CURATOR Aaron Lister
Operation Magic is part of Auckland photographer Fiona Amundsen’s ongoing exploration into the subjective experience of being in historically or culturally loaded public sites, and photography’s role in the memorialising of war and trauma. For this series, Amundsen turns to Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, the site of the ‘surprise’ Japanese attack on America in 1941—the notorious ‘day of infamy’ which marked the entry of the United States into The Pacific War.
Amundsen’s photographs of present-day Pearl Harbour get behind the established imagery of this site, and upset the mythologies this imagery carries. Amundsen returns to this site after the traumatic event and the photographs that have constructed it in the public imagination, and after the dissolution of faith in photography’s ability to bear objective witness to historical truths. Her photographs unsettle the narratives which have accrued around the original photographs of this site, and their historical and political associations.
Interspersed amongst Amundsen’s own photographs are recently declassified archival photographs taken by the Japanese forces moments before the actual attack, which cast the event in very different terms. In blurring the lines between the historical and the contemporary, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and the supposedly objective images of the archive with the subjective vision of the contemporary artist, Amundsen questions the role of photography and the archive in the making of both history and contemporary experience.