Having been told there were a lot of military vehicles in a local scrap yard, I went to have a look. There are massed lorries, fire engines some refuelling tankers and a Chieftain tank.
The tank is draped in rotting tarpaulins which are all tied up with washing line and weighted down so not movable. The turret is turned facing backwards with the gun resting on a bracket at the back of the hull, this is it’s transport mode.I think it may be an early model as the first ones had a split entry hatch as this one has. The gaffer of the yard says it was the last one they bought and he decided not to break it up, it has been there about ten years and he thinks it may have seen action but would need to look inside for the serial number to find out where.
So – what is one to do with a tank? I decided that rubbings of it might be interesting. Clearly a functional tank could not be treated like this, only a decommissioned one could be subjected to this indignity. So the rubbings are traces of a thing already past. This is an investigation of the iconic visual status of the tank versus its current condition; outdated, immobile, dead. This stranded behemoth has a small, shiny padlock closing its entry hatch. Rubbings of the full length of its 5m gun and some of the many hatches and covers have been done onto calico, which emphasises stitching and woven texture in the canvas lagging on the gun.
The rubbings onto textile have something of the shroud about them; fabric marked with visible traces of what it once covered.They have translated these tank parts into shadowy, insubstantial and rather vulnerable, feminine things; it is not clear what they might be. The image is of a stilled weapon, but the fabric moves in response to passing people and opening doors. All a contrast to the quite substantial military looking brackets from which the fabric is suspended.
In work such as Nuclear Sail, or the Aircraft-carrier Bird Bath, Ian Hamilton Findlay explores the paradoxes of military machinery; visually gripping hardware but with a function which is so remote to those of us who have never experienced conflict that is easy to discount or ignore.
Stella Brennan in her slow moving, contemplative video South Pacific (2007) gives another perspective on the aftermath of war in looking at how WWII influenced culture, communication and perceptions of that remote part of the world.