Spending time in London has served as a poignant reminder of how war can create indelible marks on the landscape and collective memory of a country. This year marks the 100 anniversary of the beginning of Britain’s involvement in the first World War. Through out the city there are monuments, art displays and other tributes to the soldiers who fought to defend Great Britain. One of the most powerful is Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, an installation at the Tower of London where the ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper have installed 888,246 ceramic poppies within the Tower’s famous moat and pour over the castle walls. Each poppy represents a British military fatality during the war and serves as a massive visual reference to the tremendous loss of life during this conflict. Each poppy has been sold to the public to raise millions of pounds to be divided among 6 UK charities that support veterans and military families.
Another powerful body of work was a collection of photographs revisiting sites of conflict from the first World War. Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace is an outdoor touring exhibition and educational resource center featuring 60 large scale photographs capturing the World War landscapes as they are today. “Based not on the horrors of war, but how time and nature can heal the most scarred battle landscape, the exhibition seeks to engage every community in the First World War commemorations, via an extensive tour of UK cities and town centers between 2014 and 2018,” the duration of Britain’s involvement in the conflict. (Michael St Maur Sheil, artist).
Seeing these artworks reminded me how fortunate we are an Americans to have not seen a war fought within the United States since the Civil War and how art can be used to transform powerful narratives into lasting reminders of history and heroism.
-From Oct 22-27, NVAM education was honored to travel to London on behalf of Hive Chicago to represent NVAM at Mozfest