Krieg und Medizin

Krieg und Medizin

Venue: Deutsches Hygiene Museum, Dresden
Curators: Colleen Schmidt
Date: 4th April 2009

Max Beckmann, Georg Grosz and Conrad Felixmuller.

War and Medicine: Its hard to imagine more contradictory disciplines. On the one hand the destructive power and the human misery of war; on the other the medical vocation to heal people and keep them healthy. The ethical conflict of wartime medicine has yet to be fully explored. How do physicians and nurses, and for that matter soldiers and civilians, experience it? What are their experiences of injury and death, of hopelessness and despair? What can we learn about their courage and willingness to help others? These very personal points of view are at the heart of the exhibition War and Medicine, A joint project of the Wellcome Collection, London and the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden.

Drawing on historical and contemporary exhibits, documents, photographs and film, and on the works of renowned artists such as Max Beckmann, Georg Grosz and Conrad Felixmuller, the exhibition demonstrates the complex and often paradoxical relationship between war and medicine. The historical dimension ranges from the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq back to the humanitarian catastrophe of the Crimean War. In the mid 19th century, inadequate medical care claimed the lives of more soldiers than the battlefield. Both warfare and the role of medicine have changed drastically since then. As technology has increasingly changed the face of war, military medicine has taken on a strategic importance. While modern weapons systems have been developed to wound soldiers more terribly, medicine has tried to keep pace with more efficient treatment methods. At the same time, medicine in wartime is increasingly concerned with the civilian population, who are more severely affected, directly or indirectly by modern warfare.

What are the ethical dilemmas facing a medical profession that saves lives and eases suffering, yet at the same time has become a crucial part of the military machine? How can we reconcile the right to military defence with the humanitarian duty to provide the victims of war with the best possible standard of medical care? Approaching this unsettling moral dilemma from the viewpoints of cultural studies and medical history, the exhibition enables visitors to undertake an informed, emotional exploration of the motives and stories of the individuals involved. In Germany today these topics have taken on a new urgency, as not only members of the armed forces, but the society as a whole must come to terms with military missions abroad.

Text extract reprinted from Krieg und Medizin exhibition literature.

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Group Exhibition, Museum Exhibition, Non-Art Venue, Touring Exhibition


9-Liner (v), Field, Hero (v), Theatre (v)


Interact Artists Fellowship, War & Medicine : War Artist Commission


TheArtFund RUSI: Remembrance in a Modern Society - 10.03.10, Bearing witness: the role of war artists in the 21st century - 26.10.09, Blavatnik Galleries at Imperial War Museum - 10.11.23


Art in the Danger Zone, War and Medicine, Krieg und Medizin, Bloody Reality, War and Art : A Visual History of Modern Conflict


War & Medicine : War Artist Commission, Interact Artists Fellowship


Culture in a Time of Conflict (a), David Cotterrell in Conversation, Army medics on the front-line (v), David Cotterrell on Afghanistan (v), It was the best of times, it was the worst of times (v), Bearing witness: the role of war artists in the 21st century, BBC Radio 4 Today : Injury and Conflict (a), RUSI : Subjective Views (a), TED : How I Almost Lost My Faith in Photography (v)

Reviews : Theatre, Wall Street Journal : London art, The Times : A painful vision of healing in wartime, Student British Medical Journal : War and Medicine, Lancet : The complexity of medicine and war, Sunday Telegraph : Conflict under the knife, Financial Times : Battle on two fronts, Guardian : War and Medicine, London, Amelia's Magazine : David Cotterrell, British Medical Journal: War: what is it good for?, The Big Issue : Tools of Combat, artsandecologyblog : Afghanistan - art and war, : The uneasy link between war and medicine, Saturday Review : War and Medicine, : Saving lives and losing lives, : War and Medicine, fugitiveink : Salutary truth: 'War and Medicine' at the Wellcome Collection, : Artist explores war and medicine, : War + Medicine, : War and medicine on the front line, museums and heritage : War artists trip to Afghanistan, : War, what is it good for?, : ..staggering history of suffering, Art Monthly : War and Medicine, Yorkshire Post : The Silence That Still Resonates