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Exhibition at MIMA shows 'surprising' similarities between today's soldiers and WW1 veterans

One of Derek Eland's diary rooms in Afghanistan in 2011. Photo: Derek Eland

Derek Eland, has moved his 'Diary Rooms' from Afghanistan to the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA).

The former paratrooper, who invited UK and Afghan servicemen and women to write down their thoughts on blank uncensored cards to place on boards in war zones, is now recreating these displays at MIMA to offer insight into life on the frontline.

The notes troops wrote while away on service chronicled everything from shockingly brutal acts of gory combat to the mundane reality of everyday life.

Derek says he was initially surprised at how motivated the soldiers were – writing with the same intensity with which they fought – speaking of ‘two wars’, one with bullets and bombs and the other that goes on in a soldier’s head when everything goes quiet:

I wanted to see if the soldiers of today wrote about anything different to those who wrote from the trenches to their loved ones back home - but I was surprised to see they wrote about the same topics, just in a different format.

It’s a great honour to have had this exhibition shown all over the world, however I think it’s fitting that such an innovative modern art project should be seen for the final time at a forward thinking institution like MIMA."

– Derek Eland
Another diary room in Afghanistan from 2011. Credit: Derek Eland

It is hoped at the time of the World War One centenary, while the country is honouring the contribution of all British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen, that veterans and members of the public will be able to relate to all contributors.

The exhibition is on display at MIMA until 26th February 2015.

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