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June 6, 1944: D-Day
The epic of war, told by a grain of sand…
The seacoast of Normandy churns with history.
In this visionary rite of images, texts, and scientific data, photographer Donald Weber, writer Larry Frolick and physicist Kevin Robbie explore the sand beaches where the D-Day invasion was once fought, inch by inch, hand to hand. Their task was to gather forensic evidence, and determine the fate of this legendary battle over time.
The war-relics presented here create an immersive experience on the theme of collective memory. They include WWII spy-craft and old Hollywood movies, dioramas and drone-mounted cameras, private post-war memoirs and wistful seaside photographs. These artifacts reveal war’s quantum traces. And they expose our civilization’s longing for a final victory over death.
War Sand seeks a great truth: What is history?
And what does it mean to us, its creators and survivors?
And the Nine Commandos
The story my grandfather told me, goes like this.
During New Year’s 1943, nine British commandos were ordered to cross the English Channel and surface on the beaches of Normandy in France. The mission was to covertly collect sand and soil samples along a vast stretch of coast.
They had two days and nights to cross the Channel, collect the samples, and return without being caught.
France, and the seacoast in particular, was thick with German forces. The Atlantic Wall, Hitler’s dream fortress, was a wall of pure concrete, guarded by massed artillery and elite soldiers. To be caught meant certain execution as spies.
If the commandos made it back to Britain, the samples would undergo scrutiny by scientists, geologists and physicists. Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery were counting on these minuscule grains of sand to withstand the weight of an invasion force, the largest the world had ever seen.
Thousands of ships, soldiers and armaments would land on Normandy’s beaches for the liberation of Western Europe. But first, the commandos had to complete the mission.
At the end of his story, my grandfather opened a small wooden box, and unwrapped a small glass tube from a white linen cloth.
It contained a pinchful of grey sand.
“This is what we brought back.”
“Through the use of microscopic photography and with a kind of forensic inquisitiveness and existential wondering, Weber brings us close to these fragments, offering us, too, the longer view: the eerie hush of the beachhead and the expressionless features of the sea and sky, edged in grasses. The series invites a contemplation of the endless quiet that lies beyond the flare of bold historical events, offering a cautionary tale of the hubris of humankind.”
— Sarah Milroy, art critic
Paperback: 398 pp., fold-out map insert, 195 colour images Dimensions: 7.6×11.4″ (195×290 mm) Language: English, French and German
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