Tuesday December 29

Shot at Dawn

Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Military Rd, Kilmainham
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Internationally acclaimed photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews’ latest series, Shot at Dawn, an extremely impressive and moving commemorative art exhibition, is now on display at IMMA. This project focuses on the soldiers of the British, Belgian and French armies who were court-martialled for desertion and cowardice, and subsequently executed by those in their own battalion. These are the often omitted micro-narratives of the First World War. Perhaps these deaths have been overlooked in the larger narrative of war, or maybe they are excluded due to the shame inherent in the abominable prospect of murdering those in their own regiment, who stood and fought alongside them. Whatever the reasoning, Mathews is assuring that these men and their histories are not consigned to a forgotten past. The concepts of bravery and nationalism have always been integral to the rhetoric of the First World War, indeed, it is a prerequisite for a soldier to be ‘brave’ enough to die for their country. However, as we now know, this can be to the detriment of the mental stability of the person on the battlefield. Many of the soldiers that Shot at Dawn documents were suffering as a result of ‘shellshock’ and other forms of psychological trauma brought on by their involvement in the military service. However, this prompted little considerations from those who held the fate of the soldiers in their hands. This latest body of work seen Mathews delve into extensive research, being as methodical and precise as possible, in an attempt to authentically replicate the surrounding conditions where the soldiers lost their lives or spent their final hours. In isolation, each image is diverse and enrapturing, but when we are informed that these images are touched by individual history they become richly poignant. /Stephanie Kelly