socio-politicol systems ond
militory forces, but olso ethicol ond morol
judgements obout ihem, From Americo's
perspective, Cold Wor discourse required, os
Stephen Vlostos (.l99.l:57) notes, thot Commu-
nist movements ond countries be ihe hostile
oggressors ond the USA, os the Trumon Doc-
trine mokes cleor, the globol defenders of
freedom ond the torchbeorers of democrocy,
committed to contoining the plogue-like
spreod of 'Red' - o position thot wos to leod
to, ond justify, 'intervention' in Koreo. Vietnom
ond countless other countries under succes-
sive odministrotions (Chomsky I 99.l :2.l-5.l ),
Underlying this position, however, is not o feor
of Communism, but the very question of
politicol power ond globol influence itself. For
Americo's notionol identity redefines ihe pol-
itics of imperiolism os morol righteousness ond
benevolence so thot the United Stotes is 'duty
bound' to reshope the world in its imoge, no
:3+' xsi* Si::
Ke-.presenting America o RUTH Ll Ps cu.lrz
motter how distorted ond unwonted this
'emoncipotion' moy be. Although rooted in
lofty intentions, such o creed is centred on on
ironic disregord for democrocy ond on im-
periolist belief thot certoin peoples need to be
dominoted by o greoter good in order to
uphold the low ond perpetuote decent,
honest ond good Americon volues (Soid
The criticol focus on 'Americo' in Ihe Portable
Wor Memorlol hos severol themotic prece-
dents in Kienholz's woll ossembloges of the
l95Os,8 However, the issue of Americon iden-
tity ond self-representotion. or its sense of
historicol post in relotion to its present, is more
thoroughly explored in George Worshingfon in
Drag (3) of 1957. This pointed wooden relief
precedes The Portable Wor Memorialin both
content ond strotegy. lt shows o figurol con-
struction mounted in ihe centre of o poichy,
crocked yellow boord on which the title is
inscribed, As Wolter Hopps (.l996:30) describes
it, the figure is o 'terrible mix of mole ond
femole', with triongulor protrusions for breosts
ond o 'shell-like piece thot reod(s) perfectly os
on eighteenth-century mole hoirdo or hot'.
The flgure is posiiioned under o broken orch
thot is open on one side ond pointed in the
Edword Kienholz, George Worshington in Drag (,l957). Point ond wood on plywood, 82,6 x 91 ,4 x 7,6 cm, Privote
Collection, (Kienholz: A Retrospective 1996: cotologue no, 8),
.; r. *:-i =={ls # i& qe _1; .--:'
f -'
Qe-yresentirug ftmerica
notionol colours of red. white ond blue on the
With its potriotic overiones ond title. George
Worshingfon in Drog mokes reference to o
whole trodition of historicol portroiture in which
George Woshington, to use Motihew Boigell's
words (1984:27), stonds os the 'chief symbol of
Americon virtue. restroint, couroge ond
strength'. Yet it does so os o porody, ond uses
irony to recontextuolise on estoblished set of
codes ond conventions. This creotes whot
Lindo Hutcheon's colls porody's 'repetition
wiih criticol distonce' (.l985:6), in which the
difference rother thon similority between the
porodic text ond its encoded content or
source is emphosised. Porody thus sets up o
'phenomenon of counter-expectotion' which
requires the viewer to porf icipote in meoning
production by supplementing the 'surfoce'
meoning with, os Hufcheon writes, 'ocknowl-
edgement ond knowledge of o bockground
context' (1985;25).e
lndeed, os o podroit of Americo's first pre-
sident, Kienholz's imoge foils io uphold ony of
ihe heroic conventlons of grondeur, innote
dignity. integrity, respectobility ond solemnity
of purpose thot form the bosis ond ethos of
more troditionol pointings of Woshington such
os those of Gilbert Stuort, Chorles Willson Peole
or Emmonuel Leutze.l0 Moreover, despite the
iitle's ollusion to disguise. the imoge is nowhere
recognisoble os Woshington ond offers, in-
steod, o porodic displocement of both o
cherished culturol icon ond veneroted high
crl trodition, Disregording the demond for
,llusionistic potriotic coherence, George War
shingfon in Drag foregrounds the visible troces
cf its meons ond process of production. lts
cointerly mork ond obbrevioted forms seem to
cloy between legibility ond illegibility. By con-
'ounding Woshington's usuol oppeoronce,
Kienholz's visuol confusion of obstroct ond
figurol, mole ond femole, only ironicolly sub-
mits to the Cold Wor demond for overt
notionolistic expression ond offers, insteod,
ombivolence ond'disrespectful' humour
where there should be cleor-cut potriotic
significonce.r I
This ombivolence is, however, overloid by
onother ironic reversol thot hos telling sotiric
intent, For, os Hutcheon (1994:105) orgues,
while irony morks out the difference between
o stoted ond inferred meoning, it olso sets into
ploy on uneosy relotion between meonings
thot invoriobly judge the soid in the light of the
unsoid. This is irony's 'offective chorge', but it is
olso its criticol ond politicised edge: irony is, os
Bill Nichols (1991:74) writes, 'o device for
shorpening consciousness' thot subversively
opens out to disturb dominont ideologicol
meonings ond the sociol relotions of power
they suppori, lt is fhis offective, evoluoiive ond
productive ground thot ollows irony ond - by
exiension, porody - to function os sociol
commentory in the form of sotire. Hutcheon
(.l985:44) colls this strotegy 'porodic sotire',
ond notes thot in it texiuol differences be-
come politicolly chorged so os to refocus the
viewer's ottention on problemotic sociol
meonings, volues ond ottitudes 'with on eye
to their correciion'.
