Improvised Explosive Designs [IED]


Mock Afghan Village, Canadian Embassy, Washington, DC. Source: The Globe and Mail, Sept. 4 2009, p. A11.

Improvised Explosive Designs: The film-set as military set-up 

A set-designer clads faux village walls in Medina Wasl, Fort Irwin, California. Source: Film-still, Full Battle Rattle, 2008.

To coincide with a September 2009 forum on Canada’s military role in Afghanistan the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC announced plans to stage a series of Taliban-led attacks on a mock Afghan village to be erected in the embassy compound. Twice daily, simulated IED blasts were to detonate spurring Canadian Forces personnel and medics to the scene where they would battle insurgents and attend to civilian casualties. While this proposed PR campaign was unique in terms of its stated function to engender greater respect for the efforts of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, the building and destruction of ersatz architectural sets for playing out the theatres of war is not. Moreover, the utilisation of cinematic modes of production, specifically the design and creation of such provisional architectures (better known as film-sets), has been inextricably linked to the operations of tactical-training and warfare from WWII onwards. The collusion between cinema’s architectural expressions—its set designs—and the spatial strategies that attend the management and control of conflict is the broad subject of this essay.