The Art in War: Exploring Trench Art, its Materiality, and the Human Side of War


  • Cuong Bui The Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg



Warfare timelessly associates itself with objects of death and destruction. Whether they manifest themselves as armaments or ammunition, these objects only help in facilitating man's destructive instincts and fueling the flames of war. While many concede that these objects are merely expressions of man's cold, technological ingenuity, I argue that they can also be repurposed for expressing one's humanity in face of the cruel realities of warfare. Thus, this paper seeks to examine trench art, a longstanding practice of transforming materiel1 into artwork, utilitarian objects, and even symbolic monuments. By investigating trench art in a material cultural context, we gain a better understanding of the human side of warfare, as seen through the lenses of soldiers, prisoners of war, and civilians that create these art pieces.


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