"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." By Smithsonian Rosterino, is a small diptych composed of two matchbooks. The title is a quote by U.S. President George W. Bush, post 9/11 at the height of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden during the “War on Terror!” Each matchbook is cut to resemble the New York skyline, with the iconic ‘Twin Towers’ being the only two ignitable matchsticks left whole. The owner of the artwork has the choice to light them; to play god, to destroy art!
One matchbook is from the presidential aircraft; ‘Airforce 1’, the other is a ‘bounty’ matchbook given to U.S. troops to distribute in Afghanistan, featuring a reward for the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden. One is white, the other is black, one exudes wealth and opulence, whilst the other promises wealth by betrayal and submitting to the ‘American Dream’, one is “good”, one is “evil”, one is right, one is wrong and both are terrorists in the eyes of the other!
The artwork is about dilemma. How do you assign the roles of “good” and “evil”, and who do you trust to give you the context of that judgment. Who is responsible for the atrocities that happened on 9/11? Who is responsible for the ongoing death and destruction that has happened in the name of oil driven capitalism in the middle east since March 3rd 1938? Whose side are you on?
about the matches
The mighty matchbook has a long and quite successful history in the world of marketing. There was a time in our history when matchbooks were the most popular advertising medium in North America. They were inexpensive, colourful, persuasive, and highly mobile. The simple matchbook links the tragic events of 9/11 with President George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden.
There are various different designs of matchbooks associated with the U.S. presidential aircraft, Air Force One. From piecing information together about all the various designs, it is most likely that the matchbook design Rosterino has used is the style that would have been used during George W. Bush’s term in office.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush traveled to Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he received news that two planes had flown into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. He had travelled to Florida on the presidential aircraft, Air Force One. President Bush was rushed back to the airport where he flew to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. While enroute from Florida to Louisiana, the pilots were told there was a plane approaching. Fearing the unknown plane was hijacked, Air Force One altered its course; but ultimately, decided to continue on to Barksdale. (The second plane turned out to be harmless.) The President went from Barksdale Air Force Base to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska; however, he insisted on returning home to the White House, where he addressed the nation from the Oval Office. Many of the important decisions made that day were made on board Air Force One. President George W. Bush was a smoker and could very well have used these type of matches to light his cigarettes during this stressful time.
After Bin Laden's suspected involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, matchbooks were put into circulation offering a reward for his whereabouts. The thinking was this: many of the rural people of the Middle East don't have access to radios or internet. But research showed that a high percentage of people in those regions were smokers. Matchbooks are an interesting item. Heavy to moderate smokers look at a matchbook 20 or more times a day. Up to eight additional people are exposed to a single matchbook. They get borrowed and shared. Every time a matchbook got pulled out of a pocket, the owner was reminded of the bounty. Matchbooks were an inexpensive, yet effective way for the State Department to get the word out to remote regions, and to keep it top of mind.
Unfortunately, as it turns out, the matchbooks weren't effective in bin Laden's case. Many people in rural areas can’t read and the reward amount on the matchbooks was missing a zero – it said $500,000 instead of $5 million. Also, the matchbooks were green, a colour Muslims associate with Islam, so many Afghans would interpret it to mean bin Laden was a holy man. And lastly, the website on the matchbooks was also incorrect – so anyone wishing to leave a tip just got an error message.
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
U.S. President George W. Bush, 5th Aug 2004