In April 2017, Myriad Faces of War: 1917 and its legacy, a unique international, multidisciplinary symposium showcasing academic and creative work on the year 1917 and its myriad legacies, will be taking place at Te Papa. The symposium is being organised by colleagues from the WHAM (War History Heritage Art & Memory) Research Network, Massey and Auckland universities and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
1917 was a seminal year in the history of the modern world. The First World War stressed the livelihoods and resources of nations, states and societies – combatant and otherwise – with often direct and devastating impact. Key events influenced the outcome of the war or were in some way set in motion by the emotion and disruptive thinking that accompanied the cataclysmic experiences of 1917. Their legacies continue to be felt today in political, economic, social, cultural, scientific, and technological spheres.
The Myriad Faces of War symposium examines this single year, 1917, and expands outwards to reflect on the significant impact of the Great War and associated events, and the way in which particular actions contributed to a reordering of global structures that have reverberated through the intervening century to the present.
In 1917 the conflict’s global reach expanded as United States, China, Brazil, and others joined the Allied side. On the battlefield combatants experienced exhilarating triumphs and devastating losses from Passchendaele to Cambrai on the Western Front, at Caporetto on the Austro-Italian Front, and Beersheba and Ramadi in the Middle East.
Post-war political and social changes were signalled with the imminent collapse of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, and Russia – in the midst of revolution – withdrew from the war. The Balfour Declaration pledged Britain’s support for a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine; suffragettes in Washington were arrested as they picketed the White House; and conscientious objectors from New Zealand were shipped to the Western Front in an attempt to force them to join the war effort. United States and Japan signed the Lansing-Ishii Agreement, which acknowledged that the latter had ‘special interests’ in China. Within the British Empire, the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission was established to build cemeteries and memorials for the commemoration of the war dead, and the Imperial War Museum was founded to record both military and civilian experiences and to honour the sacrifices of war.
In cultural life, Marcel Duchamp redefined art with the Fountain urinal; De Stijl was formed in the Netherlands; the art and literature review Dada was published in Zurich; and soldier poet, Wilfred Owen wrote Anthem for Doomed Youth. In medicine, Queen’s Hospital (later to become Queen Mary’s Hospital) opened, and there Harold Gillies and his colleagues developed many techniques of plastic surgery, operating mostly on soldiers with facial injuries.
The narrative of 1917 and its legacy is characterised by a multitude of perspectives, practices, cultures, histories, locations, and expressions. The symposium will draw together many of these diverse facets of the war into a shared conceptual space. In keeping with the symposium’s multidisciplinary aspirations, it is anticipated that there will be expressions and performances of visual arts, theatre, poetry, prose, and animation along with conventional oral presentations, poster and ‘lightning’ presentations, and panel discussions. The symposium organisers anticipate a wide range of responses to the call for papers reflecting the breadth of disciplinary interests the theme will generate.
Potential symposium themes include:
- Myriad faces: a global conflagration
- 1917 as a year of historical significance: events and experiences of war and revolution
- Forms of remembering: memorials and museums
- War art and the arts of war: painting, sculpture, installation, performance, film, poetry, prose, and theatre
- Propaganda: visual and textual rhetoric
- Social transformation: class, race, and gender politics
- Peace, neutrality, and dissent
The symposium has drawn together leading international scholars including:
Professor Annette Becker (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)
Piet Chielens (In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres)
Dr Santanu Das (King’s College London)
Dr Jock Phillips (New Zealand)
Professor Michael Neiberg (U.S. Army War College)
Dr. Gorch Pieken (Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr)
Dr Galina Rylkova (University of Florida)
Professor Peter Stanley (University of New South Wales)
Professor Jay Winter (Yale University)
For more information visit the Myriad Faces of War website.