Project Facade, The Gillies Archives & The Faces of Battle Exhibition.
The Wellcome Trust funded Project Facade is widely considered a landmark science/art collaborative project combining and interpreting elements of surgical, social and military history with a contemporary art making process. The outcome of Paddy’s Project Facade has been to bring the untold histories of WW1 servicemen treated for horrific facial injuries to a broad national and international audience.
The project was a natural evolution from the work Paddy undertook with Dr Ian Thompson in the design of Bioglass facial implants whilst based at the Department of Maxillofacial Surgery, Guy’s Hospital, London. After documenting a series of highly invasive facial surgeries, Paddy’s curiosity as to the origins of facial reconstructive surgery. His research led to a visit to The Gillies Archives at Queen Mary’s Hospital Sidcup and a meeting with Curator and Consultant rheumatologist Dr Andrew Bamji.
The Gilles Archives
The archives are home to over 2500 medical records made by pioneering facial surgeon Sir Harold Gillies of the Commonwealth servicemen he and his surgical team treated for horrific facial injuries sustained in battle. As well as being a surgical pioneer, Gillies was at the forefront of a collaborative approach in healthcare. In addition to calling on the skills of artists, photographers and sculptors in the documentation and pre-operative planning for surgeries, he brought together specialists in bone graft and skin grafting, dental surgeons and technicians. Not to mention pioneering many facial reconstructive techniques. Gillies and his team treated over 5000 servicemen and it is considered that he advanced the discipline of plastic surgery by 50 years thanks to the developments made in the treatment of so many patients in such a short period of time.
In 2004, the collaborative team of Paddy Hartley, Dr Andrew Bamji and Dr Ian Thompson were awarded a prestigious Wellcome Trust SciArt Production Award to enable Paddy to interpret the untold stories held at he Gillies Archives. Paddy’s goal was to make work, which would translate the medical records of a selection of Gillies patients, and to conduct research into their pre and postoperative lives. Where the medical records describe the multiple surgeries the servicemen underwent, very little is known about the servicemen themselves and how they went on to live the rest of their lives after receiving such horrific injuries and groundbreaking surgery. Vintage uniforms would act as canvas and embroidery as the means of combining and communicating newly discovered information about the men. The fabric and stitch of the uniforms related directly to the skin, tissue and stitch Gillies with which Gillies worked. Paddy was able to trace a number of descendants of the men whose stories he aimed to interpret. Their valuable input further embellished research conducted at the National Archives, Kew as to the pre and post war lives of the men, some of which were heart-warming and full of hope, others were brutally tragic.
Faces of Battle
Throughout the project, the findings and development were regularly presented at public events, conferences, on TV, radio and in print media. The final presentation of the work was at the National Army Museum Chelsea. Championed by Head of Exhibits Curator Gillian Brewer, the museum exhibition team worked closely with Paddy to realise his vision for Faces of Battle; the exhibition that would tell the story of the plastic surgery unit at Sidcup and feature the 16 uniform sculptures Paddy made during the course of the project. The exhibition was opened by Changing Faces founder James Partridge and was attended by many descendants of the men who had contributed to the project. The work has since been exhibited in London, New York, Sydney and Germany and continues to feature in contemporary art publications. Uniform sculptures from the project are currently held in the permanent collections of The Museum of Art & Design New York, The Wellcome Collection London and The National Army Museum London. The Project Facade website has become an authoritative resource on the lives of the men treated by Gillies and is used by students, academics and researchers worldwide and has been permanently archived by The British Library.