Remembering the First World War will showcase a selection of commissioned projects by artists, photographers and filmmakers that share the war experiences of service people through photographs, diary entries and letters.
Museum of Brisbane director Renai Grace told InQueensland that Remembering the First World War’s online curation had allowed the museum to continue to perform its role telling local stories in unique and unexpected ways.
Grace said MoB had already commissioned New Zealand-born, Brisbane-based artist Greer Townshend to produce a series of works for an exhibition entitled Here I Came to the Very Edge and present an artist talk as part of its planned ANZAC Day commemorations this year.
“Greer’s work offers an incredible contemporary perspective of the war and it’s based in thorough research, so it’s pretty much exactly what we like to present,” Grace said.
Greer was a recipient of a State Library of Queensland Q ANZAC 100 Fellowship in 2017-18 for Treasure: A Soldier’s Story, a project that involved researching letters, diaries, photographs and possessions of Queensland soldiers during World War I, which then informed large-scale drawings reflecting the Diggers’ experiences.
Townshend said by drawing on the primary source material of World War I soldiers for her work, she hoped to help audiences change the way they thought about the war.
“If we present the atrocities in a purely numerical form it becomes quite abstract, or we can distance ourselves from those ideas,” Townshend said.
“But if you bring it down to the personal, which is looking at soldiers from Queensland via letters and diaries – which are so personal – and then you start to understand that it’s a brother from Toowoomba writing to his sister about the landing in Gallipoli. It really changes the way you see the war and [the Diggers’] experiences and it just shifts everything.”
In 2017, Townshend also held an exhibition at Noosa Regional Gallery called Heart, which was comprised of a series of drawings on large, unfolded origami hearts, a concept that has informed Sending Love From Afar, an interactive component of MoB’s online exhibition that will
“Sending Love From Afar kind of branches off that a little bit and also my World War I work. They asked me to create something that we could do in this unusual situation we’re in now to celebrate ANZAC Day. I was playing around with the hearts and then realised you could make a poppy from them and that we could sort of play around with those sorts of ideas and symbolism and things like that.”
A video tutorial has been developed to show people how to make their own paper heart creations to display on their doors or mailboxes, with participants encouraged to commemorate someone they know who has served by writing their name in the centre of the heart.
“We won’t be celebrating as we normally do, it will be inside, there won’t be parades and that’s why again we worked with Greer to develop that activity,” Grace said.
Greer said her research also added perspective to the sacrifices Queenslanders were currently making to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with the last major global pandemic – the Spanish flu outbreak – occurring during World War I.
“I’ve read these stories and the experiences they went through were just awful and to think that you know the ones who were lucky enough to come home at all came home to the Spanish flu,” she said.
“We’re going into this with a full tank – you know, not everybody – but without other major problems in our lives. They came back from the war and ended up with the Spanish flu, so I think we can borrow from their strength if you think about it like that.”
For more information about Remembering the First World War, visit museumofbrisbane.com.au
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