Exhibition catalogue Terms of Engagement: Averns, feldman-kiss, Stimson now available from:
ABC Art Books Canada - www.abcartbookscanada.com
Essays by Christine Conley and Kirsty Robertson
As part of his project as a volunteer war artist with CFAP, Dick Averns investigated war art programs in the UK, US, Australia, Egypt, and Israel to see how they compared to Canada. His findings are presented in this essay.
Calibrating Official War Art and the War on Terror
Dick Averns, Canadian Forces Artists Program, 2008-2009
Being a war artist offers a privileged view of humanity in conflict. As an artist selected to travel to the Middle East with the Canadian Forces Artists Program (CFAP), I was able to create not just lens-based artworks and sculpture, but also undertake research into a range of international war art programs. The resulting fieldwork forms the basis for identifying a series of benchmarks to assess, or calibrate, official war art in relation to the War on Terror.
My research suggests that the degree to which sovereign nations are willing to provide military support for contemporary artists to gain frontline access to the War on Terror, serves as a barometer for how different nations either enable or disable conflict-related cultural canons. Put another way, the greater the degree to which a country fosters critical artistic enquiry in the realm of military conflict, the greater the hope for a functioning liberal democracy. For instance in Egypt, only a year before the Arab Spring, their official war art featured art of the state: ongoing military commissions for government buildings and maintaining historic murals of victorious battles, undertaken by artists who are uniformed military personnel. In contrast, Canada has professional civilian artists that are afforded frontline access with the opportunity for self-representation and the adoption of more nuanced approaches. Download the .pdf here.
Adrian Stimson’s 10,000 Plus commemorates the 10,000 Native, Inuit and Metis who have served in the Canadian Forces. This significant history is little known to most Canadians but has inspired both fictional and historical accounts. Joseph Boyden’s novel Three-Day Road (2005) is based upon the celebrated Ojibwa soldier Francis Pegahmagabow, a decorated WWI sniper. Dr. Timothy Winegard is a historian of Native ancestry who has written several accounts of Indigenous soldiers in the Canadian military such as Oka: A Convergence of Cultures and the Canadian Forces (2008) and For King and Kanata: Canadian Indians and the First World War (2012). An interview with Timothy Winegard discussing the special significance of the military for Indigenous peoples is available on Youtube here.