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.

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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


Article last updated on July 24th, 2021 at 09:26 am

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5 comments
  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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