That is an unbelievable intimate exhibition that’s much less about warfare and battle, and extra about empathy and the human spirit. Lovely images and oral histories that shock of their capability to share.
As a pacifist, it appeared a reasonably odd resolution to take myself off to the Australian Warfare Memorial (AWM) to assessment an exhibition, however I’ve to say, it has been top-of-the-line post-COVID experiences I’ve had.
The message of hope and empathy was not one I anticipated. And the dedication of gallery employees and invigilators to make sure it was a secure, welcoming and private expertise, was not misplaced on this misguided cynic who anticipated solely gloom of an establishment that commemorates warfare.
The lesson learnt: remembering can also be about group, delight, service, self-worth and sure, a dose of attention-grabbing pleasure.
It was an exhibition titled Ink in the Lines that caught my consideration – a take a look at tattoos within the Australian Army. Elegantly introduced in a darkened gallery with black partitions and dramatic pin lighting, the viewer strikes via an unbelievable journey of non-public tales. It’s completely charming.
Because the gallery reminds: ‘Tattoos are a dialog starter.’
We discuss so much in regards to the function of storytelling in museums, and the sorts of intersections between expertise, oral histories, objects and heck even outdated dioramas. However there have been nice leaps in 21st C museum fashions, and we’re lastly beginning to see that steadiness is correct.
The exhibition is the end result of The Memorial Tattoo Challenge, which documented the tales of servicemen and servicewomen via oral historical past interviews and portrait pictures all through 2019.
It’s loosely divided into 4 thematic zone: Loss, Grief & Commemoration; Therapeutic; Mateship & Household, and Identification & Belonging. It’s much less about organising materials on show and work extra as a set off for viewer consideration.
These are extremely candid accounts; these service women and men actually pop off the partitions with an depth and an intimacy that stops you in your tracks. And whereas there’s a voyeuristic, luscious eye sweet high quality to the tattoos themselves – and worthy of the label artwork – there’s nothing ghoulish about this run of photos.
In spite of everything, being tattooed in itself is an extremely intimate expertise, and in an uncanny method the staging of this exhibition matches effectively that act of marking your physique.
‘Most individuals get a tattoo for a sport of footy. We get a tattoo to recollect, and commemorate, our service, our mates, our careers… the blokes we serve with. Nonetheless serving.’ – Kevin.
Many talked about their battle with PTSD and psychological well being. Others talked about allegiance to a unit – a household, a regiment. One service girl reminds, ‘Moms are troopers too.’
Total – and holding this exhibition collectively at its foundations – is an expression of delight. These will not be solely data of experiences, however symbols of self and mantras to maneuver ahead – an important a part of the therapeutic course of.
‘Yeah, tattooing took on a complete new factor. I imply, I used to be – it nearly turned remedy, if that is sensible.’
What we stroll away with is this concept that these tattoos are an affirmation for these service folks, in a world the place so many issues are untethered, traumatic or couched in forgetting. Their our bodies have change into private diaries which can be a consolidation, compressing time.
It slows you down. And any exhibition that slows you down is doing one thing particular.
Considering again on Ink within the Strains, this exhibition turns into much less and fewer about warfare or artwork, and is nearly co-existing on this empathetic place between issues. I used to be completely stunned by my response.
Every thing has been thought via meticulously, whether or not it’s on-line or in particular person. There may be additionally the invitation for audiences to share their ink on social utilizing #InkintheLines. AWM has additionally produced a podcast episode in dialog with curator Stephanie Boyle, tattoo artist Peter and repair particular person Louise Maher; and made obtainable the video oral histories from the exhibition on-line. To view.
5 stars out of 5 ★★★★★
Ink in the Lines
Australian Warfare Memorial, Canberra
Memorial Tattoo Challenge
25 September 2020 – 27 January 2021