We three are of the generation who grew up in the cold war era, with an acute sense of the legacy of WW1 and WW2. Our grandparents played an active role in these wars. Ruth Calland’s grandfather was saved from almost certain death in WW2 when the Japanese surrendered; just as his radar ship was poised to invade a Japanese harbour. Jessica Perry’s family treasure the diary of her grandfather Syd, who carefully documented his life as a water bearer in WW1. And Jonathan Waller would never have been born if his parents had not met at a de-mob station at the end of WW2.
On the centenary of the start of World War One, we offer contemplations on its different meanings and legacy. The title is derived from the acronym NYDN, the official diagnosis of shell shock, Not Yet Diagnosed Nervous, which attempted to disguise the psychological nature of the condition at a time when there was little acceptance that trauma could be other than physical. The change of wording for NYDN in our title was introduced by the men themselves, and their black humour demonstrates both resilience and disillusionment with the war.
The artists have taken one each of our armed forces as a starting point and focus. Jonathan Waller’s wax and driftwood sculptures - half man and half shipwreck – speak eloquently of human frailty, mortality and survival. His elder brother, both parents, and grandfather all served in the Navy, the latter as a ship’s surgeon in the Middle East in WW1.
Jessica Perry’s grandfather travelled to and from the front line with a horse drawn cart, inspiring her to create intersections of machinery and natural forms. Using salvaged materials with wit and invention, she conveys the unnatural and disturbing transformation of the landscape.
Ruth Calland explores the psychological impact of violent trauma on the mind. Heads and other body parts suspended in clouds speak of a haunted no man’s land of the soul, and reveal the frozen and paralysed states that result from experiences that cannot be processed.
The 2014 exhibition spoke of fragmentation, loss, and the patient hope of redemption, as the unquiet voices of a lost generation murmur still.
The exhibition included a:
Poetry Workshop with Phil Barrett: Tell Me the Truth about War, and then War Poetry Readings;
A talk by Ruth Calland: Shell-shock and Psychiatry in World War One;
A sculpture residency by Jonathan Waller inside the church during the exhibition;
and prior to the exhibition, Jessica worked with 13 x Yr 9 students from Stalham High School on themes inspired by her method of work and the subject of the show, with 10 students work on display as part of the main exhibition.