War and Medicine

Sightlines, (C-Type Print. First exhibited within the solo exhibition Aesthetic Distance at Danielle Arnaud gallery, London 2008)

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, War and Medicine considered the continually evolving relationship between warfare and medicine, beginning with the disasters of the Crimean War in the 1850s, and continuing through to today’s conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Central to the exhibition was the uncomfortable and sometimes paradoxical relationship between war and medicine and the question of their influence upon each other. War and Medicine showed how humankind’s desire to repair and heal is perpetually striving to keep pace with our capacity to maim and kill.

Throughout November 2007, David lived in Helmand province amongst military doctors, soldiers and marines; hosted by the Royal Army Medical Corps and later by the Royal Marine Commandos. He had been sent to this strange and contradictory environment with the support of the Wellcome Trust with an agenda to explore the ethically challenging relationship between war and medicine. Arriving at Camp Bastion, he had never been further away from his own context. He had never been a witness to a serious medical operation and before pre-deployment training a few weeks earlier; had never visited a military base.

Medicine in conflicted landscapes offers enormous practical and moral challenges. David observed the surgical teams attached to the military and considered the moral and practical complexity of surgery under canvas and the implications of this immersive and dramatic experience for civilian observers, patients and medics returning to the NHS. Commissioned by the Wellcome Trust and supported by the Ministry of Defence, Cotterrell produced responses for exhibition and publication to contextualise this historic ethical dilemma within a the contemporary context of the conflict in Afghanistan. The exhibition, War and Medicine, opened at the Wellcome Collection in December 2008 and toured to Dresden and Ottawa over the following years. Individual works from the exhibition and related bodies of work have been extensively exhibited in the UK, USA, Europe and Asia.

Theatre, (5-channel immersive projection with sound. Installed at the Wellcome Collection, London 2008).

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