dirk hr spennemann photography




War on the Tundra
Impressions of the Kiska Battlefield
Digital art by Dirk HR Spennemann



The western Aleutian Island of Kiska carries a landscape torn asunder and deeply scarred by war. While elsewhere the soft and undulating hill sides that characterise so many of the Aleutian Islands are covered with a thick mat of lush tundra, here on Kiska the same hill sides are often bare, resembling festering wounds. While time may heal all wounds, Kiska seems a like place that time forgot. Even sixty years after the end of hostilities, the tundra is failing to regain much of the ground. What took hundreds, if not thousands of years to form and grow, was destroyed within two years. Whereever the gaze is directed at Kiska Harbor, the eyes cannot but notice patches of bare and eroding soil where once tents and barracks stood. First Japanese and later US/Canadian base development contributed to this degradation. Frequent US bombing of the Japanese installations added to the destruction. Dotted among these scars are the remains of US and Japanese war materiel. The most evocative are the Japanese guns, many of their barrels still pointing skyward, standing silent sentry against the rain of death once brought by American bombers.

     Kiska forms a dramatic cultural landscape, a battlefield pure and simple. With little landscape modification before World War II, and virtually no modification thereafter, Kiska is a unique place to illustrate the effects of modern air-borne warfare. Bomb craters and damaged ground installations speak of the damage wrought by the attacking forces, while anti-aircraft guns and the broken remains of shot-down aircraft testify to the defenders' resolve and the ultimate price paid by many American aircrew.

     The digital art shown in this exhibition presents the Kiska battlefield filtered through an artist's gaze. The visual framing is provided by digital photographs taken during historic preservation fieldwork in the summers of 2007 and 2009. Digital darkroom techniques have been employed to create images that are both grittier and more evocative of the war.



     Anchorage Museum at Ramusen Center
         Anchorage,AK, USA

                22 April 2010 to 31 December 2010
                extended to 20 February 2011

     March Field Museum,
         Riverside, CA, USA

                23 July - 3 December 2011

     Alaska State Museum,
         Juneau, AK, USA

                4 May-13 October 2012



© Dirk HR Spennemann 2010-12