San Francisco

“Apocalypse Now: The Theater of War”

The Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts

“Apocalypse Now: The Theater of War” was an erudite and inventive, yet ultimately misguided, group exhibition. Cocurators Jens Hoffmann and artist duo Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla gathered a selection of artworks, literary works, films, documents, and other cultural materials from a deep reservoir of sources—including Leonardo da Vinci, Mark Twain, John Heartfield, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Goebbels, Alain Resnais, Francis Ford Coppola, Richard Serra, Francisco de Goya, and Martha Rosler—in an “art attack” on war. In an exhibition designed around a series of bunkerlike structures and dimly lit passageways, the drama of warfare was simulated as mere theatrical effect within a hyperbolic, multisensory environment.

The first element that assaulted the viewer was an extract from the opening scene of Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now. (Clips from the middle and the end were shown on

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