During the summer of 2014 Mckeown undertook a commission based on the events of WW1 and a poem called Does it Matter by Siegfried Sassoon, for the UK's premier TV station Channel Four
McKeown’s Ghosts was produced in an international commemorative year that failed to explore to any degree the disabled legacy of WW1, bringing to the fore awareness of this forgotten narrative (Dodd et al, 2004)
Uniquely using the mechanism of computer art and through research into impairment caused by WW1, McKeown challenged the singularity of global war commemoration culture with its customary focus on surviving heroes and the ‘glorious dead’ (Carden-Coyle, 2010). Acting as a researcher, creator, producer and artistic director, he delivered an intellectually coherent project utilising WW1 metrics (Tonkin, 2014).
The final work is visually authentic, reflecting research into international battle dress, vehicles, locations and war activity of the period whilst addressing visual ableism (Garland-Thomson, 2010). Verisimilitude was ensured through McKeown’s study of precision motion capture acting (Hooks, 2003; Hodgins, 2010), which acknowledged impaired corporeal movement. Aural accuracy to the period was achieved via the recording of a string quartet playing a composition by a disabled WW1 veteran, addressing the absence of composers from the WW1 canon (Kennedy, 2014).
McKeown was approached and commissioned by Arts Admin for Channel 4 and 14-18 NOW. Ghosts was broadcast on Channel 4 and its online platform 4OD. It additionally featured on the UK Government’s 14-18 NOW WW1 Centenary Commissions’ website, as well as at festivals, including Unlimited at the London South Bank Centre. An award winner in Canada and USA, Ghosts received plaudits on social media platforms and featured in Disability History Month.
McKeown addresses a version of WW1 in which disability and impairment are absent and provides a new international and interdisciplinary benchmark for multiple disciplines including computer games (Elliott, 2013) and curatorial strategy (Ott, 2010; Dodd & Sandell, 2010) around conflict commemoration. This innovative computer graphic artwork brings knowledge of international impairment from WW1 to a broad and new public audience.
In a series of short films produced by Artsadmin and Xenoki, contemporary disabled artists present unorthodox, irreverent and unexpected takes on the legacies of war and disability in Britain today.
Awards and screenings:
Cinema Touching Disability awarded first place to Ghosts in 2016 and in 2017 it received runner up prize in the Respect Human Rights Film Festival, Belfast.
The commissioned series won an award for Performance under Ten Minutes at the Picture This film festival, Calgary, Canada in March 2015. The jury commented on the series, saying that it was:
“An eclectic series exploring war from a point of view seldom seen in mainstream media ... informing and entertaining ... very powerful and engaging ... sound was amazing and visuals were powerful ... the spoken word component is moving and the images are striking”
Ghosts was also shown at Southbank Centre’s Unlimited festival on 2 September 2014 and at the Athens Film Festival and the Adelaide Film Festival in 2015.
Ghosts can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/101714602
The full series can be seen at www.1418now.org.uk/commissions/does-it-matter/
Press Release 2014
FREE ON CHANNEL4.COM/WW1SHORTS FROM 28 JULY 2014
DOES IT MATTER?
14-18 NOW is a major cultural programme taking place across the United Kingdom to mark the centenary of the First World War.
Perceptions of the war have been shaped to a great extent by the artists of the time, including poets, writers, painters, sculptors, photographers and film-makers, many of whom served, and who reflected on the war and its effects. Their work had a profound and lasting impact.
Now, one hundred years later, we are inviting contemporary artists from the UK and around the world to explore the resonance of the First World War today.
Working with cultural organisations across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, 14-18 NOW commissions large-scale special projects. These are selected to encourage people from every community to reflect on how the First World War has shaped today’s world and our attitudes to conflict now.
Many of the events will be free, and our interactive website is designed to encourage the active participation of young people. Events take place on both a national and regional scale, across all art-forms and digital media
The programme will run for three years; 2014, 2016 and 2018.
For each of these key dates, 14-18 NOW will present a season of commissioned events around the UK over 6-8 weeks.
14-18 NOW is an independent programme hosted within Imperial War Museums and receives public funding from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.
Simon Mckeown’s animation follows disabled veterans moving through a landscape filled with the artifacts and objects of war, as they prepare for a new day.
Does it Matter? A series of short films produced by Artsadmin and Xenoki for 14|18 NOW & Channel 4
Directed by SIMON MCKEOWN
Production, 3d & Animation CRAIG MCMULLEN supported by MCKEOWN
Assisted by DAVID ARCHBOLD, VINCENT BURNS & CONOR DOYLE
Music Director ELLEN BROOKES
Arthur Bliss String Quartet in A Major performed by ENIGMA STRING QUARTET
Sound Recording: DANNY McCORMACK
Sound Design: NIGEL CROOKS
With thanks to TEESSIDE UNIVERSITY
Series Producers JUDITH KNIGHT & DEBORAH MAY