A Temporary Display of Birmingham’s Loss During World War I Leaves a Lasting Impression

I keep getting taken back to an email I received a few weeks ago questioning my focus on art when there is so much suffering in the world. I go back to it not because it annoyed me (though it did) but because so many examples abound of why art matters. 

Yesterday, on the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, an installation conceived by Brazilian sculptor Nele Azevedo invited the descendants of those killed during The Great War to place 5000 figurines made of ice on the steps of Chamberlain Square in Birmingham, each carving a representative of a soldier or civilian who never came home. At the top sat a figure dyed red.

As the icemen melted, water trickled down the steps. The crowning red figure melted too, and as the dye mixed with the liquid from the others it came to represent the blood that was shed as the injured lay dying, and the tears of their loved ones upon hearing the news. Though temporary, it was incredibly touching.

This is just one of several stunning sculptural installations that have been created to commemorate this inexplicable tragedy, all of them evocative, emotionally charged works that highlight the absurdity and futility of war. 

And that’s a message art ought to be praised for conveying.

This story first appeared in The Birmingham Mail.

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