29 January 2014


woodblock print (mokuhanga)
6" x 6" (152.4 x 152.4 mm)
5 layers of color plus blind emboss on Kochi Kozo paper
edition: 20

H is for hercules, which is the code name for a CIA-operated terrorism database. Hercules is also a constellation, a shape usually illustrated by connecting the star-dots.

After 9/11, the Bush administration and intelligence agencies were criticized for having all the information they needed to uncover the 9/11 attacks (especially the "Bin Laden Determined to Strike" memo) but failing to "connect the dots." Their response was to collect even more dots and, in the climate of fear in the years after 9/11, we and our elected representatives let them do it, or at least let them have power to do whatever they wanted in order to keep us so-called safe. This massive data grab, revealed by Edward Snowden, has been building for a long time. I'm not sure when the Hercules database was first developed, but I found an online reference to it from the year 2000, so it pre-dates the 9/11 attacks.

Here's an article on Politico that talks about the Hercules database and yet another failure to connect the dots in 2010 after the Christmas Day Underpants Bomber incident. In the article, an official is quoted,
The volume of any database doesn't matter much. That, by itself, doesn't get you anywhere… The key is knowing what to look for, how to bring together different bits and scraps of information that—on the surface and in an ocean of data—don't appear to be connected. This is hard stuff.
Hard stuff indeed. I mean, if somebody didn't draw it out for you, would you see Hercules in that cluster of stars? I wouldn't. And even now, having made this print based on the traditional mapping of the Hercules constellation, what I see is a guy trying to swat a swarm of flies with a baseball bat.

Now that I think about it, that's not a bad metaphor for what the U.S. started doing when we declared war on Terror.


Wade said...

This print is fantastic! I love the message that you're making with this series, but additionally I simply love this Hercules print. I also loved the Genie print you posted a few weeks back. Please keep up the amazing work, you're an inspiration for me to continue improving at my own printmaking endeavors!

Annie B said...

Thanks so much, Wade. (Sounds like you've got the printmaking bug, too!)

Elizabeth Busey said...

I'm impressed with the rate with which you are producing all of these. I guess you have to generate momentum given that there are 26...but still! A bit of inspiration for a winter which I have found very challenging.

And no, I wouldn't have seen Hercules in those particular stars either!

Can't wait for "I."

Annie B said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. Nice to hear that my pace seems pretty quick, since I'm sort of struggling with the fact that I'm not even halfway through the alphabet yet.

I wish I could tell you that "i" has nothing to do with winter, but unfortunately it does. Stay warm and don't forget to notice that the days are in fact getting longer…