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1st Reports (Desert Fog) by James Prez signals a journey of another sort. The first “page” is a blister-packed toy jet. The plane is a US Air Force F-117 fighter, displayed over a map of the Middle East and bordered by colorful world flags, stars and diagrams. A closer examination reveals that this toy comes from Indianapolis, America’s heartland, and is distributed by a company called Kid’s Goods. But the small print tells us that it is made in China and is not recommended for children under the age of three.

On the back of the package, Prez has affixed a reproduction of a page from a newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, dated Thursday, January 17, 1991, the first day the U.S. attacked Iraq. There is a map of Iraq, not dissimilar from the map on the front of the package. One article describes the U.S. bombing, another tells how soldiers’ families wait for news of their loved ones, some of whom were undoubtedly young adults who not too long ago may have played with a Kid’s Goods fighter plane. 

While Fragrant Phrases focuses on the home, Stamps, Japan,II by Jan Demorest takes us farther afield to adventures in a foreign land. Demorest depicts her travels to Japan, enticing the viewer with found objects that include stamps, maps, feathers and Japanese papers. Accompanying the carefully composed visual elements is handwritten text, with descriptive observations about the stamps and general commentary on Japanese culture.

All of the components in this book connote the idea of journey and all its metaphoric connotations. Stamps imply transmission of a message from one place to another and serve, for collectors, as a memento of place. The feather is perhaps a flight feather that supported a bird on its migration. Demorest, by combining an enticing archive of found objects with thoughtful observations has created here a finely crafted memoir of a voyage to a far-away land.

Stamps, Japan II
Jan Demorest

Here is an interesting example of Professor Hollmann’s paradigm of sender/sign/recipient. What is the message that is “sent” by Kid’s Goods? And what is the message we “receive”? Most likely, the toy company is using the colorful decorative packaging and the words “pull back action” to suggest that this is a fun and harmless toy. Even the fonts are indicative of a good time: the comic book adventure look of the words “Storm Fighter” and the balloon-like logo of Kid’s Goods.

By “intercepting” the message and attaching a provocative “addendum,” Prez has altered the information “received” by the viewer. Is this a toy that is good for kids; indeed, is the actual fighter plane and the war that requires it good for our kids? Is the cost of this cheap toy worth it? Is the cost of war worth the sacrifice of our kids? With this simple juxtaposition, Prez has delivered a thought-provoking and affecting message.

1st Reports (Desert Fog)
James Prez

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