Thus, when Kienholz qdds'r'to 'Woshington'to
moke 'Worshington', ii does not simply pro-
duce o humorous ploy on words thot under-
mines the grond connototions of the genre by
mimicking the common pronunciotion of 'Wo-
shington' in the Americon Northwest,r2 ln-
steod, it undercuts the coherency ond
mythology thot sonitises Americon history by
pointing to the foct of oggression rother thon
the fiction of benevolence os the heort of
Americo's ideolised post, lndeed, os Richord
dC *ex& $#e,
fre-yresenting f,merica oRUTH LIPSCH,ITZ
von Alstyne (1974',1) offirms, the quest for 'on
imperium', on ever-increosing dominion ond
position of dominonce. underpinned the quin-
tessentiol notion of Americo from the very
In the light of its politicol ond ideologicol
context. George Warshingfon in Drag's recost-
ing of one of Americo's Founding Fothers os
on imperiolist wormonger, reods os o pointed
reference to the inherent quest for mostery
thot wos loter to cohere into the fomed
Domino Theory which shoped foreign policy
ond defined, os Soid (1994:8) writes, 'distont
londs os vitol to Americon interests'. Yet more
thon thot, in its use of ironic displocements ond
the multiloyered woy in which it disturbs
troditionol norrotive legibility, George War-
shingfon in Drag offers o chollenging decon-
struction of the eosy negotiotion of post ond
present first implied in the ideo of Woshington
os o notionol hero. lts refusol of on ideolised
illusionism thot eroses the signs of its own
production con olso be reod os o rejection
of notionolism's ideologicol erosures, The
work's textuol ond intertextuol morkers of
process, os well os the title's ollusion to
mosquerode, therefore, coll ottention to the
ideologicol fobricotion of the historicol norro-
tive itself As such, George Warshington in Drag
reflexively defomiliorises Americo's seemingly
self-evident stotus os defender of democrocy
ond shows it up os o construct. Hopps
(1996:30) recognises os much when he recolls
thot Kienholz, upon completing this work,
turned ond osked, 'How do you like the
mother of our country?' But, Hopps notes,
'the woy he soid mofher,l know he wos soying
"There's the old motherfucker himself" '.r3
The spirit of provocotive iconoclosm, ideologi-
col questioning ond porodic sotire thot is
ployed out in George Worshingfon in Drag is
fundomentol io Ihe Porloble Wor Memoriol, lts
onti-estoblishment senfiment is opporent from
the outset, since the work wos first developed
os o proposol in the form of whot Kienholz
colled o 'concepi tobleou' ond not os o
three-dimensionol instollotion. While there is
little informotion in the litero'lure on when the
Concepf Tobleou: The Portable War Memorid
wos originolly devised ond tronscribed, it wos
purchosed for USST 000 ond commissioned to
o full instollotion by Be1-ly ond Monte Foctor in
A concept tobleou is o fromed description
signed ond verified by the ortist's thumb print.
For o substontiol sum, it is purchosed os on
originol Kienholz ortwork, together with o bross
ploque (mounted on mohogony) on which
the title, ortist's nome ond dote oppeor,
lncluded in the originol proposol, but for on
odditionol fee, is provision for o sculpturol
construction or 'drowing'. ln the cose of The
Porfable Wor Memoriol, o steel ond wooden
suitcose wos creoted ond filled with plons for o
lorger work, notes, photogrophs ond other
porophernolio.r5 The lorge-scole environment
moy then be commissioned Within the poro-
meiers of the concept tobleou, the orlist is
controct-bound to reolise the work, ond the
owner of the piece is responsible for the cost of
oll moteriols, incideniols ond storoge. ln oddi-
tion, Kienholz wos to be poid on hourly
While the concept tobleou is o procticol woy
to record ond outhenticote ideos for ort,
especiolly if their creoiion would be time-
consuming ond costly (Hopps .l996:35), it is
olso o distinctly onii-Modernist form thot ploys
porodicolly with highbrow concepts of volue
ond oriistic originollty, lndeed, its subversive
demystificotion of the creotive process ond its
recosting of it os o mode-to-order production,
;3s;*is* ' '',
fre-presenting America o RUTH Ll PS trH.lTZ
bound by controcis ond obligoiions, trons-
gresses the officiol culture of high modernism,
But in o work whose subject motter is focused
not on porodying modernism, but on the
critique of contemporory events, this 'rene-
gode form' becomes politicolly chorged,
especiolly in the light of the USA's Cold Wor
co-option of Modernism os o celebrotion of
the triumph of Americon freedom ogoinst
Soviet culturol proscription,lT Thus, from the
beginning then, Ihe Porfable War Memorial
operotes os o porodic counterdiscourse -
utilising lts semiotic work to oppositionol effect
by unrovelling representotions cruciol to the
notionol sense of self
Wor memoriols. Anderson (1983:9) suggests,
ore centrol to the conceptuolisotion of o
notion os o commonolity, wedded not by
cbstroct politics but by the concrete reoliso-
t on of o unified response to o porliculor event
or crisis brought on by on outside oggressor or
-rreot. Although principolly obout remember-
"g collective ond individuol socrifice, memor-
: s olso celebrote ond commemorote the
-'rmphol resistonce of notionol virtues - the
=^duronce of higher volues.lmprinted through
3'cnd forms on the lived memory of the
- i-ion's subjects lt is through this quolity of
:':rdeur thot wor memoriols ore legitimised
:. - meless, unombiguous ond enduring public
--: codes ond conventions of wor memoriols
:'= therefore, inescopobly porodoxicol: Iike
--: ^ctionol norrotives they support. they ore
.:-' highly orchestroted ond self-effocing,
r^r -Jrn the overt subject into on orchetype
--:- 'esonotes in the myihicol otemporolity of
r -'lJS ond monumentol potriotism. This form
of public discourse is usuolly outhorised, not
simply by its bosis in historicol 'foct', but in thot
it is generolly commissioned, subsidised ond
owned by the Stote or on instituiion tied to it -
by the people for ihe people,rs This sonction is
visuolly inscribed in the quolity of permonence
memoriols iroditionolly embody.
