Pam's War

by Elwes, Catherine


Original format
Figuring Landscapes

A mother’s memories of both bravery and self-interest during World War 2 are re-inscribed into a Cornish coastal landscape while contemporary surfers catch the waves oblivious to the significance of the place for the autochthonous speaker.

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For women artists working in the 1980s landscape represented a possible cipher for a new feminine, unmarked as it was by the overt gendering with which any image of the body would be encumbered. In Pam’s War, I bring together my interest in memory and conflict with a landscape, which, in this case, forms the background to a voice-over interview with my mother, recorded in 1995.The eponymous Pam tells the story of a ‘good’ but contradictory war in which she resents her husband’s unhesitating enrolment in the SAS but herself demonstrates almost foolhardy courage during the Blitz.The north Cornish coast represents the ‘homeland’, a place that formed Pam’s identity and which she sought to protect by ‘doing her bit’ at the War Office in London. By means of her narrative, Pam modulates the touristic gaze embodied in shots of beach and cliffs and inscribes the landscape with history.At the same time, Pam’s War is a memorial, a prologue to a longer work of remembrance.


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