"First World War Centenary – A Documentary Exploration"


The Australian War Memorial is home to one of Australia’s major art collections. It holds over 36,000 works of art by many of Australia’s leading artists, including present-day artists which have been added to the collection more recently. The collection incorporates a diverse range of media including works on paper, prints, paintings, sculpture, posters, cartoons and illustrations, ‘soldier art’ and video art. It reflects the history of Australia’s involvement in conflict and war since the 19th century, with works related to Colonial conflicts, through the Boer War, First and Second World Wars, Malaya, Korean War, Vietnam War and more recent conflicts including the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Australia’s participation in Peacekeeping contingents.


The Centenary of the First World War (FWW) is one of the most significant cultural, historical and commemorative events in Australian history (Webster, 2014). To mark this significance the Australian War Memorial is commissioning a commemorative print portfolio featuring the work of ten contemporary artists. Printmaking has been chosen as the medium for this project due to its historical resonance with art produced during the FWW. The Print Portfolio will reflect the Anzac legacy of the FWW by featuring work by five Australian and five New Zealand artists. Each artist is asked to respond artistically, creatively and reflectively to the history and/or legacy of the FWW, including the significance of the upcoming Centenary to both countries. It is intended that the Portfolio reflect a diversity of artistic perspectives and constitute an important cultural response to this key historical event.

Project Scope

The aim is to creatively explore contemporary commemorative artistic practices by way of observational and documentary techniques of ten artists at Megalo Print Studio in Canberra between May 2014 and June 2015. The Australian War Memorial is interested in documenting the work of these artists through film and interactive media to be developed into an interactive documentary (i-doc) or touch-screen story platform to enhance the commemorative print portfolio project as an exhibition. 

In my current role of media producer at the Australian War Memorial, I have the opportunity to produce this film and interactive work  and would like to use this as pivot for my own documentary exploration and  artistic response to the First World War Centenary.

Research Question

The research question could be that you want to explore online documentation of the print portfolio and combine that with small films, for example – think  about what you would really like to be doing for this project, e.g. A website, a film? Both?

There should be at least one preliminary question, in terms of documentary making. Would you yourself be adopting the memorial’s question for this project, which is ‘how do you as an artist respond to the First World War?’

What is it about the documentary form that you are inquiring about. We were talking about collaboration with the subject, and ways of showing and looking . We also mentioned new platforms and new level of interactivity. I think we should look at these first before deciding on a subject to test a proposition.

respond artistically to the history and/or legacy of the First World War, including the national ties forged at the time between these two countries. The project represents a major artistic engagement with the continuing significance of the First World War in contemporary Australia and New Zealand, while commemorating to a high artistic standard the service and sacrifice of individuals, families, and communities.

The proposed area of research I wish to undertake is the documentary form with a specialised area of interactive documentary production.

The documentary film stories will investigate a series of prints informed by the wartime experiences of Australian and New Zealander soldiers, from the perspective of the artists themselves descendants of those who soldiers who served – or not. .The stories that inform the artists prints will be in fact re-tracing a Soldier’s experience be it fictional or factual; it will be historic and cultural story.

The interactive documentary will inspire and educate audiences to consider their own discovery; how would they interpret their ancestors' experience of the First World War?

be pursuedI envisage the content I film to be repurposed into multiple uses; a non-linear interactive documentary suitable for touch screens, and a traditional documentary to be screened independently of the memorial, in festivals and conferences.

What do you think could be your potential research questions, what would you like to find out by doing this project? Would you like to experiment with creating an online version of it, or would you like to research ‘trust’ as you mentioned during our conversation?. In any case you choose, be it a technical-related research or a more conceptual research, it