1914FACES2014 Visual Testimony and the archive

18th September 2014, Innovation Centre, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter

This workshop, co-organised by David Houston Jones, Joe Kember and James Ryan (University of Exeter) focused on the capacity of the archive to produce visual testimony. Given the special status of many of the archival collections concerning the facially injured soldiers of WWI and subsequent developments in medicine (including the Gillies archive, Tessier, Pont, Bridge collections), to enquire into the cultural history of the gueules cassées is also to scrutinise and assess the archive. As part of our inquiry into the cultural legacy of the gueules cassées, we examined the uses to which archival images have been put, from magic lantern slides to newsreel footage and the intertwining of the documentary and the fictional. More broadly, the workshop examined the documentary traces of the First World War with particular attention to photography and film; what is the significance of these and other visual media for our understanding of the legacy of the gueules cassées?

The topic was introduced by David Houston Jones, with brief reference to the epistemological questions arising from visual archival materials, and the complex relation of the archive to understandings of testimony. The workshop was situated in relation to the three strands of 1914FACES2014, and an update on progress to date was given.

Marjorie Gehrhardt’s paper was entitled, A ‘cruel testimony of the horrors of war’: visual representations of the Gueules Cassées in Interwar France’, and focused primarily on the film J’accuse (1938), in which gueules cassées featured. Gehrhardt’s analysis considered the positioning of facially injured soldiers in France as symbols of the brutality of war, with reference to the variety of representations of facially disfigured veterans in interwar France. Drawing upon visual material representing or made by the Association des Gueules Cassées, this paper evaluated the symbolism associated with facially disfigured veterans in interwar France.

Suzanne Steele’s paper, ‘Re-Facing War: VAD Mary Borden’s ‘Unidentified’ and The Forbidden Zone’, argued that VAD Mary Borden’s poem, ‘Unidentified,’ from her sui generis, The Forbidden Zone (1929), puts a new ‘face’ on the Great War canon and its vision of the conflict as a place of collateral and psychic destruction. Often overlooked in historical and literary accounts, the forbidden zone—the dangerous territory behind the lines in which Borden worked in a surgical unit—was a geographic, psychological and metaphoric site in which innovation, through necessity, fluid ethics, and opportunity, thrived. Steele argued thatthe hyper-kinaesthetic environment of la zone interdite was a site of sanctioned disorderand paradoxical agency wherein the artist re-created and innovated. ‘Unidentified,’ one of Borden’s poems, attempts to have the reader cast the gaze, to ‘re-face,’ not only the fallen soldier, but also, narcissistically, Borden herself.

Jason Bate, meanwhile, set out to examine the ways in which photography played a key part in the development of facial reconstructive surgery in England during the First World War. Bate’s paper focused on photography’s emergence in a set of medical discourses during the war years, which evolved from an initial focus on language, written and spoken, to one that necessarily included illustrations and specifically photography. But why did surgeons employ photography into their practice? What was the value attached to photographs, and what were photographs expected to do? How did surgeons read these images? What information did they convey? Bate started from the Foucauldian position that photographs can be categorised as visual records that could substantiate and articulate medical knowledge and moved on to look at medical journals published during the First World War. Bate argued that from 1916, photography was employed as a pedagogic tool to develop typologies of medical practice and to organise knowledge through visual means.

These concerns are closely related to those in Julie Mazaleigue’s ‘The Albéric Pont Archive: nature, functions and aims of visual representations of the Gueules cassées, from medical uses to testimony’. This material introduces the Albéric Pont Archive, recently acquired by the Inter-University Science Library of Paris-Descartes. The archive is mainly composed of visual representations: photographs of injured soldiers before and after surgical procedures, drawings of orthodontic apparels, and mouldings of injured faces. On the one hand, they obviously had a medical and surgical function, in terms of recording and of scientific transmission. The broader purpose of the paper, though, was to increase our understanding of the kinds and aims of the ‘testimonies’ which these documents provide, whether professional or sociological.

Other parts of the workshop broadened the conception of testimony which visual materials may be said to bring to bear upon the cultural history of WWI. Lawrence Napper (King’s College, London) spoke on British films of the 1920s and the ways in which they represent WWI. The first part of the analysis considered the various schemes proposed by the cinema industry in 1919 for the training of what were described as ‘disabled ex-servicemen’ into suitable jobs in cinemas, particularly as projectionists. Such schemes created widespread debate and anxiety within the cinema trade which was already struggling to cope with the pressure of employing demobilized ex-employees. The second half of the paper turned to two films offering different approaches to the figure of the disabled ex-serviceman in fiction films. The Garden of Resurrection (1919) can be read, Napper argued, as a romance centering on a hero suffering from facial disfigurement. The Guns of Loos (1928) features a hero who suffers from temporary shell shock – a psychological trauma represented primarily through facial performance in a series of startling close-ups. In both the film texts, and in the 1919 debate, the subject of facial disfigurement is alluded to, but never explicitly expressed

