In this multi-character tableau, Wall presents a highly orchestrated fantasy that mixes black humour with pathos.
Dead Troops Talk (a vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986) 1992
In Dead Troops Talk, Wall merges conventions from war and horror movies with those of the history painting of previous eras to create an elaborate, grotesque fiction. The picture presents a hallucinatory scene in which soldiers who have just been killed on the battlefield are re-animated, engaging with each other in what the artist describes as a ‘dialogue of the dead’. As the title indicates, the troops are a Soviet patrol ambushed in Afghanistan during the war and occupation of the 1980s. Each figure or group seems to respond differently to the experience of death and reanimation. The three soldiers clowning with their own wounds provide a note of macabre levity. Wall has suggested that their black humour is as plausible a reaction to their circumstances as the more serious or distressed responses of their comrades. As carefully constructed as a film or epic painting, the work was shot in a large temporary studio, involving performers and costume, special effects and make-up professionals. The figures were photographed separately or in small groups and the final image was assembled as a digital montage.