The Space Between

This work investigates the physical experience of war that monuments represent. It is about linking a new generation of soldiers and their experience of war with former generations. The trench around the war memorial protects memory, as all monuments become invisible in our everyday landscape. I invited military and civilian communities across Nova Scotia to join me in this interactive performance; during the march, building the trench, observing, or all three. 

Detailed project description below.

The Space Between, performance-based installation. Uncommon Common Art Exhibit 2017, video documentation, 5 minutes,  May 2017.

Detailed Description of Project

In 2016, the exhibition Uncommon Common Art released a call for artists to propose projects that drew upon the rich geological, historical, and possible futures of Kings County, seeking art installations that framed the landscape through concepts of the terrestrial and subterranean. It was through the intersection of landscape, military history, and community participation that this project developed into a temporary performance-based installation: an exploration of the counter-monument.

 

This site-specific work acknowledged and built upon the history of place. Kings County, Nova Scotia, specifically Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Aldershot, played a significant role for both world wars, a training ground for thousands of soldiers prior to their deployment in Europe. The terrain of Camp Aldershot, with its barren sand dunes, was well-suited for drills and maneuvers. The region witnessed heavy rail traffic—Dominion Atlantic Railway (DAR)—throughout the county as soldiers travelled to and from camp.

 

In preparation, I organized two sandbag work parties inviting veterans, serving military members, and civilians to fill 650 military-issue sandbags in Camp Aldershot’s training area. Additionally, I sculpted a concrete sandbag using the sand and gravel from the area.

 

On May 25th, 2017, veterans, serving military members, and civilians joined me as we marched 13.6 kilometres along the DAR from CFB Aldershot to a pair of First and Second World War monuments located on the grounds of Acadia University in Wolfville. As part of the performance, I carried the 55 pound concrete sandbag in my rucksack to symbolize the soldiers’ training—physical and emotional—and their journey through this landscape. Upon arrival at the memorial site, we built a trench wall of sandbags around two cenotaphs engraved with names of lives lost to the global conflicts.

 

This work aimed to connect the local history of war—current and past sites of conflict—with passersby entering a space that echoed the trenches in which so many soldiers fought and thousands died. I hoped the present-day experience—the space between the trench and monument— encouraged the visitor to deeply reflect on the names inscribed on the monuments. The sandbag-wall was emblematic of the trench warfare of WW1 and WW2 as well as the architecture of war in areas Canada has deployed to, from Korea to Afghanistan.

 

This project revealed that a monument is not a memorial, and that commemoration exists in the space between the viewer and the monument.

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 © 2019 Jessica Lynn Wiebe