“The most remarkable First World War commemoration you will ever see.”
– Dan Snow
The Trench presents the figures from the Shrouds of the Somme in a different format: as a mass rather than as individuals. The structure is designed to curve round so that once you are inside it, you cannot see a way out. When the figures are laid out as the Shrouds of the Somme, they represent the individuals – but The Trench – like The Brick – will present the viewer with a more unsettling image, as Rob explains:
“The idea for The Trench came to me one day as I was standing in amongst all the 19240 figures stacked up in bags. I realised I was standing in what felt like a trench. It was very compressed and very claustrophobic in amongst all these dead bodies and I started to think about how we could actually represent that and it just came to me – the idea of a trench. Lines.
“The Trench will be a large 40 metre long freestanding installation, lined with the dead – stacked full of figures. It will be an unsettling experience to walk through and maybe that’s as it should be. It’s exactly the same piece but represented in a different way. In a very different way. To me, it’s a much more hard-hitting image. It will be 40 metres long and two and a half metres high and I want to really get the feeling of being – like, when you’re in it, you can’t see the ends. The walls are slanted and the idea is that you walk down this thing and when you’re in the middle of it, you know, 20 metres in you can’t see either end and that’s not going to be the most comfortable position to be in and neither should it. This is really going to bring home the claustrophobic feeling of being in a trench – do you want to stay in this trench full of the dead or do you want to get out? If you get out of the trench you only know what’s waiting for you when you go over the top. So for me personally it’s going to be quite an interesting feeling to be in that, having lived with these figures for as long as I have.”
The modular design of the trench means that it can be configured in different ways to suit individual environments. The external walls of the structure can be used to display information about the fallen – presenting an informative exhibit alongside the artwork.
“When this is done I want that element of closure with these figures I want to find The Trench a permanent home. There is a lot of talk of touring and The Trench gives that opportunity you could even take it to France, it’s a much easier thing to transport.”
The Trench premiered in Exeter on June 30th 2018. More details on this and other events can be found on the official Shrouds of the Somme page.