Shot at Dawn

Your life for the collective





To serve

On my seventeenth birthday there

was a letter waiting for me on the table.

The letter was a strange kind of

present coming from the big world.

It caused mixed emotions. It made

me proud to be almost an adult, to

be taken seriously by the real world:

not halfheartedly like my parents and

school did, who mainly kept seeing

me as a child. I was now considered

equal and thus a full citizen. Someone

to wait for, someone who was going to

mean something for society. Someone

needed. But there was another feeling

that emerged. Though it seemed

honourable, was that really the case?

An invisible power enclosed me. I felt

blocked. Something was decided for

me without my opinion being asked.

Again adults determined my life: what

to do and what to think. But I was

convinced I would do it differently, I

would change the world!

The letter of the Dutch army was answered:

I wanted to refuse military

service. That was possible. Our open,

democratic and peaceful society allowed

this. There was a time this was

impossible. During WW1 unwilling

soldiers were executed when the army

command saw this fit.

In the name of the city of Poperinge

and non-porfit organisation Kunst, Jan

Moeyaert asked me to create a work

on this theme. A very honourable assignment

that perfectly lies in the line

of my work as an artist, in which I try

to fathom how we as a society deal with

conflicts and how we portray these conflicts

on television or on the internet

and how we capture them in monument

to commemorate.

I would like to share with you the associative

process I went through while

creating the sculpture. The starting point

of the work is the WW1 monument on

the market place of Poperinge. It is a

typical monument, like there are many

in Belgium and in the rest of the world.

A soldier on a pedestal. Heroically he

raises his arm in the air. He has won.

With one glance you can see who was the

winner and who lost, who was the enemy,

who was a coward and who a hero. The

pedestal of the monument is large, heavy,

strong: not made to wobble or tilt. The

monument has defended itself all this

time. You can see this on its outside.

Despite the danger of moss, bird droppings,

erosion by the sun, rain and frost

the monument is still standing strong

and shiny in its position, as to ward of

any doubt about heroism. It is rigid, immobile,

not capable of changing its mind.

In my imigination I carefully tilt the

monument. It is now lying on its back.

The bottom of the pedestal has become a

gigantic black hole. In the first part

a little light shines thourgh, but the

further I look inside the pedestal, the

darker it gets. I can just about see the

starting point of the soldier, the soles

of his shoes, his legs. And then it gets

really dark. Do I see his chest, his

neck? Can I look inside his head?

The darkness is impenetrable.

The pedestal lying down looks like a

funnel. Through the funnel the present

slinks in: it brings some clarity to that

darkness. Or is the funnel a horn through

which the past tries to shout out something

at us? An oracle? Do we here the

enthusiasm of the first weeks of the war,

the homesickness, the pride, the doubt,

the bloodlust, the rattle of death, the

cries of victory? Or do we mainly hear a

rustle? The rustle of our own blood?


Anno Dijkstra