In 2011 the British artist Derek Eland spent a month in Afghanistan and created ‘big brother’ style Diary Rooms on the front line. He then asked soldiers and civilians, western and Afghan, to write their stories on coloured postcards.
The work has been recreated as an installation in a gallery in the UK and for the first time in its history the gallery has had to provide Kleenex in the exhibition space for visitors whose emotions are overcome by what they see and read.
“I wanted to find a way to get inside the heads of these people in this extreme environment,” Eland said. ” The creation of ‘Diary Rooms’ and providing soldiers and civilians with blank postcards and the opportunity to write down their immediate thoughts seemed the most eloquent way of achieving this. The stories and comments written on the cards are raw, honest and varied, from the remarkable to the mundane, the extraordinary to the everyday.”
I also wasn’t interested in seeing things in Afghanistan and then creating artworks back in my studio in the UK. I wanted to create art which was engaging, immediate, raw and above all honest. I was driven by the desire to create a unique self-portrait of what it is like to ‘be human’ in this extraordinary place.”
Hundreds of stories were collected from British soldiers and Afghans. The work which resulted from the time Derek Eland spent on the front line is touring a number of UK galleries as a solo exhibition starting at in October 2011. It is currently on exhibition at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in Bournemouth until March 2013 at www.russell-cotes.bournemouth.gov.uk