This project focuses on the war in Syria and the use of bread, starvation and siege tactics as weapons of war. These are brutal methods, that are claimed by the UN and other humanitarian organisations to have been used mercilessly by the Syrian military forces and their allies against the Syrian people. The UN claimed this method of control is a form of State aggression that also uses indiscriminate targeting of aerial and cluster bombs, random missile strikes, sniper fire and chemical attacks. As chilling, is the accusation made by Human Rights Watch, that the Syrian military specifically targeted and attacked bakeries and the breadlines that form outside them, using barrel bombs, a charge denied vigorously by the Syrian Government.
Bread as a weapon of war
In most parts of the Arab world bread plays a central role in the lives of its people. Historically, bread has been used by the people as a political symbol, and by their governments as a political weapon of repression. Many Arab governments have subsidised bread to pacify their people. In times of rebellion it has been withheld to punish, or defeat dissent. When the food subsidies were withdrawn, political tolerance went down accordingly. In Tunisia and Jordan, protesters waved baguettes in the 'food riots', as metaphoric ‘bread batons’. In Yemen a man tied bread to his head as an ineffective helmet and symbol. The helmet would not give protection from batons or bullets, but it would remind the world that the Yemeni Government, used the control of bread as a weapon of war.
Beyond the Fire might be seen simply as an expression of the fragmentation of Syrian society. The images are doubled, divided and fragmented, and are pulled to pieces like bread that is shared. Although the images fragment, the pieces do not lose contact with their source. The work might also be explained by Roland Barthes' notion of a narrative that lies beyond its surface. The surface of an image, Barthes claimed, makes it appear real, a complete story, but it is rather a montage that is socially and historically constructed. The essence is suspended as a ‘sublime substitute of meaning’ that floats. An idea that floats does not destroy; its content simply exists so as to disorientate the law of reason, so as to allow time for the return of discourse.