War and Medicine

War and Medicine

Venue: Wellcome Collection, London
Curators: James Peto, Kate Forde, Lucy Shanahan
Date: 21st November 2008

War and Medicine: 150 Years of Life and Loss

New work by contemporary artist David Cotterrell was unveiled for the first time as part of a major temporary exhibition – War and Medicine – launching in November 2008 at Wellcome Collection.

Commissioned by the Wellcome Trust and supported by the Ministry of Defence, this work is a response to Cotterrell’s experiences travelling to Afghanistan where he spent time with British soldiers observing and documenting their daily life. Through film and photography David Cotterrell captured the drama of being on the front line, in particular the extraordinary efforts of the armed forces' medical staff and the human stories behind them.

War and Medicine considered the continually evolving relationship between warfare and medicine, beginning with the disasters of the Crimean War in the 1850s, and continuing through to today’s conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Central to the exhibition was the uncomfortable and sometimes paradoxical relationship between war and medicine and the question of their influence upon each other. War and Medicine showed how humankind’s desire to repair and heal is perpetually striving to keep pace with our capacity to maim and kill.

James Peto, Senior Curator, Wellcome Collection commented:

During times of war those who deliver medicine are confronted not only with the worst that human beings can inflict on one another, but also with a whole range of difficult decisions - ethical as well as medical. Concentrating on the modern era, this exhibition looks at some of the extraordinary difficulties faced by doctors, surgeons, administrators, nurses and their patients in war time. It also considers what has been learned from such extreme circumstances and the wider implications for our society and for our health.

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


9-Liner (v), Theatre (v)


Interact Artists Fellowship, War & Medicine : War Artist Commission


TheArtFund RUSI: Remembrance in a Modern Society - 10.03.10, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - 26.05.09, Bearing witness: the role of war artists in the 21st century - 26.10.09, David Cotterrell : Kino Eye, Shock and Awe - 19.07.14, Trauma - 20.11.15, Blavatnik Galleries at Imperial War Museum - 10.11.23


Art in the Danger Zone, War and Medicine, Krieg und Medizin, Bloody Reality, Transmission: Host, Back from the Front, Memory and the Aftermath of War, Visions of War, War and Art : A Visual History of Modern Conflict, A Heavy Reckoning: War, Medicine and Survival in Afghanistan and Beyond


War & Medicine : War Artist Commission, Interact Artists Fellowship


The Privilege of the Outsider (v), Shared Territory, 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, David Cotterrell War and Medicine, BBC Radio 4 Today : Injury and Conflict (a), BBC Radio 4 : The Two Minute Silence (a), CNN : Another Side of War, RUSI : Subjective Views (a), TED : How I Almost Lost My Faith in Photography (v)


ameliasmagazine.com : Theatre, Guardian G2 : Where science and art are encouraged to meet, Wall Street Journal : London art, Health Service Journal : Matter of life or death, 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, bbc.co.uk : The uneasy link between war and medicine, Saturday Review : War and Medicine, creativerevew.co.uk : Saving lives and losing lives, frieze.com : War and Medicine, fugitiveink : Salutary truth: 'War and Medicine' at the Wellcome Collection, legion-magazine.co.uk : Artist explores war and medicine, londonist.com : War + Medicine, mod.uk : War and medicine on the front line, museums and heritage live.com : War artists trip to Afghanistan, londonblog.com : War, what is it good for?, telegraph.co.uk : ..staggering history of suffering, Art Monthly : War and Medicine, BBC Radio 4 : Start the Week (a), Yorkshire Post : The Silence That Still Resonates