5.3 A Portable War Memorial

  • "I truly regret those men/all men who have died in the futility of the war

    because in their deaths I must comprehend our future."*

    (Kienholz)

     

    The American artist Edward Kienholz (1927-1994) created The Portable War Memorial in 1968 as a universal anti-war memorial. Like a book, this piece of art is meant to be read from left to right. On the left, we see a group of soldiers with helmets (but without heads) who heroically conquer a dining table. A blackboard tombstone in the background contains the chalk-written names of 475 independent countries that no longer exist. On the right, there is a diner with more tables where hotdogs and chili may be served, and a Coke dispenser in the background. 

    Mrs Bieniek's Year 11 art course analysed Kienholz's critique of militarism, propagandism and consumerism. In the following haiku poems the students give their impressions in no more than 10 words. 

     

     

    Forgotten

    Dark, grey

    People lost forever

    Alone in the city

    War

     

    (Nico)

     

     

    American

    grey, silent

    portable war memorial

    everywhere in the world

    pride

     

    (Piet) 

     

     

    Contrasting

    So unrelatable?

    Stars and stripes

    Between hotdogs and vending machines

    Multidimensional

     

    (Paul)

     

     

    Broken

    Interrupting daily routine

    Soldiers and civilians

    In an ordinary setting

    Lost

     

    (Tobias)

     

     

    Contrasting

    Strange, normal

    War and daily routine

    Battle in contrast to daily life

    Connecting

     

    (Jan)

     

     

    Connected

    Not interested

    People eating fast food

    Connecting war and daily life

    Confused

     

    (Max)

     

     

    Patriotic

    Daily defence

    Without any emotions

    Whoever attacks the USA

    Destroy

     

    (Felix)

     

     

    Colourless

    Proud, happy

    Portable war memorial

    Wherever you want it

    Memory

     

    (Contanza)

     

    * Kristine Stiles,Peter Howard Selz, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings, p. 514 

    Illustration: Open Clipart , 2010

     

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