Green Fields Beyond – 100 years since the Battle of the Somme
“Troops from the industrial North of England represented 60% of armed personnel. Workers from the Lancashire cotton mills enlisted their services to join armies of young men entering into a voyage of discovery and a once in a lifetime chance to discover the world. The innocence they took with them was rapidly replaced with the true horror of trench warfare, and the anticipated quick victory extended to four long years.
Our interpretation involves the production of monotone Calico/Cotton duck uniforms, rifles, gas mask, back-packs. The natural colour of the fabric represents an untainted, unblemished freshness and innocence, which, by use and activity, gradually becomes dirtied and stained. Tea bags placed about the uniform will add to the staining effect when wet, and suggestive of outposts of the British Empire. The ghostly appearance will be exemplified with a performance at a slow half speed march, In addition to the uniform we will produce union jack flags sewn together from linen, calico and cotton duck.
The uniform is symbolic of harvest and sacrifice at the same time. It is a product of Empire and the values and hopes invested within its woven cloth. It conjures images and phrases common to us, of a common thread, a stitch in time, spinning a yarn, of factories and Luddites, of wealth and civic pride. The uniform is the product of nation and commonwealth. The Women’s Institute formed in 1915 were encouraged to produce food to serve the nation reinforcing the reliance and dependence on the land and agriculture.
In 1916, trench warfare stalemate created the atmosphere of invention, which, resulted in the production of the first tank. The experience of building agricultural farm machines and rough terrain vehicles gave Lincolnshire women the opportunity to work on this secret project whilst their men fought on Flanders fields and prepared for the Somme.
Using elements of structure representing farm machinery, a procession of performers and technical staff will compose and slot different parts of machinery together to form a battle tank. Once together, the skeletal outline becomes a framework to hang knitted panels onto the structure forming a camouflaged surface, based loosely around the artist Solomons original design. The surface will give the impression of a Claes Oldenburg type soft sculpture. The treatment of the surface suggests a warm bond between mother and son, husband and wife and of fathers needing the comfort of loved ones whose hand crafted work is reminiscent of a warm swaddling blanket made from natural fibres as a product of the homeland.
The procession develops by degrees according to the elements of the piece being constructed. The members of the public shall be interspersed with characters devised by students from Fashion colleges with modern creations using WW1 as the specific theme (eg, Hull fashion College).
As the Tank materializes into its recognizable form, the troops assume battle mode advance. In the final stage of the performance installation, the sound, light and music effects frame the scene. The troops shall take up positions on the ground in a specially prepared environment whereby their uniforms will stain with earth and mud. The symbolism is repeated in the ritualistic mud and natural pigments used by tribal peoples of Africa and throughout the South America and Oceania. Trinidad Carnival also celebrates Mud Masquerade in the early hours preceding the opening day, (jouvay) It acknowledges what comes from the earth, goes back to the earth.
The Finale moment of the performance could include the rising of the Angel, in the second of two illustrations and may be portrayed as a purely abstract form which denotes spirits rising or aspiring to the heavens with a cathedral spire as backdrop.” Paul McLaren