A Cast of Thousands: Stela at Militärhistorisches Museum Der Bundeswehr, Dresden
In 2014, New Zealand artist, Kingsley Baird, built a temporary memorial in the German Armed Forces’ Military History Museum in Dresden. The memorial comprised two elements: a stainless steel ‘cenotaph’ and 18,000 biscuits in the shape of soldiers of different nationalities who fought in the First World War. On 12 July 2014, almost 100 years after that conflict’s beginning, Stela was formally presented for public viewing and visitors to the museum were invited to take a biscuit from the memorial. For the previous 10 days, in the heart of the museum, the sculpture evolved as the artist stacked the Anzac recipe biscuits around the cenotaph form until it disappeared from view. During this ‘performance’, many ‘players’ — including the city of Dresden, a cemetery, characters from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, the museum, staff and visitors — contributed to the artist’s experience of Stela. This article introduces some of them.