As part of the WW1 commemorations, new art work is to go on display across the London Underground — a backwards poster.

The text is a reprint of a postcard written by soldier Herbert Ernest Wilson to his wife Martha Emily Wilson on 4 September 1918, taken from the University of Oxford First World War Poetry Digital Archive

123The artist, Richard Wentworth has then reversed the text — because that’s art.

That’s all it is, a poster of text, turned backwards.

The official blurb says: “In reversing the text, the historical distance between the contemporary mass audience and the original individual is emphasised. The words now appear under-exposed and indecipherable in front of today’s commuters passing by.”

“However, on closer inspection, and with time and perseverance, the use of a mirror or a careful reading, the audience is afforded an insight into the intimacy of the exchange.”

The best I can say is that at least it gives ladies who apply makeup on the train something more productive to do with their handheld mirrors.

As a work of art, sorry, but simply taking some text written by someone else and printing it backwards is the sort of thing that gives modern art such a bad reputation.

I suspect most people will on first glance, just assume someone put the poster up wrong.


Richard Wenworth, When You Look You May Not See, Tube poster, 2014 First World War Centenary Art Commission, co-commissioned by Art on the Underground with 1418NOW Photographs Alastair Fyfe


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  1. Jean says:

    What a lovely letter, a letter of its time from a husband at the front writing to his wife. It appears in English for us but could very well have been written by a German or Russian foot soldier 100 years ago.

  2. Simon says:

    Agree that it’s kind of a dumb idea.

    Plus, stripped of context it’s hardly classic literature: “I’m alright. Hope you’re alright. I am writing a letter to you now”.

    Couldn’t they have chose something at least vaguely interesting? Perhaps then they wouldn’t have needed the reversal gimmick.

  3. Juliana says:

    Loved the comment on modern art’s bad reputation! Spot on!

  4. LadyBracknell says:

    Of course it’s art, Ian. You just don’t have the vision.

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