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The British are obsessed with the (Second World) War, or rather a version of it recalled from films we half remember watching in our childhoods.


The War is used as a lazy metaphor for everything from football to Brexit. Government cuts are sold as “austerity” to their victims, who are urged to “Keep Calm And Carry On”. Part of this fascination is a nostalgia for a time of certainty. – You may not have known if you were going to live to see the next day, but if you did, you knew what was expected of you. Each person was told they were an important part of something bigger and had a common purpose. Thinking “we’re all in it together” has a strong pull for a social animal. Much of the language of Brexit, with its appeals to our “wartime spirit”, conflicted with the imagined British traits of “fair play”; “humour”; “politeness” and “standing up for the under dog”. People who told us to look to our history, forgot the Welfare State, Human Rights, the end of the Empire were what the voters who booted out Churchill and elected a Labour government, had been fighting for. The memorial consists of three panels, each 600mm long by 300mm wide (23.622 x 11.811 inches in old money). What appears to be polished granite turns out to be plastic. Inscribed on each of the panels are what might be taken to be the names of war dead, but are really the cast list of a British war film. Each film is from a different decade, the 1940s, (In Which We Serve) 1950s (Dunkirk) and 1960s (Battle of Britain). These films each concern themselves with a different service, the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force, respectively. Not entirely coincidentally, each film includes a scene about Dunkirk, which by any measure was a humiliating defeat for the British, but was portrayed at the time as a ‘miracle’ and joined the national myth as a kind of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. At the time of writing, another film version of Dunkirk is in the cinemas, and Ridley Scott is producing a remake of the Battle of Britain. For us, at least, the war is not over.

Warp Memorial was originally produced for the exhibition The Republic of Brextopia – signals from an imagined future – a Degrees of Freedom production held at Espacio Gallery 159 Bethnall Green Rd, London E2 7DG from 6 – 16 September 2017. It is based on one of Dunnico’s earlier works, ‘A Proclimation’.


David Dunnico is a documentary photographer and writer from Manchester. He has produced several bodies of work about war memorials, a recurring theme being how respect for the dead of earlier wars is used to bolster support for recent, morally more dubious uses of military force. His blog is at:

“Film is a battleground” Sam Fuller

‘In Which We Serve’ 1942 Two Cities Films Directed by Noel Coward & David Lean Royal Navy

“Tradition is the illusion of permanance” Woody Allen

‘Dunkirk’ 1958 Ealing Studios Directed by Leslie Norman The British Army

‘Battle of Britain’ 1969 Spitfire Productions/UA Directed by Guy Hamilton Royal Air Force

“There is no such thing as an anti-war movie” François Truffaut

Brexitopia war memorial david dunnico  
Brexitopia war memorial david dunnico  

Leaflet describing an artwork originally produced for the exhibition 'Republic of Brexitopia' See the catalogue here: http://www.degreesof...