Images of destruction, blood and pain filled the walls of the gallery. The photos were all black and white but that couldn’t disguise the horror of the wounds. In some, colour had been overlaid, one small area per image, to emphasise the effect. Mostly it wasn’t the red of blood that had been added, as the observer might expect. It was the rust of the spike protruding from a leg, the blue of an eyeball laid out on a cheek.
The crowd viewed the images in a hushed awe. The scale of how man can hurt his friends, and enemies, was breathtaking. The level of stupidity displayed almost inconceivable. Proof of what we can sink to silenced comment.
In one group were 9 photos taken together. All of the injuries were on one single body. No part of the body escaped unscathed. Both arms, both legs, the chest, the back, the head were all represented. No explanation was provided so it wasn’t clear how they had been caused, but it was clear it had been severe, unrelenting and totally one-sided.
The artist moved between the images, dressed in camouflage and carrying a battered rifle with a bayonet attached to the end. He tripped and skipped from photo to photo, pointing to incisions with his bayonet, miming how the injuries may have been caused.
A single wall space remained covered in a velvet curtain, a golden tasselled cord waiting to be pulled. A gong sounded and the crowd were called to assemble in front of the curtain. As they waited for it to swish open, a low murmur of expectation began. Behind it was imagined to be the most horrific images of all.
Instead, small versions of the worst images were shown, this time in full colour and in wide view. Rather than a battlefield, the location was an inner city. Not a field hospital, but an NHS A&E department. Not a war between nations, but a war between neighbours. The artist not a participant, but the surgeon called upon to stitch the wounds back together.
A white card was inscribed with the title of the show. “The atrocities of war are not so far away.”
Inspired by “A medic's pictures of the Falklands war”