Through case study analysis of World War One remembrance activities, this research examines the intrinsic politics of war monuments. The military executions of World War One—in which hundreds of soldiers were court-martialled and executed for cowardice and desertion—remain controversial, without consensus or established collective narrative. This research examines historic negotiations with the subject, and notes the failure to acknowledge victims of military executions in state war monuments. World War One remembrance activities, whilst diverse, have often emphasised sacrifice, heroism and community as embodied through physical monuments, as was the case in the major British World War One centenary arts project, titled 14-18 NOW. Chloe Dewe Mathews’s 2014 photographic series Shot at Dawn was an unusual commission here, in that it commemorated the victims of military executions and in so doing challenged prevailing war narratives. Her contribution to the programme deploys a photographic aesthetic of resistance, that resists the principles of inclusivity and remembrance elsewhere embraced by the project. As such, the work challenges the consensual politics of the physical war monument and—through the practices of late photography, land art and performance pilgrimage—transforms the execution locations into sites of trauma, loss and conscience.
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McCulloch, L. & Tovey, R. (2019) Shot at Dawn: Late photography and the anti-war memorial. Visual Studies, 34:2, 93-106, DOI: 10.1080/1472586X.2019.1653791