The complex issues surrounding matters of love and sex profoundly affect people, everywhere and every day. Wartime is no exception. Indeed, the disruptive nature of war and the extraordinary situations it brings about, inevitably magnify human experience in these spheres.
Extended periods of separation, loss, injury and trauma deeply affect relationships across the country during and after wartime. Divorce rates in Australia rose dramatically in the years immediately following both World Wars and some 38% of Vietnam veterans’ marriages failed
within six months of their repatriation. But there were also moving tales of passionate romance, desire and embracing sexuality. Sex itself can also be used as a weapon—sexualised imagery has served as a persuasive recruitment tool and a way to undermine an enemy’s morale.
The first of three exhibitions in the Shrine’s ‘Identity’ series, Lust.Love.Loss: Australian stories of wartime relationships will display artworks and photographs that offer a unique insight into themes of separation, grief, exploitation, sexual freedom and oppression and sexual identity. The exhibition’s display cases will delve deeper into the stories of individuals and couples with memorabilia and objects.
Neil Sharkey, curator of the exhibition, says:
Discussions about military history so often deal with geopolitics, troop movements, ‘big men’, heroics and tragedies that we often forget about the frailties and emotions of the ordinary people who get caught up in these tumultuous events. I hope this exhibition sparks the discussions about primal emotions that have influenced the lives of Australians during wartime as profoundly as their dark counterparts, violence and hate.
The exhibition follows the launch of award-winning and bestselling writer Peter Rees and Sue Langford’s A Week in September (Harper Collins), a true story of love, resilience and survival discovered through a precious cache of WWII letters which will be celebrated at an ‘in conversation’ event at the Shrine on 14 February 2022.
Australian Broadcaster Megan Spencer will also be delivering a three-episode podcast series featuring interviews with couples about their experiences of wartime love.
As Victoria’s home of commemoration, the Shrine of Remembrance is a place for the wider community to connect with the human stories of veterans’ experiences. Lust. Love. Loss. explores these universal themes within the context of commemoration, service and sacrifice.
Lust. Love. Loss. opens 1 December at the Shrine of Remembrance
Reviewed 09 May 2022