A new series of short films by five contemporary disabled artists are now available on Channel 4 online. Nearly two million British men returned from World War I with a permanent disability. Disabled veterans were among the most visible legacy of the war, and their unprecedented numbers changed the way that the general public, and the state, understood disabilities.
Now in a series of short films commissioned by 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions and Channel 4, and produced by Artsadmin and Xenoki, five contemporary disabled artists reflect on the legacies of war and disability in Britain today, taking inspiration from Siegfried Sassoon’s 1917 poem, Does it Matter?
From a crutch assembled and disassembled like a weapon, to a cast of animated disabled soldiers, to a reflection on the heroic figures depicted on war memorials, the films offer warm, witty and poignant perspectives on war and disability. We list the films below, which can be seen at www.channel4.com/ww1shorts or via 4OD.
1. Katherine Araniello, Oh! What a Lovely Lovely Ward
Turns sentimentality on its head in a playful and absurd reimagining of a wartime hospital, where the wounded and war damaged wait their turn to have their morale lifted by Matron.
2. Jez Colborne, Soldiering On
Colborne collaborates with Mind the Gap to explore Jez’s fascination with the pomp and ceremony surrounding war and its brutal reality. A music video set in an old cinema, it explores his desire to be part of an experience he’s locked out of because “learning-disabled people don’t go to war.”
3. Claire Cunningham, Resemblance
This film centres around the act of assembling (and disassembling) a crutch in the manner of a soldier assembling his gun. Claire enacts a ritual that mirrors the act of creating a weapon of destruction, while actually creating an object of support.
4. Tony Heaton, Breathe Nothing of Slaughter
Heaton examines the potent symbol of the war memorial against the realities of those disabled by the devastating effects of war. Heroic, enduring, Adonis-like bodies waving flags or in prayerful repose are set in stark contrast to archive images of blackened faces, rotting feet, malnourished and broken bodies.
5. Simon Mckeown, Ghosts
Shot throuh motion capture and animation, this film follows a cast of disabled veterans as they move through a landscape referencing old photographs, filled with the artefacts and objects of war. Dressed in the uniforms of various armies, they wake, rise, dress and prepare for a day in which they must learn new abilities.
Does it Matter? is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund and is part of the Unlimited programme. For more information visit www.channel4.com/ww1shorts.
1. Claire Cunningham, Resemblance. Courtesy of the filmmaker and Channel 4.
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