Monday, November 25, 2013

The Great War Inspires at Pontefract Museum

This year Wakefield Museums were successful in securing funding from Arts Council England to deliver a two year development project to build stronger museums. As part of this we have commissioned Faceless Company to deliver a project using museum collections to inspire an artwork and exhibition to commemorate 100 years since the outbreak of World War One.
Faceless Company have written this guest blog explaning in more detail their plans for the project:

Faceless Arts are pleased to have been commissioned by Wakefield Council to develop an exhibition for Pontefract Museum with involvement from the local community. Inspired by World War One the project ‘The Great War Inspires’, will bring together people from the Pontefract community to help create four large wall hangings, which will become part of an exhibition which can be seen at the museum from 25th January 2014.
Work has already begun on the commission, with artists, Stephanie James, Helen Thomas and Tony Wade preparing at Faceless Base for the community workshops; and working with inspiring images to inform the final artwork. Tony and Helen told us a little bit about how they came up with ideas for the staging of the final exhibition.
‘Researching for this project we were struck by the scale of the conflict, from the vast numbers of casualties and geographical spread to the unimaginable short distances between some of the trenches on the battlefields.
According to John Hamilton in "Trench Fighting of World War I", (ABDO, 2003), the shortest recorded distance between German and British trenches was near Zonnebeke in Belgium. The opposing trenches were separated by a distance of approximately 7 metres (23 feet).
When planning this exhibition we were given the dimensions of the Temporary Exhibition Space at Pontefract Museum. The length of the room is 8m. So we have set off with the intention of interpreting that space, the space between the conflicting sides, and wanting the viewer to stand at one side of the room a look across a 7m gap. ‘

An idea of what the final piece may look like
We will begin the community workshops in Pontefract on 10th December and plan to work with groups as diverse as The British Legion, Air Cadets and the Pontefract Live at Home Scheme. We are excited to be working with several new groups such as Pontefract’s Air Cadets and the Royal Air Force Association.
Taking inspiration from the silk handkerchiefs from the museum’s collection of World War One artefacts, artists will support participants to create their own silk paintings using imagery from the Great War. These paintings will then be cut and woven together to create the wall hangings for the exhibition. Participants will also have the opportunity to explore artefacts from the museum’s WW1 collection and discuss their own thoughts and experiences of warfare today and 100 years ago. Part of our project work with participatory groups will look at people’s experiences of conflict at home and on active service today, and in the past, in comparison to the First World War. These personal and social insights, along with stories from local people who experienced the First World War, will help to inform the art works and provide a soundtrack to the exhibition. 
A silk handkerchief from dating from 1914 - 1918 from Wakefield Museums collections.
We hope that the final exhibition will commemorate the Great War and immerse the audience in the experience, inspiring the myriad of feelings that such a wide ranging and terrible conflict can inspire. We plan on transforming the space to evoke a ‘No Man’s Land’ and explore all sides of the war, through music, poetry and the stories of local people both at home and in battle.  During The Battle of the Somme, it is said that some 60,000 men died within a single day, to put this into context, the population of Pontefract is 28,000.
Through this commission, we will explore the issues and themes of the Great War with people living locally to the exhibition, and perhaps most importantly, ‘we will remember them’.
For updates on this project follow on Twitter @MyWakefield #TGWI


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