|Contributors||Alexander, D. (Project leader), Alexander, D. (Author of introduction), Alexander, D. (Designer), Alexander, D. (Photographer), Alexander, D. (Exhibitor), Alexander, D. (Researcher), Haslam, A. (Researcher) and Knelman, S. (Curator)|
When War Is Over is a practice based research project that investigates the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s ongoing commemoration of the 1.7 million Commonwealth War dead from WWI and WWII.
This research by D. Alexander builds on the findings of the research project Designing the Commonwealth War Graves by D. Alexander and A. Haslam, which was submitted to the REF 2014.
When War is Over, was rigorous in its extensive archival research, creation of several new bodies of photographic work and the design of a book and exhibition.
The research developed an original visual methodology for the presentation and contextualisation of archival material, new photographic work and aerial satellite images, to investigate historical and contemporary notions of permanence, process and scale, in commemorative practices.
Familiar motifs of poppy fields and sunsets over cemeteries, commonly found in books, postcards and tourist merchandise are avoided, and a rigorous, less sentimental methodology was developed to convey the scale of commemoration, make reference to the use of aerial surveillance and bombing during the wars, and present a critical perspective on the tensions involved in commemorating the individual through the uniform treatment of the many.
A key visual method used is the zoom: in both book and exhibition the viewer is moved between the micro and the macro, at one moment reading a single epitaph on a headstone, and the next hovering above a cemetery containing thousands of headstones, or moving from an individual casualty’s personal documents, to the ledgers containing 1.7 million names of the dead.
Published as a book in 2016 and exhibited at Contact Photography Festival in 2018, the work is significant in its use of contemporary photographic and design practices to offer a critical perspective on this ongoing commemoration, during the 100 year anniversary of the first world war.