Facing the unknown
A deck of cards inspired by the Great War

  About the work and me

    It all started with a sentence I read on the Dutch teletext, the day being 1 Juli 1986. Just 70 years ago, the announcement was, the first day of the Battle of the Somme had taken place - and nearly 60.000 dead and wounded had fallen.  
    I was stupified. Convinced that such an outrageous  number had to be a mistake I started looking for the right number (as if there can ever be a 'right' numbers in death and wounded).  I soon learned that the number was correct with equally worse numbers  just lurking around the corner:  Verdun, nearly one million casualties; half that number in four days in the first battle of the Marne; 600.000 in the Third Battle of Ypres; 1,5 million in the two months of the Spring Offensive.
    Behind those woeful numbers are always men, animals and stories. A fascination was born to try to understand why they acted as they did and also how they managed to endure the vast array of horrors thrown at them. How strong is the will to survive? Equally, how normal to kill? And at the cost of what? 
    I've read a lot about the Great War. Fortunately this was a war where a good deal of the men where very literate. Very great writing has been done by themselves so it's relatively easy to fill bookshelves with their tales and observations.  And yet, as a reader, mostly to experience a deepening of questions and elusive answers.

    The cards

    This deck of cards called 'facing the Unknown' symbolizes this search for understanding. Playing cards has always been a preferred pastime for troops. It seemed for me the perfect medium to try to express my thoughts and feelings. 

    In 1990 I graduated succesfully from the (former) Royal Academy of Arts in 's-Hertogenbosch. Most of my graphic work features in one form or another a penchant for absurdity, in combining playful with disturbing elements.