I, Michael Armstrong swear that I will well and truly serve Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors according to law, as a member of the Australian Army, and that I will resist her enemies and faithfully discharge my duty according to law. SO HELP ME GOD!
Approximately 262 Australian soldiers have committed suicide since 1999 as a result of the execution of their oath of service. Relics of Decay, 2016 explores the degrading effect military service has had upon our servicemen, their families and society as a whole. Utilising the blade as a metaphor for our fallen servicemen, 262 blades sit in formation; the daily ritual misting of the blades causes their slow rusting decay. The mist, condenses and drips, echoing their passage as rust slowly stains the paper beneath the suspended blades forming a relic of their destruction. If the ritual was to continue daily, over a period of years the blades would slowly vanish, dropping one by one until only the memory of their passing, stained on the paper remains.
The blades first appeared in Michael's work in 2016 upon his return from operational service in the Middle East (Afghanista 2013, Iraq 2015). He had been researching the nature of relics and artefacts with an interest in capturing the qualities associated with 'war relics' he had seen collected by 'war enthusiasts'. 'People collect and regard relics from war with an unusual fascination, often despite the terrible histories and acts of violence that can be associated with them. It's a bizarre feeling looking and handling these objects and discussing their history in tones that all but denies the violence through which they came into being. I believe artefacts can be used to distort and hide the true nature of war as well as providing possible insight into the experiences of our servicemen and women. I carried the blade used in this artwork during my deployment to Afghanistan and what resonates with me about it is the functionality of the blade; it's a fighting knife, useless in almost every other way that a knife could conceivably provide utility. For me it was a poignant reminder of the experiences we expose our service men and women to, and how difficult it can be for many of them to find utility once again within their peace time roles'. Michael began work on Relics of Decay following the announcement of a spate of suicides amongst those that he had served with in Afghanistan. 'The impact each of these deaths had on their friends and families was devastating, with one seemingly leading in another. When I was informed of the tally of deaths; this figure of 262, I was sickened and felt compelled to respond through my art'. The blades also appeared in several other works by Michael Armstrong including Formation, Destruction and Corruption, all created and exhibited in 2016.
Relics of Decay was assembled and exhibited for the first time in December 2016 as part of Michael Armstrong's Master of Arts exhibition in Toowoomba Australia. On completion of the exhibition the assembly of blades, wire and stained paper was disassembled and placed into storage until a permanent home can be found for the blades to reside. If you are interested in providing a longterm home for this artwork please contact Michael to discuss arrangements.