When Christopher Arendt finished his tour as a military police officer at Guantanamo Bay earlier this year, he found himself wondering how to re-integrate into society. His strategy was to embark on "a 15-month tour of duty, experiencing life as a homeless veteran," which has, for the moment, ended in Portland. Since moving here in August, he's become the organizer for the local chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War and assembled Motorcycle Awesome, an arts collective meant to open dialogue between veterans and civilians. For its first event, Arendt will be hosting a screenprinting party at IGLOO, in which the public can create its own anti-war propaganda on T-shirts and posters. You can also pick up a copy of Arendt's first zine, which, as he puts it, explains "how one goes about becoming a concentration camp guard without ever having really made any decisions."
MERCURY: How would you define Motorcycle Awesome?
ARENDT: It's a synthesis of the work I'm doing with the Iraq Veterans Against the War and the civilians who want to participate. Veterans make up a very insular community, so part of the goal is to break that and sort of re-socialize them, connect them with regular twentysomethings and artists who are sympathetic to activism.
Where did the name originate?
It was named after a group of four friends, including myself, who regularly drank and made fun of one another at Guantanamo Bay. We were all united by a common enemy: finishing out our tours without losing our minds. We all also had reputations for being respectful and kind to detainees when we worked on the blocks.
What do you think expressing your experiences at Guantanamo can accomplish?
I'm 24. I know I can't fix these problems. I can only hope to add to a historical analysis and contribute to breaking down the dialogue of warrior culture. The war on terror has resulted in so many ridiculous, ugly actions and unacceptable breaches of ethics. Those who can think and express themselves artistically have a duty to do so while we have the chance. Art may not be able to end the war, but it can bring people together.