These ore the volues thot Ihe Portable Wor
Memorialdrows on ond destobilises, ond not
just, os most critics suggest, through the ideo of
poriobility ond substitutobility rother thon per-
monence ond timeless enduronce,re lnsteod,
the work probes the noiion of consent ond
subjective responsibility in o sociolond politicol
context in which these issues were pressing, lt
does this ihrough the use of signifiers looded
wiih socio-politicol ond ideologicol reso-
nonce. os well os through on oesthetic of
viewer porlicipotion thot is not simply confined
to ihe presence of the viewer in the scene, but
extends to their textuol involvement in the
diologic oct of 'reoding' the work, lef.t to right.
One strotegy through which notionol consent
is ochieved is propogondo, which, os olreody
noied, defines the imogery of the lefl-hond
side of The Portable War Memorial.The term by
definition ocknowledges itself os o construct; o
device to ochieve on effect Yet inherent in
this self-presentotion is neither fobricotion nor
invention, bui clorificoiion (Neole .l979:83). ln
other words, propogondo simplifies ond recir-
culotes seemingly self-evident or ideologicol
notions. Thus while Kote Smith, the song 'God
Bless Americo' ond the World Wor I Uncle Som
imoge ore consciously produced io sfir potrio-
tic pride, they ore olso seen os connototive
corriers of on esseniiol 'iruth'. They suggesi
thoi Americo, os the lond of the free ond
home of the brove, is justified in wor not only
by o higher morol ond ethicol power, but olso
by the weight of historicol evidence itself - os
*J* *jxg ,iii',
the inclusion of reference to the fomed lwo
Jimo flog roising suggests.
However, the sheer occumulotion of these
notionol icons thot celebrote the morolity of
Americo's wor moking is olmost too insistent,
ond ihis ombivolence is nowhere more criticol
thon in the sculpturol group itself. For Kienholz's
porodic reference to the event on lwo Jimo is
double-coded: it incorporotes not only the
.l945 Rosenthol photogroph (2), but olso the
myihology it gove rise to ond finolly reolised in
Felix de Weldon's grondiose bronze, Marine
Corps Wor Memoriol (1954), which stonds in
Arlington Notionol Cemetery overlooking Wo-
shington, DC. This memoriol, bosed on Ro-
senthol's photogroph but with the crouching
figure's pose oltered io give o more elegont
Iine to the grouping, is for more thon o lorge-
scole version of o well-known event ond
imoge, Rother, The Morine Corps War Memor-
lol builds on meonings suggested by the
photogroph. To engoge fully with Kienholz's
duol porodic tronscontextuolisotion ond its
sotiric intent, ii is necessory to decode the
double reference ond its symbolic currency
within the glorious celebrotion of the greot
deeds of wor ond the politics of heroism,
As Korol Ann Morling ond John Wetenholl
(.l99.l:3) note, Rosenthol's dromotic photo-
groph of five Morines ond o Novy corpsmon
roising the Stors ond Stripes on Joponese-held
lwo Jimo (23 Februory 1945), ot the height of
the wor in the Pocific, is widely regorded os
fhe imoge of oll-Americon volour,2o This is
precisely becouse of the literol ond indexicol
stotus of the photogroph os o 'truthful' record-
ing of on event coptured 'os it hoppened'.
However, its directness ond simplicity of com-
position, ond its powerful documentory con-
nototions of outhentic triumph ond victory
belie o history ond confluence of circum-
stc-:: :': * =:' ^: -- r- l': -'.cre complex
OnC - - - l-: . * :-= :'-a =-:tiC, tO ihe
fOC =: a.=" =-='- : :=I l^: :3grOndiSed in
The - :" =" -^ ^- ': ::- -- : : :C-.lred On film
wa-: -::- ' I I =: -' - --- ,- ^: .reOningS. li
wCS^:-':-=,:"a= -.- ^' ll: )'theOne-Of-
ins-=:l l: ---'= ----: :=:--: flog roising
Na :' ':'- l-=t -- - ,.--. =''ll'Jn-up eorlier
bv' -'= :- I =-: ^ - -- -- '.':-nt Suribochi
/^ ^^ ^'- ' :: - :: S'nith orderedvg=,-
thS .::--l' t--. := -':-.:= :::Ct'Cing fO him,
the ".- ':: .,l: -- - :--- I -l be seen oll
oro--l --= : --- -r ' -- ^ :-=ct, defeoted
its s,, -: : - a -': -:= ' .' .' ^ -J 3.d Wetenholl
199' 2 -:- --= -' :' - 'll 'osLng (ond the
bo-= ":- =-:-=: :=- I -:= :' -. wos phoio-
groc-3r : --, -- .:-. ..^: on his woy
dor..r'-'a ^'--'-:- a-='- ^lf been'se-
CUre3 al::-l:-,=---l l--l Jp With ihe
Se:--: : - -: -- l' -:." =: "a Orger flOg
(whrc' Jaa ='- 'a '=:-- -j- -= trs tt wos sol-
Vogel -':^- I ':-'- i=:-': :: ^ -^= JOpOneSe
Cttccr: l- r=l- -:.''- - -' '.'l'-9 ond Weten-
hol -;:--: --, l:=: '-' - =:r ihot Ro-
se^'-: : ^^ ll= ..l: l= :;-l-=. -l:se, orthoi
it wc: ^a- a .a -^-:-=- -: :': ':-rful record-
ing .' r- =.:-' --:- -''.':. -=tr Simply, it
meO^S -- a- -- = :'-,-' :-:'-=, :i the eVent
Ond -S 3l- - : l^-: .='= =:: : 3Cr-CUt thOn
thot o':: ::: r : . --: : ':: I r:^ :ised version
^^A +-
Wl-rrC- '::='-'I : - - - = .. -l: -:iU lO gen-
erote 'a:=: :": :-=' :-l'?es thot the
imnn. ::-- r_:=---: ___^teredthotjtilrrvv-
WOS. - 'l-- -l:- -l-;- ..- = the podici-
pon]'s --:- -' .- --' .,=-= -^3'e simply by
chonce ':-'=' ":' :. :-=:'^ =ss of deed,
Wefe CC : -: --
Also a=:a'= --= '.1.. i :'=,, ':Cods, which
Were -O,::- -: ' --= --='-:^ mediO OS
fre-presenting America o RUTH Lt PS cHt-rz
Ke-lresenting Americo o RUTH LlPSEt-i.trz
gospel, Rosenthol's picture depicted not the
victorious end of the compoign to copture the
islond, but its eorly stoges. Nor wos it tied to the
