the Cowboy Prince Presents…
"Take Scissors to Misfortune & Make a Pair of Trousers- The Thrills of War & The Triumph of Humanity" (2013)
- black & white house paint on salvaged wooden material; Inspired by the history and material culture of the First World War & the Trench Art artifacts made with recycled war materialities themselves, but amateur artists in a warzone
Born in a world called No Man’s Land, Trench is the noblest of savages.
There is something so distinctly human about warfare that despite its obvious violently instabilities, it possesses an alluring quality that has drawn men into his clutches for centuries. Beyond notions of heroism and honor, perhaps the seduction occurs from within the duality of human subjectivity that becomes most distinguished in warfare, in which in a single moment humans have the capacity to enact their hidden savagery, completely destroying themselves and the lives others, while dually possessing an equally strong capacity to uplift themselves through creative processes of intentionality and optimism. Yet darkness only exists by the comparison of light- like bickering siblings, or chickens and eggs. Without the world’s pain and its haunting traps and snares, mankind would have no materiality to manipulate, no feelings to feel, and no ladders to climb. On the other hand, without man’s hopefulness—which can indeed be motivation warfare—, no snares would perpetually continue to block the way of that imagined alternative. In war, out of a longing for freedom, the most personal of all virtues, men literally reduce themselves to cruel animals, crawling through the bowels of the earth, in muddy desecrated ground while bombing and killing one another, day after day for several years or more, denying their humanity all the while until an accord between the belligerents is finally pressured into being. Life exists in grey, but it is always defined by its black and white properties. This is the great fascination of war; that men can be both lions and lambs at the same time. For History has recorded that some of the most powerful triumphs in people’s memory are discharged from the very dark, real and raw moments in which the human awareness resonates the loudest. That we as humans can hate and love, destroy and create all in a single experience—The Thrills of War- It is a great and terrible thing to behold.
Trench Art exists within that middle ground.
In the grey obscurity of warfare’s black and white bombast, Trench Art awakens itself as a neutralized vessel of clarity between the frenzied atmosphere of dehumanized misanthropic, barbarity and the eternally abiding inclination of humanities nurturing heart. What this bridge manifested are men trained as soldiers, not as artists, naively grappling with the internal and external world of their war through an instinctual artistic process. Trench Artists took the physical objects of the surrounding conflict and recycled them into expressive works of art that conveyed both consciously and subconsciously the metaphysical reality of war-time experiences. Throughout the history of arm conflicts this conveyance has taken many forms; from the victory monuments in Ancient Rome cast from the bronze armor of defeated enemies, to carved boxes of invalid soldiers of the Napoleonic War, to sunflowers painted on wooden canteens that adorned themselves on the bodies of young Confederate soldiers as they rushed into battle, to the crude etchings on spent artillery shells carved by shell shocked soldiers in the trenches of France.
There are those who will argue that Trench Art is simply the result of intense boredom experienced by soldiers in the lulls in between fighting. Yet even if that is the case, if such creativity can be generated from us a people when we are blasé and fatigued, I tremble with delight at the thought of what will generate when we become as a people, awake and alert; when we become enchanted with the world around us again. What Trench Art represents is a physical transformation of the materialities of warfare into an expressive, talismanic renaissance of the human spirit. With this convergence, Trench Art disrobes man from our disenfranchised passivism, and habilitates us once again towards our subsistent strength collectively and an individually. Through Trench Art we are given a glimpse of historical hopefulness of man choosing creation over destruction, intentionality over compliancy and a uplifting of life over death. It inspires in us an awareness, which is unfortunately ignored too often these days, of the truthfulness of imagination and universal human spirituality as paramount to our survival. If we as a people belong to the same tribe of humans that were able stand up to destruction and its inherent emotions of fear, sorrow and adversities, and look them in the eye with courage and creativity in the trenches of that awful German war, perhaps we still possess that strength. If Trench Art intentionality revealed itself as such a powerful tool in the muddy trenches of the early 20th century, will it not be just as effective in the metaphoric trenches of our modern society?
Inspired In Part By:
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