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“Memorial to the Iraq War,” Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London, May 23–June 27, 2007.

The Dual-Use Memorial

Is not the word sanctions itself one of those with dual use, provides an example of Freud’s “antithetical meaning of primal words”?

sanction n.
Middle English, enactment of a law, from Old French, ecclesiastical decree, from Latin sānctiō, sānctiōn-, binding law, penal sanction, from sānctus, holy; see sanctify.
Word History: Occasionally, a word can have contradictory meanings. Such a case is represented by sanction, which can mean both “to allow, encourage” and “to punish so as to deter.” It is a borrowing from the Latin word sānctiō, meaning “a law or decree that is sacred or inviolable.” In English, the word is first recorded in the mid–1500s in the meaning “law, decree,” but not long after, in about 1635, it refers to “the penalty enacted to cause one to obey a law or decree.” Thus from the beginning two fundamental notions of law were wrapped up in it: law as something that permits or approves and law that forbids by punishing. From the noun, a verb sanction was created in the 18th century meaning “to allow by law,” but it wasn't until the second half of the 20th century that it began to mean “to punish (for breaking a law).” English has a few other words that can refer to opposites, such as the verbs dust (meaning both “to remove dust from” and “to put dust on”) and trim (meaning both “to cut something away” and “to add something as an ornament”).
                     American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edition, 2002

Can a memorial to such a surpassing disaster as Iraq not be problematic? Can it therefore not be a dual-use one?

Might not what has no dual use, if there is such a thing, be the most dangerous?

The mixed-media work that was my contribution to the exhibition Memorial to the Iraq War at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London was a response to the following report in The Economist issue of 5 March 1998: “The full extent of his country’s isolation was brought home to an Iraqi graduate student, Muhammad Darwish, when he wrote to the British Library, enclosing some of its own pre-paid coupons, and asking it to post him some photocopied material on semiotics. Back came the answer that his request could not be processed because of the trade sanctions imposed on Iraq by our government. For Mr Darwish and other Iraqi intellectuals, who are fond of the adage, Cairo writes, Beirut publishes and Baghdad reads, this cultural isolation, the inability to get new books, is one of the most galling aspects of their country’s status as an untouchable.…” My proposal for the installation was: “The 38 books listed in the British Library’s catalogue under the subject of dual-use are to be checked out by the ICA for inclusion in the installation The Dual-Use Memorial that will be part ofthe exhibition Memorial to the Iraq War at ICA, London. With the exception of four of them, which will be mailed to Iraq prior to the opening of the exhibition, the remaining books will be placed in glass compartments along with the British Library printouts of the online book requests indicating that they have been checked out. For the duration of the exhibition (23 May to 27 June 2007), the books will be mailed at the rate of one a day to designated libraries in Iraq. Every time one of the books is mailed to Iraq, the related receipt from the post office (which indicates the library to which it is being sent) will replace it. By the end of the exhibition all 38 books would have been mailed to Iraq. In a corner, titled Packing My Library, the following three books are to be placed over sundry articles of clothing in a suitcase: Jacques Derrida’s Dissemination (which includes “Plato’s Pharmacy”) (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1981); The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, volume XI (1910) (which includes “The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words”); and a compendium of Arabic words with antithetical meanings, Muhammad b. al-Qāsim al-Anbārī’s Kitāb al-Addād. In another corner, a monitor plays a looped excerpt from the scene in Hitchcock’s Marnie in which the hysterical eponymous protagonist reacts anxiously, as if it were blood, to the drop of red ink that falls on her sleeve. On top of the monitor is a copy of the first volume of Edward William Lane’s translation of The Thousand and One Nights—one of the great books of dual use—which includes ‘The Tale of King Yunan and the Sage Duban.’” Due to funding limitations, the ICA borrowed only nine of these books from the British Library, and before the opening of the exhibition two were sent to the libraries of the two universities I had nominated: the University of Baghdad, and the University of Technology in Baghdad. A day after the opening of the exhibition, the British Library learnt of the work through a report in the BBC and demanded the prompt return of the seven books remaining at the ICA. I and the ICA conceded to this demand. But I asked ICA to take a life-size photograph of the shelf with the seven remaining books as well as the two receipts from the post office. The life-size photograph was then placed on the wall above the shelf from which the books had been removed, with the two receipts in the life-size photograph perfectly aligned with the two actual post office receipts. The following two occasional subtitles for The Dual-Use Memorial were then placed, as labels, next to the life-size photograph of the shelf with the books and receipts: The British Library’s Way of Making Us Judge a Book by Its Cover: One-Dimensional, One-Sided (cf. My Conceptual Book Covers for a Different, Felicitous Manner of Judging a Book by Its Cover), aka After Joseph Kosuth’s “One and Three Chairs” (1965).


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