AMERICAN KILLS

2010 Acrylic paint on wall Flying back and forth from his studio in New York to his workshops in Santiago, Sebastian ErraZuriz was accustomed to seeing young United States soldiers in uniform at the airport, returning from war. It occurred to him that the experience of war must have been crushing psychological effects on the soldiers. After searching for suicide statistics in the military, the artist stumbled on the fact that two times more US soldiers have died committing suicide than by enemy fire. When ErraZuriz posted the information on his Facebook page, none of his friends seemed to care; therefore, he felt compelled to post the statistic beyond the social media site. This public art installation showcased side by side the number of American soldiers killed in combat and those who died committing suicide during 2009.  The public installation illustrated important information that was primarily overlooked by the public at the time; this triggered a viral internet response and a series of discussions on CNN to raise awareness and find ways to better protect the mental health of soldiers.

2010

Acrylic paint on wall

Flying back and forth from his studio in New York to his workshops in Santiago, Sebastian ErraZuriz was accustomed to seeing young United States soldiers in uniform at the airport, returning from war. It occurred to him that the experience of war must have been crushing psychological effects on the soldiers. After searching for suicide statistics in the military, the artist stumbled on the fact that two times more US soldiers have died committing suicide than by enemy fire.

When ErraZuriz posted the information on his Facebook page, none of his friends seemed to care; therefore, he felt compelled to post the statistic beyond the social media site. This public art installation showcased side by side the number of American soldiers killed in combat and those who died committing suicide during 2009. 

The public installation illustrated important information that was primarily overlooked by the public at the time; this triggered a viral internet response and a series of discussions on CNN to raise awareness and find ways to better protect the mental health of soldiers.

Sebastian Explains: "The alarming comparison is something that I had personally never read or heard about before. A first Google search showed only reports of media alarm about suicide rates, but the information was always comfortably presented divided into months and generally separated by statistics from the Army, Navy or Air-force. When I first found the overall statistics summed the 304 suicides by US soldiers during 2009, I was shocked. I tried to find a number to compare that statistic. To my surprise the suicide statistic doubled the total of 149 US soldiers that had died in the Iraq war during 2009 and equaled the number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.  I was so struck that my first reaction was to post it on Facebook, nevertheless no one commented on it. Dumbfounded by the lack of response and interest, I bought a shitty can of black paint and decided to “Post” the news in the real world on my own wall outside my own studio in Brooklyn. With a big ladder I marked one black strip for every dead soldier, until both the suicide rates and the war rates used up the whole wall and were registered in a single image. The counting of dead soldiers outside my studio was long and surprisingly eerie; it was hard to forget that every brush stroke was a soldier who had died the previous year. A lot of people stopped to read the mural and were immediately impressed by the reality portrayed. Most of them seemed quite shocked and approached me to ask if what I was painting was real. I tried to explain I simply wished to create a physical image that could capture people's imagination, creating awareness of the current numbers in death, war and the infinite discrepancy between the resources and energies destined to fight and protect soldiers at war versus the energies invested in protecting their mental health and stability."

Sebastian Explains:

"The alarming comparison is something that I had personally never read or heard about before. A first Google search showed only reports of media alarm about suicide rates, but the information was always comfortably presented divided into months and generally separated by statistics from the Army, Navy or Air-force.

When I first found the overall statistics summed the 304 suicides by US soldiers during 2009, I was shocked. I tried to find a number to compare that statistic. To my surprise the suicide statistic doubled the total of 149 US soldiers that had died in the Iraq war during 2009 and equaled the number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. 

I was so struck that my first reaction was to post it on Facebook, nevertheless no one commented on it. Dumbfounded by the lack of response and interest, I bought a shitty can of black paint and decided to “Post” the news in the real world on my own wall outside my own studio in Brooklyn. With a big ladder I marked one black strip for every dead soldier, until both the suicide rates and the war rates used up the whole wall and were registered in a single image.

The counting of dead soldiers outside my studio was long and surprisingly eerie; it was hard to forget that every brush stroke was a soldier who had died the previous year. A lot of people stopped to read the mural and were immediately impressed by the reality portrayed. Most of them seemed quite shocked and approached me to ask if what I was painting was real. I tried to explain I simply wished to create a physical image that could capture people's imagination, creating awareness of the current numbers in death, war and the infinite discrepancy between the resources and energies destined to fight and protect soldiers at war versus the energies invested in protecting their mental health and stability."

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