Shaping Memory: Sculpture at the Australian War Memorial
- Shaping memory
- First World War
- Second World War
- Post-war responses
- Future directions
There is an ancient link between sculpture and commemoration: the need to find tangible forms by which to mark the event of war. Sculpture has always played a central role at the Memorial: examples are displayed throughout the galleries and in the dioramas, and they also adorn the outside of the building and the grounds. In particular, sculpture has been used to capture the physical form, and thus convey essential human traits.
Since the First World War, some of the most proficient Australian sculptors, some internationally recognised and others not widely known, have worked to distil their attitudes and responses to war in the universal language of sculpture. The Memorial has continued since that time to commission and acquire sculpture, which, made in very different ways for a variety of purposes, encompasses the spectrum from major permanent outdoor monuments to more ephemeral, personal tributes and keepsakes.
Genesis of the collection
This exhibition charts the development and variety of styles of commemorative sculpture over the last century. It showcases the Memorial’s collection and includes a survey of official sculpture commissioned in response to the First and Second World Wars, through to works produced independently by artists over the last 30 years.
Many of these works challenge the preconception that commemorative sculpture is limited to the traditional, heroic bronze monument. The Memorial holds many pieces that explore other human qualities and responses to war. Privately-produced works such as those by Gladys Blaiberg show the experience of wartime from the civilian point of view, and contemporary works such as Ian Howard’s recent Signs of life pose questions about how we view the complexities of war. Seen together, they evoke a period of great change, both in artistic terms and for society as a whole.
Game-play – January 17 – 2.44 am – 1991: (I)mplements of destruction, (S)tealth, (Y)eah, (N)ose Up, (G)round briefing, (I)n flight, (F)ix target engagement
A contemporary artist based in Perth, Doug Sheerer works with the artistic possibilities generated by computer-based images. In Game-play he explores ideas of simulation and reality involved in the bombing of Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, incorporating graphics from a computer game, F-19 Stealth Fighter, and photographs of Byzantine mosaics.
This particular work was conceived after hearing Bush talk about bombing around the clock seven days a week. It struck me that the whole action taking place was just like a Computer Fighter Simulation yet the stakes included historic and religious monuments It was a Cinerama type War fought by technicians and tacticians from behind a computer screen.