We recently became aware of this extraordinary concept for a memorial to the fallen of the Great War which is to be made out of battlefield mud from Passchendaele and earth taken from a WW1 hospital camp in the UK. Within the mud, there will be millions of un-germinated poppy seeds. The idea is to create the silhouettes of soldiers, an attendant nurse and a cavalry horse of the Great War in the mud and earth, so they are seen as they return from the field of battle.
The work is first presented as a “sheet” of wet mud. As the mud dries, the figures will emerge as a result of the silhouettes retaining moisture for longer – thus remaining darker than the surrounding earth. At the same time, shrinkage-cracks will form to accentuate the figures of the people and horse. The drying process will take many weeks, depending upon local temperatures and humidity. The effect is magical and captivating.
The plan is to exhibit the work in Ripon Cathedral from the 3rd October till 14th November between 0930 and 1700 daily. Entry to the exhibit will be free.
“Ripon 100 years ago was one of the largest military camps in the U.K. Seeing over a million men pass through during the 4 years of the war. It’s, now sleepy, fields saw personnel from all over the Commonwealth train for and return from the Great War. The war poet Wilfred Owen wrote many of his poems here whilst recuperating and spent the afternoon of what was to be his final birthday within the walls of the Cathedral.”
“When decommissioned, segments of the sculpture comprising of the dried earth and seeds will be made available to the public to create their own artworks or memorial gardens. The profits will be used to support various charities dealing with the effects of conflict, therefore allowing the legacy of the work to continue in another form indefinitely.”
The lead artist and project coordinator is Dan Metcalfe:
“It has been my aim all through this project to search for the hope in amongst the tragedy whilst still honouring the ultimate sacrifice made by many and remembering the many more who returned home carrying the legacies of war. I have been deeply humbled by the people I have met and the stories I have heard during the process am immensely proud of the team who have striven to create this work”
Dan’s main co-conspirators are Jeanne Mundy, who designed three of the figures, and Joe Priestley who handles the video and IT side of things. However, there is also a team of volunteers who will assist in many other aspects of the work, both during its set-up and eventual dispersal.
The effort involved in such works should not be underestimated. As the website points out:
“A number of early experiments failed for different reasons, this iterative approach giving Dan a better understanding of this sensitive material. With initial experiments done on the kitchen table, Dan has gradually upscaled and done later experiments in garden sheds, old horse boxes, wagon bodies and has now found a huge shed with similar conditions to the cathedral, in which to conduct the final trials.”
Dan is now looking for funds to support the endeavour and is very keen to get this project “Kickstarted”. He needs to find £15,000 between now and 0100hr on September 10th. Can you help? He has raised just over £1,000 to date. If you can help him get to his target then please go to his Kickstarter website and do whatever you can. The link is as follows:
In addition to the main piece of drying in the Cathedral, there will be another work already completed so that people can see what the final image will be like. It is called The Lone Soldier:
“The Lone Soldier will stand separate from, but close to the primary piece. As it will have been cast and dried some weeks before the main piece to ensure it will be at peak contrast on the very first day of the installation. Early visitors to the exhibit will see the work in its primal form, evenly leveled (rather like drying concrete) with little hint as to what lies beneath. This is all part of the experience and visitors are encouraged to come back over the course of the exhibit to see the forms gradually emerge as both the colour and contrast change and the cracked outlines appear. However, for visitors who are unable to return later The Lone Soldier, set and partially dried will serve as a foretaste of what the final piece will look like a few weeks into the exhibition.
The Lone Soldier will not be disassembled, as the main piece will be. It will be installed and removed as a single unit, making it the only part of the exhibit to be shown in Ripon Cathedral and made available to the public as-is. This is, therefore, a very unique piece.”
This will be a fundraiser for Service Charities. Please do assist if you possibly can by helping Dan to fund the project.