from A Different War, Vietnam in Art

By Lucy Lippard

Sam Wiener was one of the few artists to concentrate on the American dead. In 1970 he made one of the Movement's most simple and haunting works. Originally titled 45,391...and counting (it changed with the latest body counts from Vietnam) and now titled Those Who Fail to Remember the Past Are Condemned to Repeat It (apropos of Central AMerica) [and later Iraq I and II and ?], it is a sculpture lined with mirrors in which rows of flag-draped coffins expand infnitely into other rows of coffins, escalating into infinity, like the war. Viewers feel as though they are in a Surrealist dream hall of horrors - silent and awesome and absolutely terrifying in its cool , methodical illustration of death, Wiener also made a mass-distributed poster from the image; it too was resurrected and distributed again when Central America heated up in the early '80s [and yet again for the Iraq wars later].