Beatriz Pichel  (PHRC, de Montfort University, Leicester) spoke on ‘Historical Perspectives on the Medical Photographs of the Gueules Cassées: Disfigurement and Expression between 1870 and 1932’. The paper explored the photographic archive of the gueules cassées preserved at the Parisian hospital Val de Grâce. This medical archive includes series of photographs that document the different stages of the facial injuries and reconstructive procedures undergone by French soldiers during the First World War. By means of the analysis of the different meanings attached to these photographs during and after the war, Pichel assessed the specific role played by photography in the social, cultural and medical understanding of war facial injuries and disfigurement. Firstly, Pichel examined the cultural discourses about the gueules cassées created in the post-war years, especially in terms of the dynamics between the uses of photographs and their absence from public discourses that linked facial mutilations to the loss of humanity. Second, the paper analysed the specificity of these medical records by comparing them to other similar photographs, especially to the images of bodily mutilations and the pictures of facial injuries that were not made in medical contexts. Finally, the history of the different photographic constructions of facial and bodily mutilations was traced, arguing in particular that the use of photography at the turn of the 19th century in scientific debates on facial expressions and bodily gestures as the locus of human emotions created the conditions under which disfigurement could be understood as the loss of humanity.

The final presentation of the day was given by Karen Randell (Bedfordshire University) on ‘Masking the horrors of war: Lon Chaney, performance, prosthetics and the returned veteran’, and considered the visual representations of the First World War veteran and the silent films of 1920s Hollywood star Lon Chaney Sr.  Through this analysis, questions of medical practice (in particular, facial reconstruction and prosthetics) art and sculpture and their relationship to film were explored in order to situate the images of the returned maimed veteran in mainstream popular culture. Randell argued that the damaged body as ‘spectacle’ presents a displayed excess that both exhibits the returned veteran body as fascinatingly grotesque and portrays the maimed male body as a site for sympathetic response. It was proposed that the films of Lon Chaney are able to represent anxieties that pertain to the First World War even though the war is absent from the texts themselves. The medical world infiltrates these narratives andthe notion of spectacle provides the link between the competing discourses of deformity, art and performance present around these popular cultural texts. Randell’s conclusions suggested that there is still much to discuss and explore in the context of present-day conflicts and the contemporary struggles of returning soldiers and their visibility in popular culture.

The workshop was accompanied by a pop-up exhibition, curated by Cristina Burke-Trees, of works by the contemporary artist René Apallec drawn from the Gueules cassées series. The works, displayed in the foyer of the Innovation Centre, were juxtaposed with a copy of L’Illustration, one of the key archival sources for Apallec’s artistic practice.

The face and social (re)integration, Seale Hayne, 16th June 2014


This workshop took place in the unique surroundings of Hannah’s at Seale Hayne, recalling their brief past as a centre for rehabilitation for soldiers suffering from shellshock following the First World War. The day combined research in health and social psychology with presentations from the chief executives of the two UK charities associated with the project, Saving Faces (director Iain Hutchison) and Changing Faces (led by James Partridge). James Partridge gave a powerful presentation on the background to his work with Changing Faces, ranging from personal experience to his discovery of the limited literature on disfigurement and stigma in the 1970s, to the foundation of Changing Faces and the variety of initiatives which the organisation has undertaken since then. In particular, James gave an overview of advocacy work for improved psycho-social care for those living with a disfigurement and of the recent Changing Faces campaigns for face equality.

James Partridge

Iain Hutchison explained the background to the foundation of Saving Faces and of the Saving Faces art project, exhibited in part in the Chapel Gallery during the workshop. Iain referred in particular to the therapeutic potential of the art-works produced by Mark Gilbert and, equally, of their production. During a tour of the Chapel Gallery, we viewed a selection of the Saving Faces works in dialogue with work by Paddy Hartley, artist in residence on 1914FACES2014 (curated by Cristina Burke-Trees). The afternoon sessions were devoted to Psychology research concerning body image and facial difference. Professor Nichola Rumsey presented on ‘Developing Interventions: Promoting Social Integration for People with Visible Differences’.

Iain Hutchison

James Partridge, Iain Hutchison, Dale Weston

Nichola Rumsey

Nichola spoke on facial difference and personal identity and on the way current representations of the face and the body affect these. Nichola is Professor of Appearance Research at UWE and is Co-Director of the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR), which she founded at UWE in 1992.

