Monkey see, monkey do

There is something eerily haunting about Michal Lisowski’s series Soldiers of the Banana Republic. With its Great War iconography and all too familiar scenes of the desolation, horror, hopelessness, fear and pain. The soldier’s silence emanates from his illustrations,  reflecting the personally isolating nature of war. Alone within a crowd of soldiers, you may be fighting side by side with your mates in a platoon, but inside your head you are also lost and alone with your own life’s uncertainty. Looking around you, enveloped in unbelievable horror, afraid of the pain and death that awaits you with every bullet fired and every shell whistling overhead.  The deafening noise of the guns only exaggerating the soldiers lack of a voice, just links in a chain, expendable collateral. Their faces sad, their expressions absent and even slightly bewildered.

Michael’s work, in exchanging the human face of war for our distant primate cousins, somehow increases the haunting scenes of this war. Looking into the faces of the haplorrhine primates kitted out for battle in human uniforms, with rifles, bayonets and pistols, the fear of not understanding why this is happening to them feels more intense. Are they fighting a battle against monkeys on “the other side” or are they part of some strange experimental team pulled together to see if they can beat back the enemy on behalf of their human counterparts? Unfortunately we’re not to know, as Michael leaves us with no explanation, so the imagination is free to make its own determination, however cheerless that may be.

Jo Jette