The title of this series references the name of the cryptonym given to the United States efforts to break Japanese military and diplomatic codes during World War II. Despite achieving some success in the deciphering of Japan’s military intentions, a surprise attack was carried out by the Japanese Imperial Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, on December 7th 1941, marking America’s entry in to World War II – also known as The Pacific War. Outraged by the audacity and premeditation of the Japanese to attack without warning, President Roosevelt managed to unite the American population in collective nationalism, ultimately leading to patriotic combat, with his ‘Day of Infamy Speech’. The proceeding rhetoric and images surrounding the injustice of the Pearl Harbour attack, and that the Eastern enemy were essentially a base and evil peoples became firmly established in the narratives associated with World War II. However while there is no doubt that the Japanese did astound the United States with the force, craftiness, and scale of their assault, much historical conjecture has emerged concerning the validity of whether this attack was actually a true surprise. Such debate is largely linked to the successes of the Magic code breaking missions, and also the developing Manhattan Project, which would later reach its fruition with the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This series takes the historically significant 1941 Pearl Harbour attack as its point of focus by presenting a series of photographs of the present-day Pearl Harbour memorial sites with images produced by Japanese forces moments before the actual attack. By working with this existing archival and current imagery, Operation Magic attempts to confront what can be pre-given fixed ‘images’ of history, regardless of their specific cultural origin, thereby enabling a discourse that resists vilifying the complexities of Anglo-American and Japanese military histories to a simple ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ binary position.  Accordingly it’s important to note, that these artworks do not attempt to deny the historical narratives associated with the real traumas and human suffering connected to the Pearl Harbour attack, and subsequent Pacific War. Rather, the aim is to question what it might mean, along with how, to make sense of such narratives and their images now.  Archival and present-day images provide a kind of montaging of time, history, ideology and politics, which works to challenge the limits of representation and experience in relationship to essentially traumatic military histories.  There is also a questioning of documentary practice, and its associated material forms.  Operation Magic aims to question what an ‘adequate’ image of trauma, conflict, history, and memorial involves. This series is also interested in the relevance of such controversial histories to a present-day context, and the continuing impact of American/Eurocentric racist and imperialist discourses.