cornoge ond heroics under fire thot choroc-
terised ihe desperote fighting of ihe eorlier
londing ossoult on the south-west beoches of
lwo Jimo. lndeed, the 'conquering' of Mount
Suribochi wos itself o relotively 'tome' offoir
ond wos recognised os of symbolic rother thon
strotegic importonce, In foct, mounting criti-
cism bock home of the compoign's deoth toll,
os well os poor morole omong the fighting
men on lwo, demonded o grond gesture
which the Novy's recently revised news policy
wos on hond to provide or rother, monufoc-
ture. Such o gesture would not only rolly troops
oll over the Pocific, but olso oppeose critics
ond the Americon public by sending home o
messoge of viciory rother thon one of cor-
noge (Morling ond Wetenholl 1991:74-75).
The Morine's publicity mochine, preferring
Rosenthol's more eloquent ond emotionol
imoge to Lowery's historicolly more occurote
one, held bock Lowery's photogrophs ond
legitimised Rosenthol's. They fudged detoils of
the two flog roisings ond confloted the quiet
ond uneventful climb up Suribochi with deoth
on the beoches, creoting o foundotionol
norrotive of couroge, determinotion ond un-
compromising Americon grit. As Morling ond
Wetenholl write, these vorious foctors suggest
thot Rosenthol's photogroph ond its effect on
the Americon public were by-products of the
militory's propogondistic monipulotion of imo-
gery (199.l:97,74),
Nowhere is this monipulotion more evident
ihon in the politics of identificotion, which
ensued ofter the proise for the ononymous
solidority of the flog-hoisting men hod died
down, Such wos the Americon public's odulo-
tion of Rosenthol's imoge thot it demonded
nomed heroes. The militory, bolstered by the
Treosury's decision to use the picture os the
officiol symbol of its 'Mighty Seventh' wor
bond drive, complied ond Rene Gognon,
John Brodley ond lro Hoyes - the three
surviving members of the photogroph - were
duly sent home, They were to be the living
celebrity embodiments of the symbolic unity
proposed by the photogroph ond explicitly
spelt out in the bond drive's officiol slogon,
'Now All Together for the 7th' (Morling ond
Wetenholl l99l:107).
It wos in this spectocle of potriotism thot de
Weldon's epic memoriol wos conceived,
While not, os previously noted, simply on
enlorgement of the photogroph, the memoriol
nonetheless corries with it oll the documentory
connototions of the imoge. ln this regord,
Morling ond Wetenholl (1991:17) noie, 'it
seemed wholly reol ond truthful, unortful
despite its stoggering size'. This seeming vero-
city wos corried through in de Weldon's ond
his ossistonts' oliention to detoil. Eoch figure,
for exomple, wos o porlroit of its nomesoke,
ond the Morine's fotigues os well os his vorious
porophernolio were oll occurotely depicted.
The effect wos owe-inspiring, os wos the reol
flog blowing from the top of o bronze pole,
ond this verisimilitude, combined with the
enormous scole, yielded on impression of both
down-to-eorth believobility ond the profound
splendour of on invincible notion; of militory
might ihoi is olso right.
A grond ond heroic symbol. the memoriol
commemoroted not only on oct but olso o
notion, ond by the time of its dedicotion in
1954, eoch detoil hod become loden with
Cold Wor significonce (Morling ond Wetenholl
l99l:.I60). lt is, therefore, both ironic ond
oppropriote thot, os Morling ond Wetenholl
( l99l : 1B) pointedly ossert, the full implicotions
#+'**+ * #S,
'fte-yresenting A merica oRUTH LIPSEL].ITZ
of the monument were recognised not by de
Weldon but by o consummote politicion -
then Vice President Richord Nixon ln his
speech ot the 1954 ceremony, Nixon took
cognisonce of the foct thot the memoriol wos
dedicoted not just to the brovery of lwo Jimo,
but olso to thoi of Okinowo ond Koreo, the
lotter the first of the Cold Wor hostilities He thus
oddressed its meoning not in terms of its World
Wor ll significonce, but in terms of the rhetoric
of the Cold Wor. Nixon stoted:
This siotue symbolizes the hopes ond
dreoms of Americo ond the reol purpose
of our foreign policy. We reolize thot to
refoin freedom for ourselves we must be
concerned when people in other porl's of
the world moy lose theirs, There is no greoter
chollenge to stotesmonship thon to find o
woy thot such socrifices os this stotue
represents ore not necessory in the future,
ond to build the kind of world in which oll
people con be free, in which notions con
be independent, ond in which people con
live together in peoce ond friendship
(Quoted in Morling ond Wetenholl l99l :18),
ln the light of the ospiront, unombiguous,
confident Cold Wor Americo of The Marine
Corps War Memorlol, Kienholz's porodic re-
construction of this imoge is heovy with contro-
diction ond its ironies ore multiple, They ore
not, however, only the product of Kienholz's
questioning, but drow on o generol onti-
outhoritorion distrust for sweeping stotements
ond o porticulor ombivolence thot surrounded
the fomed photogroph itself. For by .l960, with
the releose of the film Ihe American, which
storred ex-Morine Lee Morvin os lro Hoyes ond
which chorted the rise of the flog-roising
mythology ond its folsiiy, orchestrotion ond
monipulotion by fhe officiol propogondo
mochine, the q/mbol wos itself widely per-
ceived os illegitimote.
