Siri Kusch


© Siri Kusch 2013

This Mail Art work was created by Siri Kusch in 2013 as an assignment for her Visual Arts Study. It is based on her poem 'Ackerkult 1915' written in 2008, which you find under the heading 'Lyrik'. These are the comments by her fellow students:

“peer 3 → Wow, really nice work, and amazing story. Have nothing to say. Well researched and well executed :)

peer 4 → What a carefully thought out piece of art work. You used a variety of mediums (paper, ink, stamp, text etc) and brought them together to create a cohesive whole. The detail in the project was impressive. Even the crease along the flap of the envelope was there. I had not thought of approaching memory this way, of going into the past and creating a memory of another life. The careful thought put into this memory made it believable and approachable. The use of the poppy image, a recognizable image from the first World War, was very effective. As a symbol with interpretive meaning it works on many levels. As a source of colour, it added depth and intensity to the envelope. Keeping the colour pallet limited was a effective choice. The muted browns and blacks give a feeling of age to the envelope and postcard. Red being the only other significant colour, the red pops out from the background. It edges the envelope and draws the eyes to it. Red as a colour has symbolic meanings, of which love and death both play a roll in this piece. If a wide range of colours had been used, the effect of the red would have been diluted. As a final thought, the uses of side lighting when you photographed this allows a bit of shadowing on the painted poppies. This allows me to see the texture of the flowers, which would have been lost if the light had shone straight on the envelope. This was an effective use of side lighting. All in all, this was a well done, carefully considered, meticulously crafted piece. I enjoyed it very much.“

It has been 16 months now since poor Ludwig was drafted for the 92nd Infantry Regiment of Brunswick. Or did he volunteer out of patriotism? He is stationed in Flanders, some 500 km from his home town. He has been home only once since the war broke out. He got leave of absence to celebrate his 24th birthday in May 1915 with his parents, sisters and Fräulein Else. On this short furlough they got engaged. Now beautiful Else is his fiancée.

He cherishes these fond memories while he is on guard in the snowfall. Later that day, he will write her another letter. He takes out an envelope, writes out the address and adds a remark in the envelope’s lower right corner close to Brunswick (‘Oh, Else, you here and I …’ with an arrow pointing towards the back of the envelope). Else has given him a lavish birthday present, a vest pocket camera produced by Kodak in the USA. “I know how much you miss your painting,” she had said with a sad smile, “but photography will take over anyhow. Everything is changing.”

Back in the battle fields he experiments with the new artistic medium. Photographing the summer flowers around him helps him cope with his fear in the trench. There is one picture in particular that he wants to send to Else. For Ludwig, the red poppy on the sand bags has become a symbol for his Else, for his hope to go home and marry her. He glues the photograph to the back of the envelope. Then, with the help of his ink pen and a single brush and some red and green paint that he found in an abandoned house he paints a bouquet of poppies, the abundance of which had amazed him in the summer. Not everything has changed.

A fellow soldier sees the poppies and asks him: “Why would you want to send her poppies, these trembling sissies that thrive on the battle fields fertilized by our comrades’ decomposing bodies?” Everything has changed.

This night, he takes a postcard of farmers working their fields (“this is what a Flanders field should look like”) and writes a bitter poem about poppies. He calls it ‘Ackerkult 1915’* (‘Cult of the Field 1915’). Only later will Ludwig hear that on the other side of the battle field there is another soldier (“the enemy”) writing a poem about poppies (‘In Flanders Fields’). And much later still, the poppy will be used on Remembrance Day as a symbol of the absurdity of warfare.

In the morning, he puts the postcard in the envelope to mail it. In an impulse he writes his regiment’s motto on the margin (“Nunquam retrorsum” - ‘Never backward’) but leaves out its second part (“fortes adiuvat fortuna!” -‘luck is with the brave'). He has lost all his faith in a golden future with more freedom, progress, and prosperity, a belief that was a hallmark of the time before 1914.