January 22, 2008

It hit me sometime after walking into a deserted replica of a midcentury military cafeteria, between handling a modern automatic rifle and its ancestor from WWI, and likely around the exhaustive display of killing hardware lined up in ordered blonde scandinavian cases. The prologue was a clinical comparison of the warring behaviors of chimpanzees and their tool-wielding genetic cousins. After stepping rapidly from Nordic and South American idols, their relationship to death, the textually dense displays waste no time gutting glorified depictions of battle. Its editorial patina diverges sharply from counterparts in the United States.

I was oddly reminded of The Wire: The descriptions’ writing was at once brilliantly thorough, in neutral voice, spending equal time detailing casualties as it did battles, kings and logistics of moving troops across Sweden, Russia and mainland Europe. After following the English version for half of the museum, I stopped reading and just wandered from room to room. The artifacts and dioramas carried the message too.

Maybe it wasn’t intended to be neutral at all. Maybe the result—my walking away being a bit more sickened by the idea of war—was what the creators meant all along.

Armémuseum - Riddargatan 13, Östermalm, Stockholm, Sweden.