Haunting Art Installation of 58,000 Dog Tags Commemorates US Soldiers Who Died in the Vietnam War

The piece was created for the National Veterans Art Museum.

"Above and Beyond." Photo: Brooke Anderson, via Flickr.
"Above and Beyond." Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast, courtesy AP.

Above and Beyond.
Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast.

In a tribute to those who fought in the Vietnam War, the Chicago Public Library will display Above and Beyond, a hanging art installation by Ned Broderick, Rick Steinbock, Joe Fornelli, and Mike Helbing, made from 58,000 dog tags. There is one for each member of the US armed forces that was killed during the war.

"Above and Beyond." Photo: courtesy the Chicago Public Library.

“Above and Beyond.”
Photo: courtesy the Chicago Public Library.

The exhibition, which asks viewers to consider the meaning and consequences of the Vietnam War, was commissioned by the National Veterans Art Museum, where it originally appeared in 2001. Broderick and his team created the piece with Veteran Artists, founded by a group of Vietnam vets in October 1981. The artists individually stamped each replica dog tag with the name of a fallen solider, creating one for each and every casualty.

"Above and Beyond." Photo: Tim Boyle, courtesy Getty Images.

Above and Beyond.
Photo: Tim Boyle, courtesy Getty Images.

The dog tags, each hung one inch apart, are suspended from the ceiling in a 13-by-34 foot rectangle. As visitors pass below the shimmering installation, the delicate chains begin to flutter, and the dog tags strike each other like wind chimes.

At once monumental and delicate, it is in good standing among other war memorial artworks, including London’s striking poppy installation and Frank Gaylord’s Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall.

"Above and Beyond." Photo: Brooke Anderson, via Flickr.

Above and Beyond.
Photo: Brooke Anderson, via Flickr.

“Chicago Public Library is extremely proud to feature the Above and Beyond exhibit at the Harold Washington Library Center,” said library commissioner Brian Bannon in a statement. “It is so important that the people of Chicago see their library as a place where ideas are brought to life and shared, whether it be through a book, picture, story, or a highly impactful piece of art.”

"Above and Beyond." Photo: courtesy the National Veterans Art Museum.

“Above and Beyond.”
Photo: courtesy the National Veterans Art Museum.

Above and Beyond is a powerful piece of art that makes a bold statement on the impact of combat to our society, and is all the more potent as it was created by veteran artists who served in Vietnam,” added Lionel Rabb, chairman of the National Veterans Art Museum board of directors. “Above and Beyond exemplifies the quality and stature of veteran art, while showing its ability to expose people to the realities of war and combat.”

"Above and Beyond." Photo: courtesy War Memorial HQ.

Above and Beyond.
Photo: courtesy War Memorial HQ.

“Above and Beyond” will be on view at the Chicago Public Library’s Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., Chicago, February 20, 2016–April 15, 2020.


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