Commemorating WW1 – There But Not There

2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of the WW1 armistice, and a programme of commemorative events are planned across the UK and France.

Some of these have already started, namely the There But Not There project, which aims to give a sense of the loss that was felt at community level. The project sees the installation of representative figures, through the medium of transparent silhouettes, around the country in local locations where the loss of a soldier would have been most keenly felt.

The silhouettes, which can be found at war memorials, churches and public spaces, depict a soldier with his head bowed, rifle in hand and a poppy on the chest. There have also been installations of Perspex silhouettes in churches, to give the impression of seated military figures, with a transparent life-size form for each soldier lost.

It is an incredibly powerful reminder of the collective sacrifice that was made for the country 100 years ago, and gives a tangible dimension to the intangibility of death and loss. It is hard to connect the events of 100 years ago with the society in which we live today, particularly for younger generations. By providing a physical reminder of those that were lost, the campaign successfully bridges the gap left by 100 years of history in the passing. They are no longer names on a memorial – a roll call of the dead – but an actual form that can be seen and touched. The installations allow us to reflect on the futility of war and the terrible price that was paid in human life.

The campaign successfully combines giving a sense of life to those that were lost, but also manages to retain the ethereality of death. They are literally ‘There But Not There’.

This is culture at its best – when history and art come together to create something unique, inspiring and truly moving.