When two million newly disabled British ex-servicemen returned from the First World War, society’s attitudes to disability had to change.
In a series of short films produced by Artsadmin and Xenoki, five contemporary disabled artists presented unorthodox, irreverent and unexpected takes on the legacies of war and disability in Britain today.
Oh! What a Lovely Lovely Ward by Katherine Araniello turns sentimentality on its head in a playful and absurd re-imagining of a wartime hospital. The wounded and war damaged wait their turn to have their morale lifted by Matron while a jolly war song is bashed out on an old piano and a frenzied special effects team tend to the injured.
In Soldiering On, Jez Colborne collaborated 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, with Jez performing an original song at an upright piano, it explores his desire to be part of an experience he’s locked out of because “learning-disabled people don’t go to war”.
Claire Cunningham’s Resemblance is a solo performance created 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.
In Breathe Nothing of Slaughter, Tony Heaton examines the potent symbol of the 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.
Simon Mckeown’s Ghosts used motion capture and animation to follow a cast of disabled veterans from across the spectrum of World War One as they prepare for the day ahead. Dressed in the uniforms of various armies, the characters talk, cook and tend to pigeons in a landscape filled with the artefacts and objects of war.
Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW and Channel 4. Produced by Artsadmin and Xenoki. Part of the Unlimited programme.