The final paper was entitled ‘Understanding interactions between individuals with and without a facial disfigurement’, and was presented jointly by Dale Weston, Manuela Barreto and Thomas Morton of the University of Exeter. Dale, Thomas and Manuela gave details of the experimental work carried out to date within the framework of the 1914FACES2014 project. The focus of this work is on assessing how individuals without visible social stigmas imagine and approach interactions with others with facial stigmas, and the psychological processes that are elicited by imagining and anticipating interaction. A key finding from both these studies is that imagining or anticipating interaction with another individual with a facial stigma is cognitively distracting – suggesting that people have to ‘work hard’ to think about interactions with partners who have facial stigma, and more so than  is the case with partners who have other forms of stigma (eg to the body). Moreover, although people expressed confidence when actually anticipating an interaction with an individual with a facial stigma, there was evidence of a disconnection between the confidence people felt and the way they acted in preparation for the interaction itself (ie with more distance). Future plans to delve closer into this disconnection between what people say about such interactions and what they actually do were outlined and discussed. The final part of the day was given over to free-form discussion and networking.

Mazeeda B, post-op by Mark Gilbert

Sailor Walter Yeo by Paddy Hartley

Facial difference and social (re)integration workshop

This workshop considers issues of social (re)integration arising from facial difference. It takes place in the unique surroundings of Hannah’s at Seale Hayne and will include a visit to the 1914FACES2014 / SAVING FACES exhibition at the Chapel Gallery, Seale Hayne.  

Participation is free but places are limited.To register, please email j by 3rd June

9:30-10:00 Registration and refreshments
10:00-10:15 Welcome and introduction David Houston Jones and Manuela Barreto
10:15-11:00 Living with facial disfigurement: Stigma, empowerment and face equality: James Partridge Chair: Manuela Barreto
11:00-11:30 Discussion
11:30-11:45 Break and refreshments
11:45-12:15 The impact of the Savings Faces Art Project on the patients, the clinicians, and the public: Iain Hutchinson Chair: Thomas Morton
12:15-12.45 Guided tour to the Saving Faces Art project exhibition by Iain Hutchinson including questions and discussion
12:45-13:45 Lunch
13:45-14:00 Reconvene and Recap
14:00-14:45 Developing Interventions: Promoting Social Integration for People with Visible Differences: Nichola Rumsey  Chair: Dale Weston
14:45-15:15 Discussion
15:15-15:30 Break and refreshments
15:30-16:15 Understanding interactions between individuals with and without a facial disfigurement: Dale Weston, Manuela Barreto, and Thomas Morton Chair: David Houston Jones
16:15-16:45 Discussion
16:45-17:30 Final discussion: Wrap up and plans for the future: Manuela Barreto

Workshop report: The Face and the Passions

This workshop, held on 31st March 2014 at the Innovation Centre, University of Exeter, made a fruitful contribution to our exploration of the long-term cultural legacy of facial disfigurement. In underlining the close links between the face and the passions and studying their representations in past and contemporary works, participants tackled questions that lie at the heart of the 1914 FACES 2014 project, such as the expressivity of the faces of First World War disfigured combatants and the perceptions and artistic depictions of disfigurement since the medieval period.

A key concern throughout the day was the legacy of Duchenne de Boulogne and the enduring influence of the idea of the passions in contemporary representations of the face. The starting-point for this dialogue was François Delaporte’s paper, ‘La Fabrique du visage et des passions’. Drawing upon Professor Delaporte’s landmark publications in the field, including L’Anatomie des passions (2003), the paper addressed the revolutionary influence of Duchenne, not only transforming understandings of the muscle physiology of the face, but also leading to repercussions in numerous other fields including medicine, art, literature, cinema and philosophy. The session was chaired by Professor Bernard Devauchelle, and led into a round table featuring François Delaporte, Bernard Devauchelle and the maxillo-facial surgeon Professor Iain Hutchison (St Bartholomew’s). The session identified numerous avenues for further discussion, and informed the consideration of modern and contemporary treatments of the face in philosophy and the arts later in the day. The second paper, by Julie Mazaleigue, discussed the representation of sexual desire, including representations of bodily dysmorphia, with special reference to the face and the gaze. The enquiry stretched from Franz von Bayros’ controversial illustrations of the nineteenth century all the way through to twenty-first century cinema.  Alex Murray’s paper then questioned whether the face can be considered as biopolitical, assessing the brief analysis of the face in  Agamben’s work and considering its articulation in technologies of security and surveillance. Joe Kember focussed on Harry Langdon’s facial performances in silent cinema of the early twentieth century. An exploration of facial grotesquery, the non-expressive face and the allegorical meaning of the face in silent cinema culminated in an analysis of the face in short silent film clips.  David Houston Jones, meanwhile, discussed the enigma of the expressive and inexpressive face in the work of Samuel Beckett and the French photographer Luc Delahaye, considering Delahaye’s debt to Walker Evans and documentary traditions while also subverting contemporary and historical norms concerning the visual representation of the face. The final paper of the day came from Professor Patricia Skinner, who gave a cutting-edge account of the medieval face and the iconographical traditions which underlie it. In particular, Skinner’s paper considered the relationship of the passions to the deadly sins: love, pain, fear and anger and the pathological understanding of those states. Skinner assessed the diagnostic value of physiognomy texts – associating facial features with character traits and behavioural tendencies – frequently bound together with collections of medical texts after the 13th century.

