Sunday, 12 November 2017

What Should We Be Remembering?

Memorial University's crest.

Remembrance Day in Canada, Veterans Day in the U.S.A., and Armistice Day in the United Kingdom– memorializing the fallen soldier is everywhere.  Nowhere is this more true than in St. John's, NL.  I've lived in a few provinces but Newfoundland and Labrador seems to take its memorial celebrations most seriously.  Even the province's university is called Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador and it was originally established in memory of soldiers who died during the First World War.  Later on, it was rededicated to include those lost in WWII.

This past year or more, Newfoundland and Labrador and indeed much of Canada has seen the war memorialized in film, on stage, in musicals, poetry and art.  Forget Me Not for the Craft Council of NL was my own contribution at that balancing act of honoring the sacrifices of those who served in the military while not glorifying war. 

Note how the sculptor has conveyed the "broken" soldier.
A longtime friend of mine, Mark Raynes Roberts is a sculptor who works in crystal.  He is part of an exhibit called War Flowers that is touring Canada.  I hope to catch it in either Ontario or Quebec, particularly because the curator, Viveka Melki, has integrated the smells of various flowers as one of her strategies.  I like this approach as it acknowledges that smell is the sense most linked to memory and flowers to me are the perfect symbol to convey the beauty, fragility and endurance of life.  That was one reason why my own show was based on a flower symbol, The Forget Me Not.  Also, it focuses on that vital but precarious relationship of the soldier abroad and their family.

Nobody in my immediate family was involved with the military efforts.  During WWII, my father was in the police force and my mother grew up in an Austrian village in the Alps.  Unfortunately, several countries' armies invaded it.  That means I grew up with very different stories than most of my neighbors in St. John's.  

I wish most memorial services would recognize all those who died in wars:  all soldiers on all sides, not to mention those most numerous–civilians.   Today, I learned about Veterans For Peace, which was organized in 1985 for exactly that purpose.  If you have a chance, check out Joe Glenton's video about ignoring the poppy shaped cheeses and the other false feel-good takes on Remembrance

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