Tauba Auerbach, Flow Separation, 2018. Commissioned by Public Art Fund and 14-18 NOW and presented on Fireboat John J. Harvey in New York Harbor July 2018-May 2019. ©

Image by Nicholas Knight, courtesy of the Public Art Fund, NY

The British Council is a proud partner of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s official arts programme marking the centenary of the First World War.

14-18 NOW is the UK’s official arts programme marking the centenary of the First World War. 14-18 NOW commissions artists from all art forms to make new work inspired by the period 1914-1918. Engaging people through the arts is a powerful way to bring the past to life. With no serving survivors left to tell the stories from the First World War, the arts are an effective way to engage contemporary audiences, especially those who currently feel little connection to the First World War. All of the projects are co-commissioned in partnership with cultural and heritage organisations across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Explore 14-18 NOW programming in the United States

Dazzle Ships (New York)

On display in the New York Harbor from July 1, 2018 - May 12, 2019

The contemporary 'dazzle ships' moored on the rivers of Liverpool, Edinburgh and London to mark the First World War centenary have become familiar to millions. These brightly coloured boats pay homage to the hundreds of ships that were ‘dazzled’ during the First World War. Now the Dazzle Ship project moves to the United States, with a new commission by American artist Tauba Auerbach in New York City.

Inspired by dazzle as a technology, the artist will transform a decommissioned ­ fireboat, the historic John J. Harvey, into a floating artwork. The idea of 'dazzle', an experimental camouflage painted on to the surface of ships, was pioneered by British artist Norman Wilkinson, who prepared numerous designs for vessels, including US merchant ships, targeted by enemy U-boats. Drawing on avant-garde artistic movements such as Cubism and Vorticism, as well as animal camouflage, these bewildering shapes and angles were designed to confuse the enemy as they struggled to make out the dazzle ships against shifting waves and clouds.

Public Art Fund and 14-18 NOW’s transformation of the fi­reboat into a dazzle ship by Auerbach will give the city a new riverside landmark, commemorating the centenary of Armistice and the innovation of dazzle. Click here for more information, and learn more about Tauba Auerbach's Flow Separation piece.

Akram Khan: Xenos (New York and LA)

Performed in New York from 31 October - 1 November 2018, and performing in Los Angeles from 2-3 March 2019

Created and performed by Akram Khan, XENOS tells the tale of an Indian colonial soldier in the First World War, expressing both the beauty and horror of the human condition through sound, light and movement.

XENOS marks the final solo performances by Khan, one of Britain’s most revered dancers and choreographers. Taking inspiration from specific events during the First World War, this full-length solo work blends Indian classical dance with contemporary choreography in powerful and moving synergy.

Commissioned by 14-18 NOW and sponsored by COLAS

Click here for LA ticketing information.

Heiner Goebbels: Everything That Happened Would Happen (New York)

Performing at the Park Avenue Armory in New York 18 May - 3 June 2019

Created by the singular German artist and composer Heiner Goebbels and receiving its world premiere in Manchester as part of 14-18 NOW, this Artangelco-commission explores the world since the outbreak of the first great war of the 20th century: a contradictory, non-linear world lurching from the crisis of conflict to the promise of peace as 100 years pass by. Voices, bodies, objects and music fill the void in a compulsive attempt to restore order.

Part-performance, part-construction site, Everything that happened and would happen is a re-enactment of history, always on the verge of collapse –only to be rebuilt as if nothing had happened

Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, Artangel, Park Avenue Armory and Ruhrtriennale. The world premiere is co-presented with Manchester International Festival as a Trailblazer for The Factory

Learn more about this project.

'They Shall Not Grow Old': a new film by Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson, best known for directing The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has created a new film using original footage from Imperial War Museums’ extensive archive, much of it previously unseen, alongside BBC and IWM interviews with servicemen who fought in the conflict. Footage has been colourised, converted to 3D and transformed with modern production techniques to present never before seen detail.

They Shall Not Grow Old was given its Royal World Premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on 16 October, attended by Peter Jackson and the Duke of Cambridge. The simulcast included a special post screening Q&A with Jackson, hosted by film critic Mark Kermode. The film was simultaneously screened in 2D and 3D to cinemas, schools and special venues across the UK, as well as its TV broadcast premier on BBC Two on 11 November.

The First World War proved to be a landmark in cinema history – the first time that the horrors of war could be caught on camera. Many hours of dramatic footage were filmed on the battlefields, capturing the realities of the conflict in remarkable and unprecedented detail. This footage provided the public at home with astonishing access to the frontline: The Battle of the Somme, a documentary film produced with the cooperation of the War Office, was seen by an estimated 20 million Britons in its first six weeks of release. As a partner the British Council is licensed for screenings in offices, embassies and cultural centres worldwide.

Learn more about this project.

Screening in the USA

The British Council in the USA was proud to host the US premiere of They Shall Not Grow Old on 10 December 2018 at the National Archives in Washington, DC. An audience of 300, including representatives from US government agencies, arts, media and education organisations joined active duty and veterans from the UK, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, to watch the film and attend a panel discussion, moderated by BBC World journalist Jane O’Brien, (BBC). The panellists included, Brigadier James Carr-Smith, Daniel Dayton (Executive Director, US World War I Centennial Commission), Dan Rooney (National Archives) and Jenny Waldman, CBE (Director, 14-18 NOW). Click here to watch a recording of the panel discussion. 

A second screening was hosted on 17 January 2019 in New York City, featuring Sarah Goodfellow (Producer, 14-18 NOW), Kirsty Lang (British Council trustee), Antony Phillipson (British Consul General in New York and HM Trade Commissioner for North America) and HE Dame Karen Pierce DCMG (UK Ambassador & Permanent Representative to the United Nations).

James Reese Europe and the Absence of Ruin (DC)

Performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on December 8, 2018

Dispatched from its native New York to France in 1917, the 369th Infantry Regiment was the first African American fighting unit to join the Allied forces in France. The so-called Harlem Hell-fighters won renown for their toughness in combat, but the unit’s band, led by James Reese Europe, also gained plenty of admirers. Their jazz and ragtime music was received with wild appreciation by the French, though the bandleader never returned to capitalise on the acclaim. Just months after his return to the US, aged 39, Europe died at the hands of his drummer.

Jason Moran, one of the most original musicians and thinkers in contemporary jazz, and John Akomfrah, the widely acclaimed British artist and filmmaker, tell the bandleader’s story in this ambitious multi-dimensional piece. Taking in both archive audio visual material and live music, James Reese Europe and the Absence of Ruin moves through past, present and future as it reflects on the African American presence in Europe during the war –and the marks it left here during the subsequent century.

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