Accompanying the workshop was a selection of artworks by Justin Jones, curated by Cristina Burke-Trees, ahead of the upcoming Faces of Conflict exhibition beginning in January 2015 at RAMM. Jones’s work draws upon two key strands of 1914FACES2014: the facially injured soldiers of the first world war, and the Passions, the theme of today’s workshop.

The Face & the Passions Workshop

The Faces & the Passions workshop will be taking place on the 31st March 2014, at the Innovation Centre, Rennes Drive, Exeter. Below is the schedule for the day:

9.00 Coffee and registration
9.10 WelcomeDavid Houston Jones & Bernard Devauchelle
9:30 – 10:40 François Delaporte: La Fabrique du visage et des passions Chair & respondent : Bernard DevauchelleRound table : François Delaporte, Bernard Devauchelle and Iain Hutchison
10:40-11:00 Coffee
11.00-12.00 Julie Mazaleigue, Faces of desire : representations of sexual desire in the arts (18th – 21st century)Chair: Marjorie Gehrhardt
12:00 – 1:00 Alex Murray: Can the face be biopolitical? The face and historicising biopoliticsChair: David Houston Jones
1:00 – 2:00 Lunch: Innovation Centre foyerSteering committee meeting, Strand 3
2:00-3:00 Joe Kember: Reading the Inscrutable Face in Early and Silent Cinema Chair: Beatriz Pichel
3:00-4.00 David Houston Jones : Insignificant residues: the face, the grimace and trauma in Beckett, Agamben and Delahaye Chair: Suzannah Biernoff
4.00 – 4:30 Coffee
4:30- 5:30 Patricia Skinner: Reading The Medieval Face and its Passions Chair: Michelle Webb
5:30 Close

Henry Williamson, The Patriot’s Progress

In tandem with the workshop Representing and Historicising Les Gueules cassées, we are hosting a pop-up exhibition of Henry Williamson’s The Patriot’s Progress.

The book is the account of the World War I experience of a plain, unassuming man, John Bullock, and is remarkable both for the plainness of its narration and the synergy between text and image which takes place within it. It was William Kermode’s lino cuts, documenting his own experience of the Great War, which inspired Henry Williamson to write the harrowing account of John Bullock’s experience in the trenches on the battlefields of France. Besides Williamson’s unsentimental and beautifully crafted descriptions, it is the precise rawness and immediacy of William Kermode’s imagery that compelled us to return to this treasure from Special Collections, University of Exeter. The original manuscript is concurrently exhibited at Special Collections, the Old Library, University of Exeter.


Many thanks to Dr Christine Faunch Head of Heritage Collections, University of Exeter and the generous support of Exeter University’s Arts and Cultures.

David Houston Jones

Cristina Burke-Trees

Representing and Historicising Les Gueules cassées workshop


13th November 2013, Innovation Centre, Rennes Drive,   University of Exeter 9.00 Coffee and registration
9.10-9:30 Presentation of the project: 1914 FACES 2014 David Houston Jones
9:30 – 10:30 Speaker 1 Dr Suzannah Biernoff (Birbeck) – ‘The   Rhetoric and Representation of Facial Injury in WWI Britain’. Chair:   David Houston Jones
10:30-11:00 Coffee
11.00-12.00 Speaker 2 Marjorie Gehrhardt (Exeter),   ‘”Rebuilding Men”: Facially Injured Soldiers at The Queen’s   Hospital, Sidcup’. Chair: Suzannah Biernoff
12:00 – 1:00 Speaker 3 Dr Sarah Bulmer (Exeter), ‘Injury Politics in   Contemporary Britain: Rethinking the body and war’. Chair: Suzanne Steele
1:00 – 2:00 Lunch
2:00-3:00 Speaker 4 Dr Tim Rees (Exeter), The Hidden Face of War?
‘Deformity’ and the Public Gaze before the First World War’
Chair: Laura Rowe
3:00-4.00 Speaker   5 Dr Sophie Delaporte (UPJV, Amiens), ‘Portraits de gueules cassées’. Chair: Marjorie Gehrhardt
4.00 – 4:30 Coffee
4:30- 5:30 Speaker 6 Kerry Neale (Australian War Memorial), Faces   from the ‘uttermost ends of the earth’. Chair: Tim Rees
5:30 Close