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Abstract

Recent acquisitions at the Canadian War Museum are considered in relation to the radical innovations of soldier-artists who endured the somatic conditions of the First World War trenches, privileging materiality and psychic reality over visual perception. Barbara Steinman and Norman Takeuchi bring the past into the present through the indexical presence of black and white photographic fragments and the emotive presentation of lost objects as signifiers of the desires of the absent. Scott Waters and Mary Kavanagh evoke dread and the contingency of death through anamorphic distortion and blinding luminosity. Like the suggestive surfaces of the Museum itself, these works unsettle us to make palpable the psychic toll of war.

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