Charles A. Csuri
104 x 229 cm (41 x 90 in.)
This work believed to have been lost, with only a small plotter print detail showing some soldiers remaining. Just before the Beyond Boundaries exhibition, the original films were rediscovered and the work was recreated for the exhibition.
Identically formed soldiers coded in red and black diminish into a vertical ground plane. Two lists of serial numbers and names, one for each army, stretch across the upper register. The lists indicate which soldiers have died, which were wounded, which remain missing, and which survive. One hero is recognized on each side and is listed above the medals awarded for valor, good conduct, and efficiency.Random War, arguably one of the most important works of the twentieth century, stands at the convergence of Csuris life experiences and the American social upheaval that dominated the late 1960s. While the Vietnam War raged in Southeast Asia, antiwar sentiments divided the country. Generations of Americans struggled against each other at unprecedented levels. Technology was enthusiastically embraced in suburban households and touted by many as the savior of countless social and medical ills. Simultaneously, many perceived it as a demonic force that introduced chaos, depersonalizing and degrading human beings. To many in the art community, creating art with a computer was an act of evil in itself.Csuri was uniquely poised to conceive and render an aesthetic object of this scale and significance. A soldier and decorated veteran of World War IIs Battle of the Bulge, Csuri knew the battlefield and the horrors of war. As a fine artist, he understood the power of visual communication and the aesthetic object. As one naturally skilled in interdisciplinary collaboration, he could harness the computers potential and use it to advance the art world. The little green army manthe model for Csuris drawing of a soldierhas iconic status in the American psyche. These two-inch-tall, green plastic figurines were an integral part of most boys toy sets until the late 1970s. Childhood memories of games played are permeated by adult sensibilities of the greater victories and losses that the figurines represent. Csuri captures the chaos of the battlefield by using a random number generator to place the forms on battlefield coordinates and to rotate the absurdly rigid bodies in two-dimensional space. A work brilliantly, conceived, Csuri entered the names of the living. Ohio State administrators, faculty, staff, and famous people, such as Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, become soldiers in Csuris Random War, suggesting wars indiscriminate nature. Csuri even entered his own name into the random number generator, and it was ultimately assigned to the list of the wounded. Random War predates Maya Lins Vietnam War Memorial, The Wall (1982), which honors Vietnam War veterans through names carved in granite. Csuris use of names underscores and personalizes the randomness and chaos of all wars. Lins work shows the grim outcome of Csuris predictions. Lin never met Csuri, and it is unlikely that she saw the original Random War, the whereabouts of which are unknown today. Nevertheless, the two works create a powerful juxtaposition, demonstrating both the historical evolution of conceptual art that incorporates language and the historical and sociological realities of cause and effect. [Janice M. Glowski]
Charles A. Csuri