Passchendaele: Mud and Memory by Stephen Dixon commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, and focuses on the ability of battlefield objects, artefacts and materials, to conjure up a memory of time, place and experience.
Second only to the Somme in the horrors inflicted on British and Commonwealth servicemen in World War I, the Third Battle of Ypres (Battle of Passchendaele) began 100 years ago on 31 July 1917. Known for the treacherous muddy conditions which took its toll on morale and lengthened the time it took for the Allies to recapture the village of Passchendaele, the battle finished on 10 November following the recapture of the village on 6 November. Each side sustained around a quarter of a million casualties – although numbers continue to be disputed.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is a large portrait sculpture, made using terracotta clay sourced from the Wienerberger quarry and brickworks, which is located on the Passchendaele battlefield site at Zonnebeke. Lieutenant Colonel Harry Moorhouse and his son Captain Ronald Moorhouse (pictured below), are two of ten men featured in the 'everyman' sculpture. An assemblage of features from soldiers of the many nations who fought at Passchendaele, the piece has been created using photographs of individual soldiers, many of whom lost their lives in the battle. Both serving with the 4th Battalion the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, both Lieutenant Colonel and Captain Moorhouse died during the battle on 8 October 1917. Neither body was ever recovered. They are remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.
Three showcases in the exhibition focus directly on the evocative power of historical artefacts. Each of the showcases represents one of the main combatant nations, The United Kingdom, France and Germany, and contains excavated battlefield artefacts and items of contemporary popular culture, from the collections of the Passchendaele Memorial Museum and the artist’s own collection including romantic song postcards and a harmonica.
Our visitors can contribute to the exhibition during a visit, helping us to remember those who served during the Battle, by decorating a replica Army and Navy Canteen Plate.
Stephen Dixon is Professor of Contemporary Crafts at Manchester School of Art, investigating contemporary narratives in ceramics. Specific research interests include the British satirical tradition (in both printmaking and ceramics), commemorative wares and ‘pop’ culture, and the development of socio-political narratives in contemporary ceramics. His work features in numerous public and private collections, including the Museum of Arts & Design, New York, the British Council, the Crafts Council, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Museum of Scotland, and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.
Images: Copyright Imperial War Museum Q_002903, The Passchendaele Museum and Tony Richards
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