Suzanne Treister

NATO 2004-2008

watercolour project
dimensions: each 21 x 29.7 cm

192 works from an ongoing series. Please click for enlargements

'NATO The Military Codification System for the Ordering of Everything in the World' with essay by Marek Kohn.
Black Dog Publishing Ltd, London, 2008

NATO's codification system allows it to describe and classify large parts of the world around us. Items as diverse as perfume, battleships, animals, electronic equipment and musical instruments are ordered and represented in a way that make them comprehensible and accessible to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation so that they can be articulated and used by the Military.

Within the codification system the NATO Supply Classification (NSC) uses a four-digit coding structure. The first two digits of the code number identify the Group, eg. Group 77 - Musical Instruments, Phonographs, and Home-Type Radios, whilst the last two digits of the code number identify the Classes within the Group, eg. 7710 - Musical Instruments (complete).
Since 2004 I have been working with these 4 digit NATO Supply Classifications to develop an encyclopedic series of watercolours. The project references the Western fine art representative tradition as a systematic ordering and understanding of the world, with attendant intentions and subtexts; the memento mori, ideas of ownership and knowledge. Specifically referenced is the history of watercolours as a scientific illustrative tool.
By conjuring these histories and narratives of representational painting within the taxonomies of the military, the work problematises them and brings them into the matrix of unease that constitutes our understanding of the world today: and which indeed may be an outcome of these. The most innocuous objects can be articulated by, or are invested with, the possibilities of agency.



A guide to the NATO Codification System can be found at: