Michael Petry Unveils A Remembrance Requiem And Exhibition Honouring The World Wars

Michael Petry

The visual artist, curator and writer Michael Petry is always pushing boundaries that blur the distinction between art and our perceptions of how art sits within our culture. His installation work Joshua D’s Wall was commissioned by the Palm Springs Art Museum in 2012, and sections of the wall  have been shown in Venice, Houston, Santa Fe, Stavanger and Stockholm. This adaptation, which goes on show at the Fine Art Society will be surrounded by some the gallery’s collection of British paintings, drawings, and prints from artists working in the period of the First and Second World War. 

Joshua D’s Wall has been placed directly on the floor, as if a glass wall has fallen over. The surrounding walls will also be accompanied by photographs of soldiers in Petry’s collection of WWI memorabilia. The exhibition will connect his contemporary work (the performance and sculpture) with historical art dealing with similar subject matter. The work is based on the creation myth found in the Bible, the Koran and the Torah, of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. In the story, Joshua blows the walls of the city down and then is instructed to kill all the citizens, children and animals, destroy the city brick by brick and salt the earth, which he does. This has created a textual document used to claim the right to cause the death of others at the word of a deity. In this case the same deity and the resultant trouble between these religions. 

Petry’s work is made up from hundreds of unique glass stones made at the Berengo studios in Murano, Italy. Each stone is a unique artwork in itself (a treasure) and like Joshua’s instruction to destroy the city, Petry’s installation is slowly destroyed as each stone is sold, the whole becomes smaller. It is the only work Petry has made where the multiple parts can be broken up.  

The exhibition will coincide with the World Premiere performance of A Prussian Requiem (Powell: score, Petry: libretto) at the Royal Festival Hall. The Philharmonia Orchestra’s WWI Commemoration Concert on March 6 will feature the requiem. Composer John Powell and Petry have worked on performance, opera and installation art projects for over 25 years. 

The performance is roughly 40 minutes long and will incorporate the full orchestra and a choir of 150 singers. Samples from the requiem can be heard on the London Philharmonia website:Here

Performance Synopsis: The story takes place as the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand is shot by the Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, on June 28, 1914. Princip was a Yugoslav nationalist and the assassination was used a pretext for Russia to come to Serbia’s aid when Franz Joseph I of Austria declared war. Kaiser Wilhelm II (a close friend of Ferdinand) was generally regarded as a bit of a oaf. He was outplayed by his generals in order to bring Prussia into the war. Wilhelm was a cousin of both Tsar Nicholas II (Russia) and King George V (Great Britain) who joined forces against him. The Kaiser attempted to prevent Britain from joining the war in aid of France but Moltke The Younger refused to alter his battle plans and the ‘Great War’ commenced.

As the Media Arts Trio (Powell, Petry and Gavin Greenaway) have created sound installations (The Dilemma, 2012) performance art (Deceptions, 1987), video installations

(The History of the World, 1999), and an opera for the German National Gallery (An Englishman, and an Irishman and a Frenchman, 1995).

British-born John Powell is one of Hollywood’s most prolific film composers. His versatile music can be heard in animated films, comedies, action films and dramas including The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, Face/Off, Kung Fu Panda, Antz, Chicken Run, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Italian Job, United 93, I Am Sam and X-Men: The Last Stand, Fair Game, and Knight and Day. Powell’s recent credits include Rio, Kung Fu Panda 2, Happy Feet 2, and The Lorax. Powell is the recipient of four Ivor Novello Awards for Shrek, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and How To Train Your Dragon. Powell was nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA for his score to How To Train Your Dragon (2011), and was nominated for a Grammy for his work on Happy Feet (2008).

American-born Michael Petry is an artist, author, and curator. He is the Director of MOCA London, co-founded the Museum of Installation and was Curator of the Royal

Academy Schools Gallery. Petry’s books include: Installation Art (1994), Installation in the New Millennium (2003), Abstract Eroticism (1996) and A Thing of Beauty is…(1997). The Trouble with Michael, a monograph of his practice, was published by Art Media Press (2001). Petry’s book Hidden Histories: 20th century male same sex lovers in the visual arts (2004) accompanied Hidden Histories an exhibition he curated for The New Art Gallery Walsall. He was the first Artist in Residence at Sir John Soane’s Museum (2010/11) and his one man show The Touch of the Oracle at the Palm Springs Art Museum (2012) was accompanied by a ten year career review (Thames & Hudson). Petry’s recent books include, The Art of Not Making: The New Artist Artisan Relationship (Thames & Hudson, 2011) and Nature Morte: Contemporary Artists reinvigorate the Still-Life tradition. It was published in 4 hard back editions, Thames & Hudson (UK/American), Hirmer (German) and Ludion (Dutch) and an exhibition (he has curated) based on the book will start its European tour in June (2015). Petry’s work was shown in this years Venice Biennale at the Palazzo Grimani in the Frontiers Reimagined exhibition.


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