Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection

Public Art

Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection

Krzysztof Wodiczko collaborated with American war veterans for Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection, interviewing fourteen participants about their wartime experiences. Their edited stories were projected onto the statue in Union Square Park for thirty-two days, symbolizing the gap between war and civilian life. This project coincided with the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, resonating strongly in Union Square's history of social justice activism. Wodiczko's return to monumental art in Manhattan stirred meaningful dialogue, including an educational curriculum for local students.
Krzysztof Wodiczko



Union Square, New York, NY.

Krzysztof Wodiczko, Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection, 2012.
  • Project description
  • About the artist
Krzysztof Wodiczko, Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection, 2012.

For Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection, Krzysztof Wodiczko engaged with dozens of American war veterans and their family members to explore the traumatic consequences of war. The artist interviewed a total of fourteen participants, recording conversations about war experiences, the difficult return to civilian life, loss, and guilt. These interviews were then edited into a video that was projected on the statue of Abraham Lincoln In Union Square Park.

For thirty-two days, their voices and gestures animated the silent sculpture that has stood in the park since 1870. The superimposition of moving image, sound and sculpture worked to create a complex work of art reflecting the incommensurable distance existing between those who went to war and those who didn’t. Speaking through the mouth of Lincoln, the participants made their experiences starkly public thereby asking the audience to face the wider implications of war, particularly the fate of traumatized war veterans.

Abraham Lincoln resonated all the more powerfully given the, at the time, imminent American withdrawal from Iraq and Union Square’s historical significance as a site for protest in favor of social justice.

Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection marked a return of sorts for Wodiczko whose last monumental work in Manhattan was the influential and often cited Homeless Project (1988).

A related Educational Curriculum associated with this project was also designed for Manhattan’s 7th and 8th grade students, focusing on American history as part of their mandated course of study. We urge educators to consider participating and helping continue this important dialogue.

Krzysztof Wodiczko

Krzysztof Wodiczko was born in 1943 in Warsaw, Poland, and lives and works in New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since 1980, he has created more than seventy large-scale slide and video projections of politically charged images on architectural façades and monuments worldwide. By appropriating public buildings and monuments as backdrops for projections, Wodiczko focuses attention on ways in which architecture and monuments reflect collective memory and history. In 1996, he added sound and motion to the projections, and began to collaborate with communities around chosen projection sites—giving voice to the concerns of heretofore marginalized and silent citizens who live in the monuments’ shadows.

Projecting images of community members’ hands, faces, or entire bodies onto architectural façades, and combining those images with voiced testimonies, Wodiczko disrupts our traditional understanding of the functions of public space and architecture. He challenges the silent, stark monumentality of buildings, activating them in an examination of notions of human rights, democracy, and truths about the violence, alienation, and inhumanity that underlie countless aspects of social interaction in present-day society. Wodiczko has also developed “instruments” to facilitate survival, communication, and healing for homeless people and immigrants; these therapeutic devices—which Wodiczko envisions as technological prosthetics or tools for empowering and extending human abilities—address physical disability as well as economic hardship, emotional trauma, and psychological distress.

Wodiczko heads the Interrogative Design Group, and is Director of the Center for Art, Culture, and Technology, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His work has appeared in many international exhibitions, including the Bienal de São Paulo (1965, 1967, 1985); Documenta (1977, 1987); the Venice Biennale (1986, 2000); and the Whitney Biennial (2000). Wodiczko received the 1999 Hiroshima Art Prize for his contribution as an artist to world peace, and the 2004 College Art Association Award for Distinguished Body of Work.

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The veterans of New York City is a population that unfortunately tends to go unnoticed in the public space. As of 2010, there were 988,217 veterans in New York State, alone. Veterans in this country face many obstacles in integrating back into civilian life; such as unemployment, homelessness, medical and mental health struggles, and difficulty in receiving or being educated about benefits. More Art would like to give extensive thanks to organizations such as Services for the Under Served, Warrior Writers, Veterans Crisis Line, Coalition for the Homeless, Office of Veterans Affairs, Hope for the Warriors, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, Hire Heroes USA, Service Women’s Action Network, along with countless others, for their unyielding aid to military veterans.  Organizations such as these offer invaluable resources to veterans, such as affordable housing, emergency mental health assistance, and personalized job training. Despite these noble efforts, there is much work to be done in terms of giving back to our veterans and recognizing their sacrifices; as of 2010, an estimated 22 veterans committed suicide per day.

Veteran Participants

Joan Aiken
Lyndsey Anderson
Joseph Avellanet
Roman Baca
Walter Baldaccini
Carl Cannon
Luis Crossman
Marie Delus
Trent Love
Nelson Lowhim
Blake Ruehrwein
Carlos Tarraza
Carlos Zambrano

Collaborating Veterans Organizations

  • Coalition for the Homeless
  • Cornell University – Program for Anxiety and Trauma Stress Studies
  • CUNY – Office of Veterans Affairs
  • ECAD – Educated Canine Assistance Dog Program
  • Emotional Freedom Technique – Jondi Whitis
  • HonorVet.org
  • Hope for the Warriors
  • Housing and Services Inc.
  • Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University
  • IAVA – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
  • Intersections International
  • North Shore LIJ – Ways to Give Foundation
  • Phoenix House of New York, Inc.
  • Services for the UnderServed, Inc.
  • Shining Services Worldwide
  • SWAN – Service Women’s Action Network
  • UWVC – United War Veterans Council Inc.
  • Veterans Mental Health Coalition of NYC
  • Warrior Writers
  • Wounded Warrior Project

Funding for this project has been provided in part by the Lower Manhattan Cultural
Council, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The NYC Council, the Polish
Cultural Institute, Galerie Lelong, and individual donors. The project was made possible by the special assistance of the City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation and the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department at the School of Visual Arts.


The Union Square Partnership.

The Union Square Partnership (USP) is a private, not-for-profit, community-based organization responsible for the revitalization of the 14th Street-Union Square neighborhood. For more information, visit unionsquarenyc.org.

NYC Department of Parks & Recreation Art in the Parks Program.

The City of New York’s Department of Parks & Recreation Art in the Parks program has consistently fostered the creation and installation of temporary public art in parks throughout the five boroughs. Since 1967, collaborations with arts organizations and artists have produced hundreds of public art projects in New York City parks.