With Rosenthol's pticfure thought to be o f,oke,
o posed 'propogondo device', Klenholz's
deliberote posing ond costing of five figures,
ond his ottention to detoils such os the
rumpled effects of the uniforms, reods os o
cogent ond pointed comment on the fobrico-
tion of tnrthfulns ond moss consent. Further,
controry to estoblished opinion, Kienholz's
imoge is not o duplicotion of either the
photogroph or de Weldon's memoriol, but o
porodic omolgomotion of both.23 ln foct, it
uses fhe originol groupting of the figures rother
thon the more compoct one of the bronze
stotue ond tokes from the stotue the ongled
pose of the crouching figure thot steers the
flogstoff into the ground. ft thus becomes both
on ironic, di$urrctive, frozen 'reol-life' imitotion
of o debunked event. ond o downscoled, de-
heroicised memoricl- literolly devolued by its
replocement of brorze with silver-coloured
point. The smoll mock-up of the Americon flog
thot they roise consequently conjures up the
overblown importonce of notionol pride ond
f log-woving pohiotisrn.
Moreover, in o ielling comment on the ortifice
of monufocfured heroes ond monipuloted
potriotism, KienhoE's porticiponts ore f oceless,
signolling olso. perhops, the figurol group's
inobility to stond for cleor-sighted, reosoned
oction, Ihis is borne out by their quest to roise
the 'flog' not in the volconic rock of lwo Jimo,
omid gunfire ond with singulor determinotion
os the story went, but onto o toble. lronicolly,
the positioning of the toble is more logicol ond
occurote to the focused ottention of the
figures thon the ludicrous orTongement for
which de Weldon's oltered composition wos
widely criticised (Wetenholl 1988:22-29), How-
ever, this relocotion is not only humorously
#,p ;d#si .Sn_=
fre-yresentin g America oRUTH LIPSEHITZ
intended. For, in undermining the imoge's
currency of high morol purpose ond in plocing
this orrongement in front of o blockboord of
the victims of coloniol ond militory imperiolism,
Kienholz's ossembloge becomes on onti-
monument. lt serves up not Americon might
ond its 'inherent' decency. but the underlying
folsity ond self-serving ideology thot fuels the
belief thot Americo's role in wor is olwoys just
ond on the side of democrocy.
As porodic sotire, this ironic tronslocotion
points to the Cold Wor motivotion for Amer-
ico's involvement in Vietnom os not freedom
ond philonthropy, despite Nixon's ploiiiudes,
but the exponsion of Americon influence
through demonstroting, by force if necessory,
the essentiol 'benefits' of the Americon woy,
Thus Berg ond Rowe (.l991 : l3) write, 'it wos noi
territory we hoped fo conquer in Vietnom, bui
"heorts ond minds"',
Since Americon imperiolism is founded on fhe
exporlotion of volues ond lifestyles, Kienholz's
'business os usuol' section fundomentolly un-
derscores its mode of copitolist coloniolism.
-he scene of ihe oll-Americon diner is thus. in
conjunction with the 'propogondo devices',
re-presented os o site of culturol oggression,
rhis is especiolly so, os the spoces mode
cvoiloble for the viewer's involvement ore
Cominoied by the punning ollusion in the
cdvertised menu to the heoted bottle of
festyles thot woged in the Americon populor
3old Wor imoginotion. As Adoir (l98l:26)
^ctes, this imogined wor pitted the disheort-
ening communist reolity of life 'lived in the
3csence of neon' ogoinst o comforl'zone of
:,mericon consumerism ond conspicuous con-
.-mption. The monopoly copitolism through
which Americon oscendonce loid cloim to its
desires to re-moke the world in its own imoge is
doubly reinforced by the clock thot keeps
present-doy time, ond the ubiquitous Coke
mochine - o symbol which, Brooks (.l996:135)
notes. 'metophoricolly (extends) the wor mo-
chine into the reolm of consumpfion' by its
guoronfeed portobility of product. lt is no
wonder then thot in the .]960s, Americon
copitolist exponsion, the flip side of its militory
dominotion, wos commonly referred to os
'Coco-Colonisotion' (Brooks .l996:135). ln this
context, the presence of the tiny figure of the
bose of the memoriol signols the ominous
consequence of unchecked power ond
The Portable Wor Memorialoffers o critique of
the notionol moster norrotive ond its ideology
of mostery by using the dominont imogery of
its post ond present in woys thot show up
controdictions in its self-imoge, lt does this by
stoging o counter-norrotive thot propels o
movement of signifiers olong o choin of
significotion thot continuolly evokes, but por-
odicolly eroses, o toiolising meoning. Begin-
ning with the connototive excess of Kote
Smith, these defining symbols ore recost os
potriotic clich6s ond ore emptied of their
veneroted significonce by the irony of their
disploced resononce, grotesque conjuncture
ond obscene re-circulotion in o memoriolthot
just is nof. lndeed, not only is the memoriol
portoble, it is olso onti-celebrotory, onti-heroic
ond, despite its lorge scole, onti-monumentol
ond onti-tronscendent. lt refuses to edit out
ond smooth over the underlying motives for
