War Zone Graffiti
Guerrilla postering, like graffiti, randomly appears at the whim of anonymous scribes. In Louie Palu’s project, guerrilla postering also evokes the chaos of a war zone. Palu’s photographs of graffiti were taken in Afghanistan’s Southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand while he was embedded with Canadian, British and American troops in 2008. From commemorative memorials etched by soldiers into concrete barriers, to renderings of artillery drawn by civilians on the walls of abandoned houses, Palu’s work highlights the enduring consequences of naïve expression. It also draws attention to the force of the photographic medium, transposing cave-like drawings from a war zone to a city across the globe.
Far from Kandahar, Palu’s images infiltrate the relative peacefulness of Queen Street West and serve as cunning reminders of Canada’s present involvement in the war in Afghanistan. The Bovine, with its post-apocalyptic style synonymous with graffiti, is the project’s ground zero. Palu redeploys army latrine scrawl from Afghanistan in the club’s washrooms, and in the back alley he lines up a regimented display of the full series of images. Contextualizing his images of grafitti, Palu’s combat videography represents some of the most unique, in-depth, front-line coverage of the fighting since Canada began operations in Afghanistan. His coverage of Canadian military activity in Zhari District (considered to be the birthplace of the Taliban) feeds the worldwide desire for instantaneous video footage that is challenging the future of still photojournalism.
Palu was born in Toronto and is currently based in Washington. His work has been exhibited extensively internationally, and published in sources such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, Newsweek, the Washington Post, The Walrus, MacLeans, The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. Palu is represented by ZUMA Press.
Map for Walking Tour of Louie Palu's War Zone Grafitti Guerilla poster's (PDF 133KB)