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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Poppies and art expression

In the discussion today I had with Francesca - who has been in China - about the resonance of the statement the poppies at the tower of London have made - something to think about in terms of art forms - culture - celebration events - national identity - all areas that could be researched in whatever area of study you are doing. Art communicates - expresses - on many differing levels. Critically looking at how the expression relates to professional practice can sometimes be a tacit point that could use more exploring within given themes... think about your work and expression.
Also links

Blood Swept Lands 
and Seas of Red Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins


  1. I went to the 6pm reading a couple of weeks ago: each evening at 6pm in the month leading up the the 11th they were reading out the names of the Allied soldiers who had died on that day in 1914. It was extremely moving: the sheer amount of names read out was overwhelming and the visual impact of the poppies really made for a memorable experience. I'm not ashamed to say I shed a tear when the bugler played the Last Post!
    While I was listening to the names being read out I did reflect on how the visual aid of the poppies is so much more moving than just a list of facts and figures. It's all very well saying 'X' amount of soldiers died but to see this number represented in this way had much more impact. Why do you think this is?
    I remember going to see an art exhibition once and saw a canvas that I *hated*; I had an almost visceral reaction to how much I hated the artwork and it made me thing that maybe that was the reaction the artist wanted? Surely it's better for a viewer to have some sort of reaction rather than disinterest or that they just don't 'get it'.
    I think it's the same in any art: we are so concerned as to whether an audience might like or love our work, we forget that other emotions are just as valid and powerful.

  2. I can Imagine that was extremely moving Dani. The final point you made about other emotions (aside from 'liking' artistic work) being just as powerful and valid Is something that I feel resonates very strongly through much of our modern entertainment. Take the X-Factor for example, a large percentage of people that I know who follow the programme are very quick to speak negatively of it from a variety of different angles. Yet they still continue to divulge in it. So, although they 'don't like it' they're negative opinions still result in a support of the entertainment.

    I have been in discussion with a few friends recently about the poppies and the publics reaction to them. When I went to visit them recently, I was overwhelmed with the amount of people taking 'selfies' with the Poppy's as a backdrop. After hours of discussion, I still do not know where I ethically stand within this issue. On one hand, I feel slightly disgusted, that we (the general public) feel this an appropriate action when the poppies resembles so much pain and loss of life. Yet on the other hand, do they also represent the freedom we have been given as a nation? I for one was spurred on to make a specific journey to see them because of the mass amount of photographs that were surrounding me on social media sites. For many, I feel they do represent a national Identity and maybe feeling part of that by being able to take a visual memory home is incredibly moving and humbling for an individual?

    Steph x

    1. I agree with you about the selfies - I have seen a lot of discussion about this on Social Media: on the one hand people want to prove they have been there and seen it, and yes having that memory to take home and see regularly is a lovely tribute to those who died, but on the other, as you say, they represent something so terrible that it doesn't really seem right to misappropriate them just for a pretty Facebook profile picture! It's a symptom of our society though, I think: when there's a road accident people will take pictures and tweet 'OMG look what I've just seen' rather than stop to help, and there's a brilliant mock safety sign I've seen around: "In case of Fire please exit building before tweeting."

  3. Good points raised - like the idea of expression versus entertainment - it is one that the arts often must confront to maintain - perhaps with issues like: 1. popularity (and funding through private or public means) and 2. authenticity - is it a cultural phenomenon that is meaningful. The poppies 'worked' on many different levels - visually it combined the ideas of beauty with death - the poppies represented the fallen in war - and it did become like a tide - it was popular but it was purposeful for Remembrance Day - even selling the poppies to raise funds for the 'cause' (I wonder who came up with the idea). Was this symbolic of the purpose or a response to its popularity?

  4. Sorry I had to go away and look this one up - what does anyone think Adorno has to offer about the 'poppies' - challenging -would Adorno say that the poppies were 'true art'?