REFRAME Conversations’ video Unseen Enemy: War Stories in Public Spaces draws on the British National Army Museum’s “Unseen Enemy” exhibition (2013-2014) to explore the ways in which museums – as cultural public spaces that are in dialogue with other public media – are used to tell stories of war and the combat experience.
The Unseen Enemy exhibition, which told a story of Improvised Explosive Devices and their impact in Afghanistan, raised critical questions about how the disembodied technologies of war and the embodied human experience of war are mediated and explained in public cultural spaces, and how this relates to the wider politics of war and militarization.
The “Unseen Enemy: War Stories in Public Spaces” video addresses these questions through the reflections of the Exhibition’s co-curator Amy Cameron and three participants invited to visit the exhibition by the film’s director Dr Sarah Maltby: Dr Katy Parry, Lecturer, The Institute for Communication Studies, Leeds University; Melanie Friend, photographer and Senior Lecturer, Sussex University; and Craig Ames, Lens Based Practitioner and Senior Lecturer, University of Sunderland.
Katy, Melanie and Craig were encouraged to engage in a reflective ethnography as they navigated their way through the exhibition space, situating their own work, as practitioners and scholars, alongside that of the exhibition and sounding out the particular story of war that was being told, how it was told, and how it resonated with other war stories in the public domain.
“Unseen Enemy: War Stories in Public Spaces” was first screened as part of a panel on “Contemporary Soldiering, Self- representation and Popular Culture” at the 64th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, Seattle May 26th, 2014.
Director, Producer and Narrator: Dr Sarah Maltby is a Senior Lecturer and researcher at the University of Sussex. Her core academic interests centre upon the intersection between contemporary military and media practice. This includes the tactical and strategic role of mediated information in the implementation of security provision, and the representation of conflict in military, journalistic and artistic output. Sarah was the curator of the War and the Body Exhibition (London, June 2010), which explored the intertwining of war and body in the drawing,painting, photography and installation artwork of a selection of artists.
Sarah is Founder and Coordinator of the War and Media Network which promotes productive dialogue between academics and practitioners interested in the intersection between war and the media. Launched in Spring 2003, the Network is both an online resource and networking forum, which currently has over 350 members worldwide (visit http://www.warandmedia.org for more information).
She is currently Principal Investigator of The D.U.N Project (Defence, Uncertainty and ‘Now’ Media): Mapping social media in strategic communications. She is the author of “Military Media Management: Negotiating the ‘Front’ Line” in Mediatized War (Routledge, 2012), co-editor of Communicating War: Memory, Military and Media (Arima, 2007) and co-editor of the Sage journal Media, War and Conflict.
Assistant Director and Editor: Michael Laver is a freelance documentary maker currently based in Brighton and at the University of Sussex. He won the award for ‘Best Documentary’ at the London Portobello Film Festival in 2013 for his undergraduate film ‘Squaring Up: Chessboxing’. Extracts from the film were broadcast on BBC One and ITV in March 2014.
Camera Operators: Daniel Bennett and Denise Liege
“Unseen Enemy: War Stories in Public Spaces” was funded as a REFRAME Conversations video production by the School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex. Many thanks to the School for this support.
REFRAME Conversations would also like to thank all those who participated in this video project and especially the National Army Museum, the Imperial War Museum, Melanie Friend and Craig Ames who gave permission for some of their copyrighted images and sounds to be reproduced in it.
For further information about the film please contact Sarah Maltby.