I’ve collected together the different works I’ve done on the theme of war memorials and put them together in a folder and called it ‘Slumberland’ (after the quote from Othello: “’tis the soldier’s life to have their balmy slumbers waked with strife”) – I’m probably not quite finished producing work on this subject, but for now it’s the book ‘Best We Forget’, the leaflet ‘Faithless’, about the architecture of the Cenotaph, ‘A Proclamation’ the A3 tracing paper series of quotations about silence, talking of which, there’s also ‘Silenced!’ two audio recordings from the Two Minutes Silences held at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday and at the England v Scotland football match held a couple of days earlier at Wembley, and last (for now) ‘A Walk in the Parks’ – the 2 A1 plans that trace a psychogeography walk I did around Hyde Park Corner.
I’ve droned on before about the moral arguments of discussing aesthetics in photographs that show tragic events. The same arguments can be heard today, looking at the photographs of the killing of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey last night by Mevlurt Mert Altinus, an off duty policeman at the opening of a photography exhibition in Ankara, Turkey.
Altinus shot Andrei Karlov shouting, “This is revenge for Syria” and “We die in Aleppo, you die here” as the diplomat gave an speech at the exhibition called ‘Russia Through Turks’ Eyes’. From the way the assassin acted, it is hard not to compare his act as a performance, presumably designed to attract the greatest publicity to his cause. Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici took an image that was within hours being described by Time as iconic, so much so that whilst some questioned the authenticity of this image in particular, suggesting it was too perfect not to have been staged and by implication the event is a conspiracy.
It must be said it looks like Quentin Tarantino art directed the shot. But we have a number of examples of how media savvy people who commit such acts have become. The orange jumpsuits, the symbolic nature of the targets chosen for 9/11 and here. The setting (an art gallery) and the moment (during a speech by the victim, where everything was set up to facilitate the media in recording the event) the assassin had thought carefully about his dress (to blend in and look good) and intended his action to publicise his cause, which he knew would be best done by his action being as media friendly in its presentation as possible.
However, in the pause before World War 3 we might consider that the aesthetics of this act were kept from the front pages by the news from Berlin where someone drove a truck into a crowd…
“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything. Except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands” – Oscar Wilde.
I don’t think the public are interested in the Prime Minister and her shoes, but the press can be relied upon to ensure they don’t become too curious about some of the other things that she is up to.
I went to see the Turner Prize nominees at Tate Britain last month – as if to confirm why I don’t bet on horses, I took some photos on my phone of everything that grabbed my eye and realised tonight I didn’t have a single shot from the exhibit of winner, Helen Marten.
‘Silence’ is a list of quotes about err… silence done in the stylee of a memorial stone, such as the one that covers the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey. It’s part of the larger body of work I’m doing about war and remembrance, that includes ‘Faithless’ – the leaflet about the architecture of the Cenotaph (see the last blog entry) and ‘Best We Forget’ – the booklet I wrote earlier in the year. There’s a bit more to come.
Silence (I’ll think of a better name – or take suggestions on a post card) is printed at A3 size ( 297mm x: 420mm [11.75 x16.5 inch] ) onto architect’s tracing paper – though if there’s any stone carvers out there…
The first two minutes silence on the anniversary of the Armistice took place after King George V issued a proclamation:
“All locomotion should cease, so that in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on the reverent remembrance of the glorious dead”.
Though given that the end of the “war to end all wars” set the conditions for the sequel, perhaps a better person to quote would be Shannon L. Alder:
“Be leery of silence. It doesn’t mean you have won the argument. Often, people are just busy reloading their guns”.
Just back from the printers is my new leaflet ‘Faithless: The Cenotaph As A Secular Shrine’ – I say it’s new, in fact the text is a reworking of an architectural article I did for ‘The Modernist’ magazine earlier in the year for their “F- For Faith” issue 19.
It’s one of several projects I’ve done around war memorials and remembrance, which started in March of this year with my 49-page booklet ‘Best We Forget’. I’ll tell you in my next post about a psychogeographical inspired piece ‘A Walk in the Parks’ which is also back from the printers – and they’ll be a sound piece about the Two Minutes Silence along presently.
Back to ‘Faithless’ – It’s a two sided, A3 sheet, z-folded into 6-panels and was printed in colour by an on-line printer, who I can heartily recommend. I’d usually have a pdf here for people to download, but because it’s printed as a z-fold, the page order doesn’t run in the right order when it’s viewed on-screen. So I’ll put the text and some photos from it here…
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In my Little Book of Black Arts I mention Alphonse Allais – the French humourist who inadvertently invented conceptual art. He did all black pictures before Kazimir Malevich and silent compositions before John Cage – both of these were contained in a little book he did ‘Album Primo-Avrilesque’. I’ve done a version to keep the Black Arts book company.
You can download a album-primo-avrilesque