the USA's sioted oims, lt does not inspire but
scrutinises, forcing the viewer to contemplote
ond question the gop between Americo's
g *+*& &S,
ideolistic principles ond its controdictory oc-
tions, The woy in which ihis work incorporotes
the conventions of troditionol memoriols ond
their public oggrondisement, ond olters or
upsets them, drows the viewer's ottention to
the hierorchicol relotions of power ond knowl-
edge both within the encoded texts, ond
between the work ond the world. lt offers
whot Nichols (.l99.l:62), writing on reflexivity in
documentory films, describes os o 'denser
sense of textuolity' in which the troil of
representotion refuses to turn bock on itself
ond mosk iis work of sociol production,
ln its resistonce to closure ond its reference to
the work of the viewer in the frogmentory
process of moking ossociotions ond decoding
their inierlextuol ond sotiric dimensions, Ihe
Portoble War Memoriol presents o reflexive
metocommentory on the procedures by
which sociol, historicol ond 'lived' knowledge
of notionhood is produced, legitimised, notur-
olised ond reguloted. ln Mieke Bol's terms
(1991:4), ihe 'norrotivity' of the structure of
the work (1.e. the woy in which it rejects
wholesole illusionism in fovour of moking visible
the operotion ond effects of the norrotive's
orgonisotion), ond the woy in which it employs
fomilior fromes of reference ond works to
olienote fhem from their originol meonings,
disturbs the viewer's possivity.2a Represento-
tion here reflexively extends the work's 'reod-
ing time' ond oddresses the viewer's role in the
construction of meoning. The nsrrofive orgo-
nisotion thus mokes the viewer, to use Bol's
words, 'owore of his or her imoginotive oddi-
tion in the very oct of looking' (.l99.l:4).
ln The Portable Wor Memoriol, however, this
oworeness comes in ideologicolly looded
terms in which the signs of process subversively
declore the work's own stotus os o construct.
This mode of viewer oddress ond its emphosis
on the sociol construcfion of meoning, os well
os on its effects of knowledge, promote o
reflexive consciousness fhot one by one over-
turns hobituol modes of perception ond
produces whcri Nichols (1991:65) would coll
'epistemologicol doubt', This'disorientoting'
process exceeds the confines of the notionol
norrotive ond shows it to be supported by
ideology ond rhetoric rother thon on unques-
tionoble ontology. The resin thot morks ond
unifies the memoriol's surfoces thus functions,
like the pointerly mork in George Worshington
in Drog, os pointed signs of this construction,
recording os it does the physicol ond moteriol
troces of mediotion in moking this work,
However, perhops there is no more telling
signifier of the disillusionment with the estob-
lished myth of Americo thon the finol overoll
effect of the music, once the imogery hos
been processed. 'God Bless Americo' ployed
constontly in o ploybock loop, unnerves ond
estronges rother thon consoles ond comfods
the viewer. Whcrt is more, once recognised, it
spills over ond fltters throughout the gollery or
museum where the work is on disploy. Reogon
Upshow (196:96), o writer ond critic, recolls its
effect when he first encountered the work ot
the Wollrof-Richor2 Mmeum in Cologne,1972.
After viewing ond leoving The Pofioble Wor
Memoriol, Upshow comploined:
But then the thing wouldn't leove me
olone. . . ond thot domned, scrotchy re-
cording with its sooring ending ('My home
(pouse) sweet lpouse) HO-O-O-OME!' (ond
the bond joins in)) kept following me, like o
tiresome drunk on the next stool who won't
stop plucking of your sleeve.
It wos this irritoting, in Upshow's words
(1996:96),'deod-on sotire' ond 'in your foce
ottitude' thot mode The Portoble Wor Memoriol
'R-e --p resefl tin g America o
g s.ri* r*=*
\e-presenting Americs . R uTH Lt r:S clntTz
such o subversive work. Although not public
sculpture in the trodiiionol sense, its relotiviso-
tion of the representotion of notionol pride
roised doubts obout the integrity of potriotic
symbols, os well os of the octions corried out in
their nome. ln this sense, the work's oddress is
distinctly public - o chollenge to individuol
responsibility ond collective conscience.
It wos precisely this chollenge which provoked
the outroge thot become the visible evidence
of the work's unrovelling of token-for-gronted
meonings. For Robert Wilz (1969:4), Kienholz's
memoriol wos deeply offensive, In o letler to
Artforum, he chorged Kienholz with being not
only onti-potriotic but olso un-Americon. in his
words, 'insulting our country ond , . , those , . ,
who died so he con perform his merry pronks
undisturbed'. Aside from misreoding the imo-
gery, Witz's interpretotion testifies io the divi-
slveness of Vietnom - criticise Americo ond be
domned: 'Howk or Dove', ond no room in
between for debote or discussion (Morling ond
Weienholl 1991:2O4),lt olso serves to point up
the centrolity of representoiion in both the
ottempts to stobilise ond retoin, or to resist ond
overthrow, the dominont relotions of power.
