The Imperial War Museum has two very different exhibitions which mark the centenary of the start of the First World War:
IWM Contemporary: Jane and Louise Wilson – Undead Sun, until 11th January 2015
The specially commissioned video installation Undead Sun is the work of Jane and Louise Wilson, Turner Prize nominated artists, who have been working together since 1989.
It marks the centenary of the First World War in an original way and looks at the technological advances, including optics, that were made because of the emergence of the new aerial warfare and surveillance, which in turn led to the greater use of camouflage and concealment. To emphasise this point the viewer’s sightline and movement are slightly restricted within the installation in which the film is viewed.
The main theme of planes and the air is underlined by the wooden “propellers” of the giant wind tunnel in which certain scenes are played out. The figures depicted in these vignettes are dwarfed by the size of the wind tunnel and thus remind the viewer how the world was caught up in the larger-than-life forces that the war unleashed.
Many of the scenes are based on material in the Imperial War Museum’s archives such as the dummy tanks constructed to mislead aerial reconnaissance, or how a dead horse could be used as camouflage. One scene shows a man in uniform tearing it off until he is completely naked and is based on the story of how on a very cold night a conscientious objector was forced to put on the uniform in the hope he would change his mind.
It is a thoroughly engrossing work!
Truth and Memory – British Art of the First World War, until 8th March 2015
This is a major show of British First World War art and contains some iconic images by artists, including Paul Nash, Percy Wyndham Lewis, CRW Nevinson, Stanley Spencer, George Clausen and William Orpen.
The First World War presented artists with a whole new concept of warfare and how to portray it. The Truth section consists of works by artists who had first-hands experience on the front line. Nevinson, for example, expresses his Futurist vision of what he saw and experienced.
Memory combines works which were either official commissions or individual commemorations of the horror and tragedy of the First War or were meant as memorials to the loss and sacrifice of the fallen. Strangely enough I found this the more chilling part of this powerful, emotive exhibition.
Location: IWM London, Lambeth Road, London SE1