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Devil’s Tower, the mountain in Wyoming best-known through Steven Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, is but a stone’s throw from artist Kurt Schwitters’s installation, ‘Cathedral of Erotic Misery’, back from the ashes, having been destroyed during an air raid in 1943. Over the way, an art school has been set up in a former American Army bunker in Suffolk, while warzones including the West Bank and Afghanistan, make up the ’hood.
Art institutions and combat zones are presented as fortified edifices in Suzanne Treister’s huge wall drawing, that resembles a fantastical map-cum-board game. Adding to the sense of play, ‘training videos’, including footage of an ancient ruin in Ethiopia and the Unabomber’s cabin, evoke arcade games, with a target mark in the screen’s centre and a simulated machine gun rat-a-tat.
Treister’s project, ‘MTB’ (‘Military Training Base’), compresses space, history and art into a virtual zone for ‘role-playing war games, study or recreation’. Play is the missing link between cultural and military enterprises, creative thinkers and soldiers performing drills, while also acknowledging games culture’s literal assimilation of combat.
At the same time, Treister’s depiction of museums with walls like castle ramparts introduces a creeping sense of global conspiracy, reinforced by real-world connections, such as sculptor Donald Judd’s Marfa compound, developed on the site of a former army camp. As engrossing as Treister’s ideas are, the realisation – an average illustrative drawing – feels underdone, perhaps a footnote to a grander exercise.