Kienholz, in his reply published ln the following
of Arfforum, osserted thot he would
'never insult this country' ond thot his potri-
otism is without question. But, significontly, he
odded: 'Our morol ond ethicol posture is not
so shining thot we should weight other cultures
with it. We should . . . os o notion ond indivi-
duols, understond ourselves ond our influences
-o o for greoter degree' (quoted in Edward
4renholz 197O:102).25
lhe Portoble War Memoriolpresents such on
rnderstonding - one thot uncovers ond criti-
colly questions the coloniol ospirotions ond
'nperiolisi oggression ot the heorl of Cold Wor
-\merico's hypocriticolly ideolised post ond
present. lts porodic sotire, strotegic reversols
ond offective viewer oddress defomiliorise
ond deconstruct estoblished meonings ond,
in the process, tronsform nonotive, morol ond
ideologicol closure inio the defioni instobility
of tronsgression. This complex, reflexive mode
of representoiion opens out sites of resistonce
ond rupture, ond poses on octive ond diolec-
ticol relotion between the work ond the viewer
which foregrounds subjective experience os
the ground on which, os Nichols (1991:287)
writes elsewhere, 'knowledge os politicol con-
sciousness is built', ln its re-vision of Americon
volues ond the politics of memoriolising, Ihe
Portable War Memoriol is, ultimoiely then, o
provocotive ond rodicolised site of disseni ond
intervention, ond its reolism is inherently poli-
ticol rother thon resolutely humonistic,
I The best known of these crude justificotions is
The Green Berets (1968), directed by Roy Kellog
ond John Woyne (who olso storred in the film),
See Adoir (1981:33-52) for on onolysis of its
structure ond ideology. For further dlscussion on
representotions of Vietnom in Americon culture,
see Louvre ond Wolsh (l9BB), ond Wolsh ond
Aulich (.l989),
2 ln response to criticism, Kienholz outlined severol
ospects of the work's iconogrophy in o leiter to
Artforum (7 Summer 'l969:4-5), Sections of this
letter ore reprinted in ihe commentory on this
work in Edward Kienholz (i970;102) from which
this reference is token,
3 Owing to the breok-up of the communist bloc
ond the rise of notionolism in Eostern Europe,
some of the countries on Kienholz's list hove now
re-emerged - for exomple, 'Bosnio' ond 'Her-
zog-Vino', os well os the 'Uzbec Republic'.
4 I thqnk Dr Brendo Schmohmonn for suggesting
ihis to me.
di *e,f." qfl,,l=,
5 lts proportions ore, to quote Kienholz's rough
estimote, opproximotely 'two inches to nine
feet' of ponel, (Kienholz in Edward Kienholz
6 See, for exomple, Corrie Rickey (1983:42-8) or
Robert Hughes (1996:53-4) This crilicism possibly
is owed to the foct ihot there is o generol lock of
sustoined criticol writing on Kienholz ond Reddin
Kienholz. Most of the time, discussion tokes
ploce in generol orticles or os entries in exhibi-
tion cotologues which tend to seporote works os
individuol expressions rother thon os port of o
socio-criticol proctice, Sidro Stich's (1987) dis-
cussion of Kienholz's works is on exception, but it
does not deol with porody or sotire os forms of
sociol commentory,
7 For on historicol occount ond onolysis ihot
positions Vietnom in relotion to globol power
blocs, see Noom Chomsky in Berg ond Rowe
8 For exomple, They Tarred ond Feathered fhe
Angel of Peace (1957), The God Tracking Sfotion
# I (1958), O'er The Ramports We Watched,
Foscinoted (1959). ond Ihe US Duck or Home
from the Summit (1960). These oll utilise visuol
ond verbol puns ond ollusions, ond offer o
critique of the Cold Wor politics of distrust ond
oggression, os well os of contemporory incidents
such os the roce io occumulote nucleor orms
ond to conquer spoce. These works ore repro-
duced (with short commentories by Wolter
Hopps) in Kienholz: A Retrospecfive (1996:65,
70,71, ond 8l).
9 Porody's discursive focus requires thot its refer-
ence-moking be recognised ond processed in
order for its irony to be effective. On this issue,
Hutcheon ('l985160) notes thot the progmotic
effects of porody qre not limited to the trodi-
tionol notion of ridicule or burlesque. Indeed, in
on onolysis of its etymologicol roots, Hutcheon
obseryes thot poro hos two meonings: the ofi-
cited 'ogoinst', os in the ideo of o porodic
'counter meoning', but olso 'close to', which
con include o wide set of intended effects from
criticol to respectful. ln the sotiric mode I
propose for the works by Kienholz the relotion
between 'close to' ond 'ogoinst' is o diologic
one of opporent complionce ond distonce with
o specific ond directed purpose of sociol
l0 For exomple. Gilbert Stuort, George Woshington
(Voughon Portroit) (.l795, oil on convos,
73,6 x 60.3 cm, Notionol Gollery of Art. Wo-
shington DC), Chorles Willson Peole. George
Woshington of Pinceton (1779, oil on convos,
236,2 x 148,6 cm. Pennsylvonio Acodemy of
Fine Arts, Philodelphio). Emmonuel Leulze, Wa-
shington Crossing the Delaware (.l85.l, oil on
convos, 378,6 x 647,6 cm, Metropoliion Mu-
seum of Art. New York). See Boigell (1984:26-
65) for o discusion of Stuort ond Peole, os well
os of the Americon trodition of potriotic historicol
portroiiure. ond Stich (1987:.l4-]5) for more on
I I Stich (1987:14-M) writes extensively on the
proliferotion of Americon icons in the od of the
1950s ond l960s. Her reoding of George Wor-
shingfon in Drog (32), however, ploces more
emphosis on the ideo of sexuol confusion thon
on the politicol effects of porody ond sotire.
l2 I ihonk Dr Gorth Cloosen for olerting me to the
regionol pronunciotion, ond Noncy Reddin
Kienholz for confirming this ossociotion (personol
conespondence. 8 July 2001)
13 At the time of this work, Kienholz ond Hopps
were portners in the ovont-gorde Ferus Gollery in
Los Angeles. Kienholz hod olso set up o studio ot
the bock of the Ferus, so Hopps wos often his
works' first oudience (Hopps .l996:30).
