March 11, 2014 | 16 Comments

Commoditized Warfare (Yosuke Ushigome)

From the curators: Yosuke Ushigome’s Commoditised Warfare series moves conflict between world super powers and bordering nation states beyond bloodshed. A critical-design version of The Hunger Games, Ushigome’s work suggests that shared spectacle may be one solution to decades of political deadlock and military aggression between countries like North and South Korea, Japan and the USA, or India and Pakistan. Commoditised Warfare sees sworn enemies come together to participate in rituals centered around sports games and technologies. Reflecting the customs and interests of the regions in which they are designed to operate, these performances offer resolutions the UN could only dream of. While his work may seem like a lighthearted provocation, by swapping one ritualized set of operations for another, Ushigome highlights how organized, collective acts that bring us together so closely mirror those acts of violence that tear us apart. Christoph Niemann’s animated GIFs respond in kind—an elegant meditation on the well-worn plea, “Can’t we all just learn to play nice?” As Niemann suggests, “Turning war into a competitive spectacle is a much better idea than having actual armies butchering each other. The world has already spent so much money on military equipment, though, that we should try to make do with what we have.”


Christoph Niemann (German, b. 1970). War by Extracurricular Means. Animation

Video at top: Yosuke Ushigome (Japanese, b. 1986). Commoditised Warfare. 2013. Mixed media. All images and videos courtesy of the artist. Produced by Takayuki Takei. Directed by Hiroki Yokoyama. Cinematography by Kimihiro Morikawa. Edited by Jun Kitajima. Production: Studio Interfield Corporation

Is war a game, and can design change the playing field and rules of engagement to mitigate its irreparability?

  1. March 13, 2014, 2:00 pm

    Joachim Horn

    What a brilliant work of design! I was thoroughly moved by Ushigome’s “Commoditised Warfare” at the “Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo”.
    Like a master toy-maker, Ushigome successfully inserts the deeply complex and confusing theoretical aspects of peace processes in intuitive and inviting toy-like creations. Ushigome gave peace processes a directly tangible dimension for spectators, whose experiences are usually restricted to on-screen and digitally curated information. This tangibility creates a physical relation with the spectator, who can grab, touch, and control the aspects and outcomes of war. Ushigome guides the spectator towards considering a mutually beneficient peace, using our millenia-old relation with sports as a catalyst. The spectators become empowered: their attention is grabbed, they understand, they change the course of action, they are given a voice, their decisions can make a difference.

  2. March 17, 2014, 4:08 pm

    […] Created by Christoph Niemann for MOMA via explore […]

  3. March 18, 2014, 8:46 am

    […] Commoditized Warfare by Christoph Niemann […]

  4. March 18, 2014, 6:13 pm

    […] War By Extracurricular Means – the martial art of gifs by German illustrator and graphic designer Christopher Niemann for MOMA, New York. […]

  5. March 20, 2014, 10:51 am

    Anita Garibaldi

    all weapons could me metamorphosed into didactic toys and tecniques to be applied in the worldwide military training! What a great vision!

  6. March 21, 2014, 2:05 pm

    […] enemities between superpowers is the organisation of highly technological mass spectacles.  In a project for MOMA Illustrator Christoph Niemann took this idea and applied it on a smaller scale, trying to find out […]

  7. March 24, 2014, 12:24 am


    So very funny…! 😀
    Smart AND funny! Soooo incredably funny! 😀
    AND, so very importent message!
    Keep it up!!

  8. March 24, 2014, 5:03 pm

    Eric Larsen

    Christophe Niemann’s brain must be preserved, to be studied by neuro-scientific community; its secrets,perhaps, one day unlocked for the benefit of mankind.

  9. March 27, 2014, 9:05 pm



    My thoughts are required. One of my thoughts is that we have no real philosophers left, only accountants. Accountants, bean counters, excel in wars of attrition. They may very well be the cause.

  10. March 28, 2014, 6:38 pm

    […] weekly collection of design, data and interactive links. Design/Data viz Commoditized Warfare | Part of Yosuke Ushigome’s Commoditised Warfare series. Confusion of the Stars | Soviet […]

  11. April 6, 2014, 8:37 am

    Clark Richardson


    Really a very sophisticated satire. Brilliant!

  12. May 9, 2014, 4:05 pm

    Marie-Anne Michaux

    Commoditized Warfare: a centuries-old tradition...

    My thoughts as a specialist in Arms and Armour Studies (yep! that actually exists! 😉
    The reflexion around design and violence started well before the 21st century, mainly to find a way to make violence socially acceptable.
    Our ancestors made a distinction between war which is a specific social situation where violence is unavoidable and therefore justifiable, and base violence that endangers social order. War was seen-and still is I think- as the “positive” form of violence.
    As such, men very early turned war into a social game to gather people: think of the Roman circus.
    But the role of design is most visible in the development of tournaments and jousts in the Middle Ages. The same men who would kill each other on the battlefield met to friendly engage in sportlike activities first using their war equipment then weapons especially designed for this function but that could still be deadly. Have a look at the jousting armours and weapons in the Metropolitan Museum (and elsewhere), they’re incredible examples of extremely well-designed objects and will give you an idea of how mankind had already tried to use design to learn to “play nice”.
    I find Commoditized Warfare an extremly interesting concept as it actually belongs to a centuries-old tradition of “Wargames”… that unfortunately never stopped mankind from using violence…

  13. February 14, 2016, 10:58 pm

    […] Christoph Niemann a créé six mini animations en gif qui jouent avec beaucoup d’humour sur le mélange de représentations des armes et des militaires avec des jeux et des divertissements, elles sont toutes visibles ici. […]

  14. February 16, 2016, 10:32 pm

    […] Niemann created a series of animated GIFs which are interesting both visually and conceptually. Here’s the link if you’d like to see […]

  15. February 20, 2016, 1:13 pm

    […] ” The world has already spent so much money on military equipment, though, that we should try to make do with what we have.” Christoph Niemann colpisce ancora. […]

  16. May 5, 2017, 5:45 am

    […] son también sus piezas animadas para el proyecto ‘Design and Violence‘, iniciativa del MoMA que explora la relación que existe entre el diseño y la violencia, partiendo […]