Created during the midst of the Iraq War, Gerda Meyer Bernstein’s installation Exercise in Futility examines war as a manifestation of humankind’s failure. Born in Westphalia, Germany in 1923, Bernstein remained in Germany until 1939 when she left with the Kindertransport; a rescue operation that took children of Jewish descent from Nazi Germany to Great Britain in the months escalating to World War II. While Bernstein survived the war, she lost her entire extended famlily to the genocide of the holocaust. Forever affected by this tragedy, Bernstein has spent her life making work that examines humanitarian issues of global scale.
Exercise in Futility is composed of fifty rucksacks and helmets, as well as fifty cell phones which represent the soldiers’ connections to their families at home. Rather than using modern military equipment from the Iraq War, Exercise in Futility was created with military equipment from a range of wars and conflicts in the 20th century. By using military articles from the past, Bernstein connects modern war to the long history of warfare and asks us to question humanity’s endless failure to allow one another to live in peace.