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

This thesis seeks to examine trench art made by soldiers, POWs and internees, and postwar civilians within the context of WWI, WWII, and the present day. Trench art is a historical and international practice of transforming military equipment into works of practical and aesthetic art. The goal of this paper is to interpret trench art from a historical and cultural standpoint, in order to better understand the experience of war. This goal will be accomplished through historical research on trench art provided through secondary resources dealing with that field as well as in military cultures, civilian material cultures, and art therapy. These sources serve as a textual companion to visual samples of trench art acquired from additional resources as well as from archival field work. These visuals are then subject to both historical and cultural interpretation in lieu of determining the social impact of trench art within a specified period of military conflict. Based on the culmination of textual and visual interpretation of archival sources, it can be concluded that trench art from a material standpoint, often represent one’s vocational and creative aptitudes in unconventional environments such as a battlefield or prison camp. From a more abstract perspective, trench art serves as coping mechanism for psychological trauma as well as a medium for delivering social messages. In hindsight, trench art’s roles in these respective fields has expanded to newer areas including modern art movements and archeological studies.



Work Title The Art in War: Exploring Trench Art, its Materiality, and the Human Side of War
Open Access
  1. Cuong H Bui
  1. Trench Art, Military, Material Cultures, Military History, WWI, WWII, Postwar, POW, Internee, Folk Art, Recyclia
License CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike)
Work Type Masters Thesis
DOI doi:10.26207/q1y9-ka78
Deposited May 02, 2019




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  • Added Creator Cuong H Bui
  • Published