Back to Artship Olympia

Nadia Hironaka & Matthew Suib 


A Splendid Little War
Lost Loves/Love Lost

It is a well-worn aphorism, alternately attributed to Winston Churchill and Walter Benjamin, that History is written by the victors. But here, the question of attribution raises still more questions about the meaning and veracity of historical records. Historically designated sights like the USS Olympia, for all of the detail and rich narrative they contain, illuminate just a slice of the historical record. Hironaka and Suib are interested in reanimating or re-visioning these histories by looking at the real-world events that fell outside of the Historic Record, and reconsidering the meaning of a historical site in our contemporary context.

As a key player in the United States’ first military effort to project power overseas,  Olympia led Hironaka and Suib to explore the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars, in which she was involved around the turn of the 20th Century. From today’s vantage point, they trace the expansion and contraction of the American Empire that began on board this ship and others in the U.S. Navy fleets of that era. Their work in Artship Olympia uses media and motifs from the late 1800’s to encourage a critical dialogue between viewers and the institutional narrative presented on board the historical war ship.

A Splendid Little War comprises a pair of large-scale projections on the hull of Olympia, graphically framed by the words of John Hay (U.S. Secretary of State during the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars) and Thomas Edison, who produced some of the very first documentation of war in motion pictures in Cuba and the Philippines. These ghostly moving images, projected onto Olympia and considered in today’s historical moment, point towards a uniquely American obsession with military power that persists to this day.

A second work, Lost Loves / Love Lost, located inside the ship, uses a pre-cinematic special effect called a Pepper’s Ghost to envision a grouping of what could be a sailor’s most cherished possession––a silver locket––inside of his living quarters. In place of the weathered photo of a sailor’s sweetheart that one might expect, these lockets picture a chronology of regional, national and international figures that the United States has alternately fought for, with, and against, as the tides of American political, economic and military interests have shifted over more than a century. This chronology charts a century-long arc of the American Empire and its casualties from Filipino revolutionary Emilio Aguinaldo to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

About the Artists


Nadia Hironaka & Matthew Suib have worked as artistic collaborators since 2008. They are the 2015 recipients of a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, and have also received a 2015 CFEVA Fellowship. Their collaborative projects have been exhibited in museums, galleries and film festivals worldwide. Their body of work, Mirrors, Marks and Loops was displayed to critical acclaim at Locks Gallery in Philadelphia in 2014. A large-scale moving mural made in partnership with Mural Arts also debuted 2014.

Nadia Hironaka received her Masters of Fine Art from The Art Institute of Chicago and her Bachelors of Fine Art from The University of the Arts. Currently she resides in Philadelphia and is a professor at The Maryland Institute College of Art. She was a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellow and received a Pew Fellowship in the Arts in 2006. Other awards include: The Leeway Foundation, Peter Stuyvessant Fish Award in Media Arts, prog:me video artist award, The Black Maria Film Festival, and The New York Short Exposition Film Festival. Her films and video installations have been exhibited internationally in: PULSAR (Venezuela), Rencontres Internationals (Paris/Berlin), The Den Haag Film and Video Festival (The Netherlands), The Center for Contemporary Arts (Kitakyushu, Japan), The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Morris Gallery, The Black Maria Film Festival, The Donnell Library (NYC), The Fabric Workshop and Museum (Philadelphia), The Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia), The Galleries at Moore College of Art (Philadelphia), and Vox Populi, (Philadelphia). Hironaka’s second solo museum exhibtion The Late Showwas presented at Arizona State University Art Museum.

Philadelphia-based artist Matthew Suib has exhibited installations, video/sound works and photographs internationally at venues including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Kunstwerke Berlin, Mercer Union (Toronto), The Corcoran Gallery of Art (D.C.) and PS1 Contemporary Art Center (NYC), The Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia), and the 2007 Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. His 2006 project Purified By Fire has been commissioned for exhibition in Miami, Chicago, Toronto and Paris. In 2011, Suib was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. He was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts in 2011 and was a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellow in 2005. Matthew was also a former member of the esteemed Philadelphia artist collective Vox Populi.

In 2007, as an extension of their artistic practice, Hironaka & Suib founded Screening ( Philadelphia’s first gallery dedicated to the presentation of innovative and challenging works on video and film, Screening is a project devoted to expanding access to these media and exploring the influence of moving image culture on our understanding and experience of the world. Screening’s program has included solo exhibitions of work by internationally renowned artists including Johan Grimonprez, Takeshi Murata, Adam Putnam, Mark Lewis, Kelly Richardson, Mungo Thomson, Lars Laumann and others.