Valour  (2020)

Three photographs (100 x 155 cm)

Historical heroism of men is associated with the military symbolism, which is represented to the extreme extent by the officer's uniform.

The series consists of three photographs. The Officer's Uniform of the Polish People's Army, which, despite its negative political connotations, subconsciously commands the viewer's respect due to the social importance of the roles of high-ranking soldiers.  The uniform also symbolizes the man who wore it - it is an emanation of his strength, courage and merit, as well as guarantee of the owner's immortality in social memory. When we think about the uniform, we automatically associate it with a male silhouette. Since the uniform defines the role, rank and importance of men's achievements, it somewhat overshadows the women, upstaging her. The empty hanger refers to the untold stories of women and men refusing military service, whose heroism has been omitted from the pages of history, and draws attention to the way of building

a narrative of socially important events. It refers both to female soldiers, such as the heroines of Swietlana Aleksijewicz's series of reportages "War's Unwomanly Face", who had to fit into the male discourse of the narrative about war and soldiers, as well as female civilians, the partners of military heroes whose lives were subordinated to them. In the case of the latter, the perspective of the uniform permeates even the linguistic layer, creating terms such as "general's lady" that define the status of a woman through the prism of her partner's achievements.

The story exposes the figures of male military heroes, with all their symbolic and titular background. Meanwhile, the women takes on a rather undefined role in this narrative, a role that is as multifaceted as in the case of the German Trümmerfrau. Valour is also an attribute that does not belong to men who oppose military service.

 

The crutch points to the problem of removing the true image of war and the consequences of the militarisation of society from the public space. The photographed object is an authentic crutch belonging to a former military officer who has lost his limb as a result of warfare. Unlike the uniform presented in the first photograph, which is only a prop, here we are dealing with a real attribute related to the valour and the militarisation of society.

 


 

 © 2020 Konrad Kultys.