SOFT IMPERIAL EYES

May 4–26, 2019 at TKM Gråmølna.

4 screen colour video animation, text and sound installation, office desks, dividers, stools and headphones, black painted wood, theatre scrim. D(424cm x 474cm x 366cm x 366cm) height: 300cm

Foto: Lili Zaneta

The soldier stands in the foreign place, reciting the rehearsed view of the other, in a heroic quest for peace.




Soft Imperial Eyes, workshop collaboration with NTNU’s Building Democracy through Theater Project.

Soft Imperial Eyes uses the frozen military register to move beyond the myth of peace enforcement by reconstructing - in a non-mythical way – the direct speech acts for future sites of occupation.


Soft Imperial Eyes appropriates educational materials designed for and by the US Defense Force for troop pre-deployment. The US Defence Force has a long history of providing language and culture training for military personnel. The range of language and cultural educational material has adjusted with the practical  requirements for understanding the target culture

for successful missions in foreign countries. My method  for selection is based on my first encounter with these training materials; a promotional film made by the  US Defence force titled ‘The Quest for Peace, Through Linguistic Readiness’. It is from this position that I  enter the military narrative, the combination of elements draws upon criteria I refer to as ‘presence priority’;  selected materials based on the priority given by the military. Therefore if a country had both a cultural  material (myth or folktale) and a basic language guide the presence of these two elements indicated the  militaries priority countries.  
Videoinstallasjonen til Katherine Butcher ser i begynnelsen ut til å være en uskyldig hukommelsesøvelse hvor pastorale illustrasjoner akkompagneres av en engelsk mannsstemme som leser fraser som «day», «face» og «home» med undertekster på ulike språk. Fraser som «surrender» og «do not resist» gjør det etter hvert tydelig at dette er et vokabular laget for soldater, til innhenting av informasjon, til å beordre fremfor å konversere. Det er et ubehagelig verk, som gjør det enkelt å forestille seg at selv små språklige misforståelser kan føre til risikable situasjoner for okkuperte befolkninger, selv under såkalte fredsoppdrag.

Av Nicholas Norton 21.05.19 for kunstkritikk.no

Katherine Butcher's video installation initially appears to be an innocent memory exercise in which pastoral illustrations are accompanied by a man's voice reciting english words and phrases such as "day", "face" and "home" with subtitles in different languages. Phrases like "surrender" and "do not resist" make it clear that this is a vocabulary made for soldiers, for information gathering, to command rather than converse. It is an unpleasant work, making it easy to imagine that even small linguistic misunderstandings can lead to risky situations for occupied populations, even during so-called peace missions.

Artist’s own english translation of
Nicholas Norton 21.05.19 article.



Burma | Moguk - The Legend of the Rubies, Soft Imperial Eyes, 2019

Artistic research materials from an Oriental miniature 1582, representing the Valley of Serpents, guarded by snakes. Eagles carry in their beaks pieces of meat in which gems are embedded, illustrating an Indian legend that appears in the tale of Sinbad the Sailor in the Thousand and One Arabian Nights.
Illustration Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

The Eight Strands of Afghanistan, 2019


Research materials from The Life of Buddha: In Pictures, Dhammikarma, Burmese Buddist Temple, Penang, Malaysia Est. in 1803.



Katherine Butcher © 2021