Casey Ankers & Scott Howie. wound (self-inflicted) 2015. Acrylic, LEDs, cotton/polyester, MDF
This installation was part of the exhibition Loss, reverence and longing: Anzac stories from the home front curated by Linda Elliot and Julie Montgarrett. The exhibition was held in the main gallery of the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery from 11 April to 31 May 2015.
Loss, reverence and longing explored the ANZAC legacy through artefacts of the Anzac era, archival quilts, textiles and everyday items, alongside contemporary responses from regional artists, developed in partnership with the Pioneer Women’s Hut, Tumbarumba and Charles Sturt University, in conjunction with the centenary of Anzac in April 2015.
The work featured 18 acrylic boxes each containing a military surplus handkerchief with hand stitched bullet hole. Underneath the handkerchiefs were led lights controlled by an Arduino micro-controller. The lights faded up and down over two minutes in synchronisation.
‘It was the reasoned crisis of his soul.
Against the fires that would not burn him whole.’ 1
It’s hard to find the exact number of ANZACs who wounded themselves deliberately during World War I, but we know it escalated rapidly as the war continued. For the number of soldiers who no longer believed in the great adventure they had been sold, were driven mad by the horrors they had seen, or were simply scared to die, a self-inflicted wound appears to us as a desperate, yet somehow logical act of self-preservation. Self-inflicted wounding was not only a serious crime but a dishonour to your Country, your comrades and your family.
Whether a bullet in the foot or hand, a pick rammed into a leg, or deliberate exposure to gas attack or diseased frontline prostitutes, these self-inflicted wounds were a badge of shame; a different kind of souvenir. The embroidered, silk handkerchiefs from the Pioneer Women’s Hut collection are referenced within the work and provide a tangible link to ‘that which the soldiers brought back with them’.
There will never be a memorial to these ‘cowards and shirkers’ on ANZAC Parade. It would undermine the mythology of the ANZAC, the fierce bravery, the stoicism, the mateship. Let’s not talk about the trauma of war and the damage it inflicts. Let’s not talk about a war machine unequipped to deal with the humans fed into it. Let’s not talk.
wound (self-inflicted) offers a silent space.
1 Wilfred Owen, S.I.W. (Self-Inflicted Wound)