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Jane and Louise Wilson - Undead Sun

Film and installation artwork that used archival materials to reveal individual human histories behind the First World War and technological advances made during this time

Undead Sun (2014) was a film installation artwork developed by the artists Jane and Louise Wilson and presented within a specially constructed architectural setting at the Imperial War Museum in London. Commissioned to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, Undead Sun developed from the artists’ research in the archives of the Imperial War Museum, the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Museum and the Wellcome Collection. Archival materials discovered by the artists and woven into the film reveal individual human histories behind the war and its technological advances, not previously studied or made public.

Large turbine with two people climbing ladders

The work explores the notions of observation and concealment, looking at developments in aerial photography and camouflage during the War. The film’s sequences were based on archive photographs, artefacts, diary entries and personal testimonies. These materials are presented alongside re-enactments of moments in the War based on the records of these contemporary witnesses. In writing the film’s script, the artists collaborated with modern-day writers Tom McCarthy and Hanna Rose Shell, bringing their work into dialogue with archival material

Undead Sun blends sequences of animation, historical photography and staged scenes to explore human experiences of war. In considering the relationship between warfare and technological progress, the artwork emphasizes the evolving surveillance programme of the War as a precursor to current day drone technology. The artists’ use of contemporary documentary material brings to light the subjective experience of warfare, and how this has shaped our present-day environment increasingly mediated by photography and film, which developed from early surveillance technology.

Undead Sun was commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella for the Imperial War Museum. The work has been further disseminated through exhibitions at Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton and at film festivals internationally.


Download project PDF: Jane and Louise Wilson - Undead Sun (1.9MB)

Art gallery with video installation