Warship

~ Michelle Saleeba


This incredible work of art Warship - the Glorious Decline of the Officers' Library by Jo Darbyshire is on display at John Curtin Gallery until March 10th, 2019.


Commissioned to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice in November 2018 the installation in the shape of Australia's first submarine the AE1 is created from 300 book covers 'rescued' from the disbanded Royal United Service Institution (RUSI) of WA Library. The RUSI of Western Australia was founded in Perth in 1902. The Institute sought to improve the education of Service Officers by promoting the study of strategic and defence matters and included a comprehensive library.




The ‘found’ books that make up the installation were nearly all about War: the many wars in history and especially about the first and second world wars, the countries involved and the aftermath of war. The most poignant, for the artist were books written by individuals about their own war experiences, and written in the hope that we 'never forget the horrors of war'.



About the exhibition by Jo Darbyshire


"The exhibition is about memory - the very human act of forgetting, and selective remembering and the artist draws attention to the books as being both visually and historically intriguing conduits for this.


The installation explores the aesthetics and provenance of the book covers, highlighting the absorbing titles, textures, colours and fonts, that speak so resonantly of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. The elements of an archival system are also visible in labels and handwritten catalogue numbers. Other marks show the signs of use: of being held and handled, of being considered and valued. In their materiality they tell a story that cannot be told in the same way by digital media. The book itself is a form of collective remembering, as the many who handle and read it add to its wear and tear; and like an aged body, this encourages an attitude of respect and empathy.


The artist draws our attention to the fact that for a variety of reasons, many of our cultural institutions are currently acting both clandestinely and openly to dispose of large numbers of books. She acknowledges that in questioning this practice and creating this artwork, with cruel irony, she herself has had to destroy books."



This large-scale 14 metre long installation is made in the shape of the AE1, the first Australian Submarine, commissioned in 1914. The submarine along with its 35 crew disappeared while on patrol near New Guinea. Discovered in 2017 after being lost for103 years.



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