Dust : Recalling War

Dust: Recalling War is about time and memory. It deals with the perception of World War 1 held by those three, four and five generations removed from the event.
The large drawings convey a view from the present of the First World War shaped by textbooks, films, novels, memorials and family stories. The view is a distant one: the scale of the horror and destruction and the tragedy it generated seems overwhelming and incomprehensible. When studying World War 1 one is inevitably confronted by statistics: at some point it becomes obvious that behind each number is a life, an individual. Ultimately individual memory is inaccessible; we who have not witnessed the war can never know the reality of Gallipoli or the Western Front.
The artists’ books convey a more personal view, the texts are drawn from the diaries and army records of servicemen in World War 1. The materials and surfaces speak of the suffering and horror endured and the fragility of life. The First World War is slipping from the sphere of living history and when the last veteran is gone, so will the last living link with that time. Future generations will rely solely on museums, displays and recordings of various types for their understanding of Australia’s experience in World War 1.
The floor space is occupied by fields of dust relating to the low horizons of the large drawings behind them. The fields of dust represent the ground on, and for which, war is fought and personal experience is gained. Clockwork drawing machines slowly describing circles in the dust evoke notions of a timescale greater than a human life. The dust, symbolic of the dust we come from and that to which we will return.

Special thanks to Petr Herel and the staff and students of the Graphic Investigation Workshop, the Australian War Memorial, Jane Steinhaeuser, Neville Minch, Benita Tunks, Rohan Nichol, Jill Wolf, Alan Geier, Ron and Chris Kirkland and ANCA.


‘What, then, was war? No mere discord of flags
but an infection of the common sky
that sagged ominously upon the earth’

From Recalling War
By Robert Graves