WOOL WAR ONE

From November 11, 2017 to January 7, 2018

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), in collaboration with Atout France – the France Tourism Development Agency – and the First World War Centenary Partnership Programme presents WOOL WAR ONE, an installation composed of a battalion of 780 small soldiers knitted by a five hundred volunteers from around the world following an online call to action by French self-taught visual artist Délit Maille.

To be inaugurated at the Museum on November 11 at the occasion of Remembrance Day, WOOL WAR ONE highlights the fragile destiny of the soldiers and pays tribute to the victims of the Great War (1914-1918). In this centennial memorial year of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the MMFA joins with these tiny hands in solidarity to launch a message of peace.

This presentation is part of the Year of Peace at the MMFA, a vast programme of activities and exhibitions that began in November 2016 with the inauguration of the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace. This programming reaffirms the humanist values and commitment of the Museum to peace, diversity, social inclusion and well-being.

Wool War One: A 1,000-Hand Project

The idea of Wool War One emerged in 2013 when Délit Maille was asked by La Piscine, Musée d’art et d’industrie André Diligent, in Roubaix, to conceive a work for the centenary of the Great War. Wool War One took form after a visit to one of the immense military cemeteries in Northern France, where the visual artist noted the names and ages of the fallen. She then launched a public appeal to make the 15 cm high soldiers.

From that point, things started to happen: in just a few days, 499 women and one man volunteered to knit for the project. They were all ages, from all continents (just as the soldiers of 1914 came from all continents).

Délit Maille took care of assembling the 18 metre long column of little soldiers who animate a silent vigil to the millions of lives live shattered by this global conflict.

The work includes 780 soldiers in the uniforms of nineteen of the states engaged in the conflict; allies and enemies. They echo the Tricot National movement instituted in France at the outset of the war by French President Raymond Poincaré, who encouraged women to knit warm clothes for their brothers, sons, husbands or countrymen at the front.

Canadians Present in the Woollen Army

Newly arrived in Montreal, the woollen soldiers of Wool War One are grouped by nationality, with French poilus the most numerous. Canadians can be recognized by their beige uniform with a patch in the arm. Canadian soldiers played a major role during the First World War when they succeeded in taking Vimy Ridge in 1917. They attacked a position that was already considered a graveyard, as the previous French attacks had all been driven off. Vimy became a symbol of sacrifice of Canadian soldiers, where 11,285 of them, dead in France, are buried. Today, on Canadian soil, the MMFA remembers…

Atout France and the Centenary Partnership Programme, curators of this exhibition, invite travellers to discover the Western Front destination and the First World War memorial sites that can be found there. The commemoration period that began in 2014 has enabled the implementation of a programme of cultural activities and deeply moving sites, including those consecrated to the commitment of Canadians: the Newfoundland memorial at Beaumont-Hamel, the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge, and the spectacular Ring of Memory. To prepare for your trip, visit ca.france.fr

Acknowledgements

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Year of Peace was set up thanks to the generous support of BMO Financial Group. The lectures organized as part of the Year of Peace were presented by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), in collaboration with the Israeli Consulate in Montreal and the Brian Bronfman Family Foundation.

The EducExpo WOOL WAR ONE and the associated contest to win a trip to France to discover the Western Front destination are made possible thanks to the participation of Atout France, the Centenary Partnership Programme and Air Canada.

Photo Délit Maille / Alain Leprince