An argument could be made that "The Hellfire Story" aestheticizes war, that Cole is translating the liberal sympathies of his audience into accolade and personal gain the same way the US government channels public funds into private-sector war initiatives. The 175 wall-mounted placards in the gallery room arouse these sympathies with a somewhat tacky unsubtlety, detailing missile tallies in Pakistan on one side with Biblical text on the other.

Principal among the many ethical questions "The Hellfire Story" raises is this: if robotics replace our human military (though not our opponents), will our moral and psychological aversion to war be similarly replaced? Without that aversion, is Obama's decision to fire missiles into Pakistan still an act of war, or is it more akin to "poking" Kenny Cole on Facebook? In his exhibit, Cole doesn't extend an answer. Our world raises innumerable ethical quandaries; Cole's work merely demands that they be considered. In the meantime, SPACE Gallery will host numerous films, rock shows, and dance parties within the walls of this aestheticized mausoleum. Whether or not the public cares to see "The Hellfire Story", or enjoys its work, is irrelevant — it still exists.

Nicholas Schroeder can be reached

"THE HELLFIRE STORY" | through December 9 | at SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St, Portland | 207.828.5600

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