14 In generol, the concept tobleoux were pro-
duced between ]963 ond 1967. (See Brooks
1996:ll0 ond Pincus 1990:54-75.) Whot little
informotion there is on this concept tobleou
hos to be gothered by inference, os even direct
stotements ore controdictory, For exomple,
E-e -p res en tin g A meri c a
'$e 'gv'3* &8,
'fte -l resentin g America oLlP55CH.t-fZRUTH
Pincus notes in possing thot Ihe Porfoble War
Memorial wos never conceived in written form
('i990:52) But in on essoy on his friendship with
Kienholz, Monte Foctor notes thot when he sow
the concept for this work, he knew 'it hod to be
mode', He does not soy when he sold it, only
thot for some of the time it wos housed of the
Son Froncisco Museum of Modern Art (Foctor
1996:277). The finol environment is now in the
permonent collection of the Museum Ludwig,
l5 Drowing for the Portoble Wor Memoriol (1968,
mixed medio,TO x 54 x 14 cm, Collection of
Beity ond Monte Foctor, Los Angeles). Repro-
duced in Edward Kienholz (.l970:l l7-l l8)
l6 A stondord controct form for o concept tobleou
is reproducedin Edward Kienholz (']970:.l23).
l7 On how Abstroct Expressionism wos morketed
outside Americo os port of the ideologicol bottle
ogoinst the spreod of Communism see, for
exomple, Guilbout (1983) ond KozloII (1973:43-
l8 I do not meon thot wor memoriols ore without
contestotion. Rother, the olmost too-numerous
controversies thot hove ployed out over public
remembronce testify to the foci thot this kind of
consent is ideologlcol rother thon octuol ond is
porticulorly of issue when the centrol symbolism
is ombivolent. See, for exomple, W J. T. Mitchell
(1992) ond olso Senie (1992).
-9 For exomple, see Brooks (,1996:.135) cotologue
entry for The Portable Wor Memorial in the
exhibition cotologue Kienholz: A Retrospecfive,
2l The six in Rosenthol's photogroph hove been
identified os lro Hoyes, John Brodley, Rene
Gognon, Horlon Block, Fronklin Sousley ond
Michoel Stronk. Only ihe first three survived lwo
Jimo (Morling & Wetenholl 1991:3-4)
i- Morling ond Wetenholl's book offers on excel-
ient occouni of both the politicol ond historicol
contexts of the originol photogroph, de Wel-
don's stotue ond the mony incornotions ond
recirculotions of both imoges, See olso John
Wetenholl's PhD thesis, 1988, 'The Ascendoncy
of Modern Public Sculpture in Americo' (Ann
Arbor, Michigon: UMI Reseorch 22-9), Also, it
should be noted thot, olthough I hove only reod
writers on Kienholz published in English, they
generolly consider the relotion between Ro-
senihol's photogroph ond de Weldon's stotue
to be on unproblemotic ond stroightforword
one, ond do not exomine the contexts or loyers
of meoning these invoke,
22 Morling ond Wetenholl (.l991:73) note thot
Rosenthol wos worried thot this photogroph
would not come out since he hod so little time
to focus ond position himself. As o result, he
orchestroted o 'celebrotion' shot of the Morines
woving their helmets under the billowing flog.
Subsequent confusion between the posed ond
the unposed imoges orose os Rosenthol os-
sumed, when osked if the picture wos posed,
thot the first shot hod not come out ond the
Associoted Press hod chosen to publish the
second, orronged picture,
23 For exomple, Pincus (1990:68) orgues thoi Kien-
holz's group of figures odopts ihe 'some pose os
de Weldon's figures', while for Brooks (1996:134),
iheir pose is o direct reflection of the photogroph's
orrongement, A visuol comporison of oll three
imoges reveols, however, thot Kienholz's is not
thot cleor-cut. De Weldon's memoriol is repro-
duced in Morling ond Wetenholl (199.I:lB) ond
con olso be viewed online through the United
Stotes Morine Corps History ond Museums Division
http://hqinet00 1 .hqmc,usmc miUHD/Historicol/
Frequently_Requested/Wor_Memoriol. htm
24 Bal's concept of norrotivisotion is essentiol to her
discussion of ihe woys in which Rembrondt's
pointings employ troditionol norrotives but do
not conform to the conventions used to reolise
them or iheir troditionol meonings. ln her ono-
lyses, she orgues thot nonotivity provokes on
octive response thot mokes meoning in these
"*;* *Eirfia
Bd@ #_d C@
q-e-.preseflting America . R urH Lt ps tr H trz
works less certoin ond more difficult to doxic
conventions ('l99.l:4),
25 In the 'Los Angeles Art Community group
Portroit: Edword Kienholz', Kienholz olso stoted,
'l hove o very strong feeling obout Americo. I
love ito lot. ., I would like itto be o hell of o lot
better thon it is' (Weschler 1977 vol 1:48),
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The reseorched moteriol in this orticle is derived
from my Mosters dissertotion 'Reolism, Nonotive ond
Representotion in Works by Edword Kienholz ond
Noncy Reddin Kienholz' oworded of the University
of the Witwotersrond in 2000, I thonk the Notionol
Reseorch Foundotion (NRF) for their finonciol ossis-
tonce for this reseorch. The opinions ond conclu-
sions reoched ore my own ond ore not ottributoble
to the NRF.
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