Aaron Hughes

Ahmed

Written by Aaron Hughes in New York (summer 2006) after spending time with Ahmed Jabar Shareef, a nine year old Iraqi boy.

Ahmed Jabar Shareef is my friend and my guardian angel.
The children lining the roads of Iraq begging for food fill me with guilt, cynicism and anger.
Yet Ahmed who has been raped by this war, raped of his youth, raped of his body, raped of his sight, raped of his home, raped of his freedom, has no cynicism in his thoughts.
He gives love and trust without fear.
He grabs my hand and yells, "Run. Run please? Please, run."
He is a nine-year-old boy who wants to run.
He is a nine-year-old boy who can't run without someone to lead him.
To stop him before the curb, before the tree, before the car that he cannot see.
He is a nine-year-old boy who wants to stomp his feet and twist to pop music.
He is a nine-year-old boy that teaches himself to play piano.
He is a nine-year-old boy that is a bird who knows no barbed wire.
He is a nine-year-old boy that is my guardian angel constantly reminding me that life is for love and trust, not cynicism and anger.
Ahmed Jabar Shareef is my friend.

Burn Pit Cancer

Burn Pit Cancer

Burn chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear waste
Burn intelligence
Burn batteries
Burn emotion
Burn garbage
Burn instinct
Burn concrete
Burn meaning
Burn tires
Burn sadness
Burn shit
Burn hope
Burn dirt
Burn lust
Burn acid
Burn faith
Burn flesh
Burn love
Burn pits
Burn
Burn everything

Get inflammation
Get humiliated
Get discharged
Get disgraced
Get poisoned
Get cancer
Get growths
Get lost
Get sick
Get sad
Get dead
Get
Get everything

Ft. Hood Waiting

Evictions
Cigarettes
Fast food
Painkillers
Tranquilizers
Sleeping pills
Dreams
Uniforms
Red eyes
Sunrise
Paper work
Waiting
Standing
Waiting

Sunset
Cigarettes
Soda pop
Leaving
Coming
Sweat
Memorials
Sweaty palms
Dead grass
Flags
Identification
Death
Waiting
Cigarettes butts
Waiting

Time

Home Can

I they we are home
But never coming home
Will make it but never made it

I they we are home
But never making home
Lost it

I they we are home
Imagining home
Journey does not end it

I they we are home
Seeking home
Others found it

I they we are home
Hoping home
Desire it
Recreate it

I they we are home with you
Misplaced without you

I know I have but cannot have
I know they have but cannot have
I know we have but cannot have
But I they we have home

I Am Who Survived, Forgive Me

I am who survived forgive me
I am who survived forgive me
I am who survived forgive me

I am who survived don't forgive me
I am who survived don't forgive me
I am who survived don't forgive me

I am who survived hate me
I am who survived hate me
I am who survived fucking hate me kill me
I am who
I am who
I am who

I am who . . . helped dirt and dust and death
I am who. . . . drove through dirt and dust and flesh and guts
I am who. . . . kill me
I am who. . . . Kill me not them or you or fucking kid on road

on death on lust and blood
Dirt blood road blood
Horizon. . .

I am
I am
I am guilt and guts and hate and lost

I am nothing
I am lost and tired and nothing
I am lost guts throw up shit
I am who survived kill me
I am who survived
I . . . I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I fuck I

I am who survived

Joshua Casteel, RIP 1979-2012

Iowa blond
Midwest height
Seeking self
Seeking others

Respectful smile
Humble eyes
Deep impressions
Nuanced rhetoric

Firm body
Bookish glasses
Tranquil fighter
Conscientious witness

Sport coat
Sox cap
Desert winds
Hidden assassin

Loving embrace
Stern vision
Brilliant faith
Transcend conflict

Just rest
Hopeful sage
Love one’s
Enemies

Pre-operation

Take off all your clothes.
Put them in the bag.
Put on the gown.
Sign form here.
This might hurt a bit.
Sit up.
Sign here.
This will be cold.
Take a deep breath.
Lay down.
Relax.
Give me your arm.
Chin to chest.
Look left. Look right.
Put your arm down.
Look at me.
You will be sleeping.
You won’t feel a thing.
You won’t remember

Light gray blue green
Florescent flickering hum
Peering peeking passerby
Draping curtains
Intimate exchange exposed
Sterile air shivers and nips
Charts terminals diagrams
Computer click click tap
One two three white coats
Four five six
Washed gray-green scrubs
Malingering meddling nurses
Head nods and stares
Checked boxes
Bleached blankets
Silent robotic doors
Rolling mute beds
White washed concrete
IV seeps

What is your full name?
Are you in pain?
What is your date of birth?
Are you cold?
What is your last four?
Are you allergic to anything?
What is your full name?
Does that hurt?
What is your date of birth?
Do you want a blanket?
What is your last four?
Are you feeling well?
What is your full name?
Do you have any questions?
What is your date of birth?
Are you scared?
What is your last four?
Do you understand?
What is your full name?

21 Days

Dust Memories

Coming Home

People’s History

I Am Who Survived

Where Am I Going

Resource Wars

Drones
Aaron Hughes

I am an artist, activist, organizer, teacher, and Iraq War veteran, whose work seeks out poetics, connections, and moments of beauty, in order to construct new narratives and meaning out of personal and collective traumas. I use these narratives to create projects that attempt to deconstruct systems of dehumanization and oppression. I work with a variety of art, veteran, and activist organizations and projects including: Iraq Veterans Against the War, Warrior Writers Project, Dirty Canteen, National Veterans Art Museum, Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, and Center for Artistic Activism.

In January of 2003 I was pulled out of undergraduate work at the University of Illinois when I received orders to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to Kuwait and Iraq as a truck driver with the 1244th Transportation Company Illinois Army National Guard.

In 2005, after my deployment, I returned to the University of Illinois to study painting where my work focused on deconstructing my experience in the military and I began to use art as a tool to confront issues of militarism and dehumanization: Dust Memories (2005); Ahmed (2006); Tourist Photographs of Iraq (2006); Drawing for Peace (2006).

In 2006 I received a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Illinois and joined Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), a national organization of veterans opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, demanding reparation for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and fighting for full benefits for returning service members.

In 2009 I received an MFA in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University and became the national IVAW Organizing Team Leader (Organizing Director). Since the beginning of my involvement with IVAW I have worked on art and organizing projects that interweave my political and aesthetic concerns: Warrior Writers (Ongoing), Combat Paper (Ongoing), Drawing For Peace (2007), Operation First Casualty (2007), Winter Soldier (2008), Demilitarized University (2009), IVAW Field Organizing Program (2009-2012), Operation Recovery Campaign (2009 - 2012), War is Trauma Portfolio (2010), and the March for Reconciliation and Healing (Where veterans returned their Global War on Terrorism Service Medals back to NATO Generals at the NATO Summit in Chicago in 2012), and the Celebrate People's History: Iraq Veterans Against the War Portfolio (2014).

Since 2012, I have been focusing on my ongoing Tea Project that utilizes the space created when someone sits, sips, and reflects over a cup of tea to demonstrate a shared humanity through questions, stories, and metaphors. When someone sits, sips, and reflects over a cup of tea a space is created to ask questions about one’s relationship to the world: a world that’s filled with dehumanization, war, and destruction; a world that is filled with beauty, love, and humanity.

Press about Aaron Hughes:
Tea Ritual
Veterans Day at MOMA
Resource Wars

[email protected]

www.aarhughes.org