Tuesday, November 11, 2008

'For Our Honoured Dead'

'For Our Honoured Dead'
mixed media

Last year I attended a theatre opening and reception, very shortly after Remembrance Day. In the room was a plinth holding a book — a Book of Remembrance, which held the names of all those who had died from that town in Canada’s wars. I was outraged to see how the unthinking would litter the Book with their empty glasses and garbage.

Regardless of your attitude towards War, soldiers continue to die in your place and at your command.
A people will be known by how they respect those who placed themselves to be killed for the welfare of all.

I was driven to create 'For Our Honoured Dead'.
The exhibit was well into its planning stages last fall, and I had actually intended to work on something related to Norse burial customs as one of my submissions. The events described in the brief statement above (from the Grave Goods catalog) electrified me however. I have rarely made political or pointed social comments with my work, but I could just not let this one go past.

For this work, I wanted to echo a number of conventions seen in War Memorials:
- The shield and sword are both created at about 25 per cent larger than life sized. So often this enlarging past normal human scale is done by memorial artists. It must be intentional, to make the heroic figures literally 'larger than life'.
- The shield was made from stainless steel. Of all the metals in the work, the shield, symbolizing defense, is rendered in a metal which endures. We must remember to keep ever vigilant to protect our society. Combat as defense can never be seen as wrong, even a pacifist may fight to stay alive.
- The sword has been left rough finished. It is a functional tool of war, not intended to be considered a work of art. The spring steel of the blade, as well as the plain steel of the hilt has been left unprotected. Already the blade shows surface rust from handling. The patriotic rhetoric that encourages us to fight never survives the first shock of actual combat. After a time, the reasons 'why' will corrode away like rust.
- The main figure on the shield is a Crusader's Cross. It is made of thin mild steel, already covered with rust and soon to corrode. Over the centuries, more blood has been spilled in the name of God than for any other reason. In the last 1000 years of the West, all leaders have claimed that God is on their side. How can this be the case?
- At the top of the shield are a pair of maple leaves, made from copper and brass. These metals are certain to change colour with time, yet will remain long after the steels of God and Weapon have dissolved. At core, we fight for place, for home. The exact details of this often fade with time, but these reasons remain.
- The trash covering this memorial has been carefully chosen. The symbols of mainly multi-national corporations, almost all American, can be found. How much more 'American' can you get than Coke, or McDonalds? "We fight for our way of life" is a statement so often lipped by politicians. But who stands to benefit the most? 'Just knock together a pile of plywood tanks and get into a nice little shooting war - its good for business' * Are we being asked to die for Mom and Apple Pie? Or is it really for those industries that know no loyalty to nation, who will do anything to any one for the bottom line?

'For Our Honoured Dead' was intended to provoke.
I know from my own experience on the opening night of Grave Goods, may did not read the description. The deeper symbology was buried even deeper still.

Right now the United States of America is involved in a 'foreign adventure' that is nothing more than support by force of Bush's family oil business. I am constantly amazed that after Viet Nam, that nation has allowed itself to be lied to so completely. Another generation of youth are being wasted to grease the corporate wheels. In an age of mass media and information access, it all seems to transparently a lie.

Remember : " We won't get fooled again..." ??

* I actually overhead that statement on a train to Peterborough Ontario back about 1975. I was in the Canadian Reserves at the time. So I would have been one of the bodies sacrificed on the alter of business profits suggested by that group of fat and lazy corporate owners.

1 comment:

STAG said...

We served because we were soldiers, and thats what soldiers do....we serve and we endure. We smudge our front sites, wring out our socks, keep our matches dry, and hope that maybe THIS time the bastards won't foul this one up like last time. In the process, we keep idiots from each other's throats (sometimes); provide pencils and books for kids to learn to read; and make sure hospitals don't get blown up by genocidal madmen. The soldier's concept of "victory" is different from a civilian's concept of "victory", and is yet different from the media and government's version. This leads to much angst and discord with many small victories which don't make the news.

I think your symbolism is remarkable Darryl, and it is hard to find fault with it. I might have scattered shell casings, or aircraft parts instead of MacDonald's wrappers to drive home the despicable actions of the military industrial complex, but then, the "garbage" concept would have been lost. So you did the right thing.

Regards from an old soljer.



February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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