Domestic Terrorism: War Rugs From America is an artist book that grew out of Johannah Herr’s 2020 solo show of the same name at the Elijah Wheat Showroom. The show was comprised of a series of machine-tufted rugs that use the material and visual narrative strategies found in Afghan war rugs to depict state-sanctioned violence in America. This book expands upon the motifs that the rugs explore (e.g., police brutality, the inept handling of the pandemic, immigration detention, gun violence, income inequality, environmental degradation) all in the cheery, exuberant format of a 70s-style Sears catalogue.
Writer Cara Marsh Sheffler and Herr lighted upon the artistic medium of a Sears catalogue to portray American decline as what it unavoidably is: a consumer experience. Domestic Terrorism is a catalogue meant to advertise and enshrine the violence portrayed on the rugs—violence that, over the course of the past year, has invaded every facet of American life and even breached the Capitol itself. As the format of a catalogue demands, this artist book is chock full of objects that can be purchased in America right now—anything from Confederate flag belly button rings to a Blue Lives Matter Christmas ornament. Collages of such objects are paired with thematically resonant text.
Sheffler and Herr began work on this catalogue in autumn 2020, after months of lockdown, reduced to interacting with the world largely online. Estrangement was endemic. Given that context, the Sears catalogue struck the pair as the OG attempt at the comprehensiveness offered by Internet shopping. The retreat from brick-and-mortar commerce has further facilitated the rise of Amazon, worker exploitation, societal inequality, segregation, and isolation from our communities. In 2020, the violence of American Exceptionalism became domestic on many levels: literal, intimate, national, and—like a rug that really ties the room together—centered in our homes and hearths.
Manifest Destiny, as it turns out, was an ad campaign; “Domestic Terrorism” lets you bring a little slice of it home to your very own coffee table!