Myriad Faces conference about 1917’s significance looms

Professor Kingsley Baird says the Myriad Faces of War conference deals with military and cultural events from 1917 that still inform the world today

With less than two weeks till the opening of the Myriad Faces of War symposium, its relevance to the wider community continues to grow.

Opening on Anzac Day, the symposium’s significance to a modern audience is magnified by the current international climate, where the United States, exactly 100 years after entering World War I, is engaging in fresh conflict with air strikes against the Syrian regime.

Symposium organising committee chair Professor Kingsley Baird from Massey’s College of Creative Arts says that is one reason why The Myriad Faces symposium is unique.

“Firstly, its concentration on one year during the war, which includes events directly associated with the war and others that are not, but also occurred in 1917. Secondly the symposium is concerned with the legacy of these events in 1917 and how they continue to influence the world we live in today.”

In 1917, the global reach of the Great War expanded as United States, China, Brazil, and others joined the Allied side. On the battlefield, combatants experienced exhilarating triumphs and devastating losses from Passchendaele to Cambrai on the Western Front, at Caporetto on the Austro-Italian Front, and Beersheba and Ramadi in the Middle East.

Post-war political and social changes were signalled with the imminent collapse of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, and when Russia – in the midst of a communist revolution – withdrew from the war. The Balfour Declaration pledged Britain's support for a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine; suffragettes in Washington were arrested as they picketed the White House; and conscientious objectors from New Zealand were shipped to the Western Front in an attempt to force them to join the war effort.

On the cultural landscape, French conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp redefined art with the Fountain urinal; the art and literature review Dada was published in Zurich; and soldier poet, Wilfred Owen, wrote Anthem for Doomed Youth.

Well-known New Zealand figures in war, memory and history, including Dr Jock Phillips, Dr Monty Soutar and Professor Glyn Harper are symposium keynotes. International war and culture studies specialists, including Professors Annette Becker, Piet Chielens and Michael Neiberg, will join them.

Held at Te Papa Tongarewa from April 25 to 28, the event is jointly organized by WHAM (War History Heritage Art and Memory) Research Network, Massey University; Auckland War Memorial Museum; The University of Auckland and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.



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