This blog has talked a lot about people’s reactions to the exhibition and how they feel when looking upon the wounded soldiers. Today however, my attention was drawn by one particular man’s preconceived notion of the exhibition before he had even entered the room or seen the figures.
I could hear this man in the main museum gallery saying in a very sarcastic way to his wife that “you better hold my hand as I might get scared”. Then on entering the room he stopped immediately upon seeing the figures and said “oh my God”. He was completely taken aback and commented on how “dark” they are. He said he can’t be good for me to sit in here with them all day. I was really surprised at how he reacted to the exhibition considering his bravado outside of the room.
People not only react in different ways to seeing the exhibition, but the warning that they are given about it potentially being upsetting because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter, also elicits a range of responses. This man clearly thought that the exhibition would have no emotional impact on him; almost mocking the warning, yet he was clearly affected and taken aback when he entered the room.
I have seen visitors have the complete opposite experience to this man. Today a woman came in with her information sheet covering her eyes and said she would only look at the books. She said she had been warned that the piece contained images of surgical procedures and that she couldn’t possibly look. However, after a few minutes in the room she put down her paper ‘blindfold’ and let out a palpable sigh of relief; “they’re not bad at all, just poor wounded men”, she said. This opens up lots of interesting questions about people’s perception of what they can handle and the reality; a dialogue that I have on a daily basis with the visitors to “And The Band Played On…”.