Imagine being one of the young American soldiers caught up in the Vietnam War. You would have had a Zippo lighter with you, an indispensable ‘tool’ and an unfailing companion. After buying it at a supply shop from the Army, you probably would have had it personalized by a local Vietnamese engraver, or maybe you would have bought one on the black market already decorated with an engraving popular amongst your brothers-in-arms.
Ivan Liechti collects pictures of engraved GI Zippos from the Vietnam War era. In this issue, he presents a collection of those artworks, redrawn and transferred onto paper in order to preserve their rather crude original appearance. The work represents a kind of modern day epigraphy.
On this small metal objects, one can discover a whole world of images, a direct insight into the mind of the soldiers thrown into battle, on average only 19 years old, as well as a reflection on a troubled period of war and socio-cultural shift in the history of the USA. The pictures, apart from countless images of naked girls, explicit sexual drawings or military insignia, show that you could also have chosen a design related to your civilian life, inspired by songs you were listening to or by comic books you were reading.
But in the end you might have decided simply to have your Zippo engraved with the terribly accurate:
‘WHEN I DIE I’LL KNOW I AM GOING TO HEAVEN CAUSE I SPENT MY TIME IN HELL’
Project and drawings by
Text by Sonic Boom