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 Warren Orchard Christoph Dettmeier, Georgy, Willy and Nicky, 2014. Photo: Warren Orchard

In the back gallery space of Chapter s gallery sits The American Friend, a series of slowly crumbling towers that talk of legacy. It is this idea of legacy that Christophe Dettmeier explores in Happy Birthday. It is 100 years since the beginning of WW1 and the world landscape has invariably shifted. Various events are being held to commemorate this event and the ironic title, Happy Birthday, questions the role of this event on the world and the shifts in culture that have happened since.

 Warren Orchard Christoph Dettmeier, The American Friend (detail), 2014. Photo: Warren Orchard

A few strands of thought stand out within the Happy Birthday exhibition, such as the impact of Shell Shock Cinema, museum displays of war and our contemporary visions of conflict. Within the space these themes aren t quite given enough space to develop into a coherent narrative. They seem like the beginning of interesting topics that aren t quite fully explored, leaving incoherent strands running through the show.

In the video piece At The Mountain of Madness, we move through the landscape of Penally, Wales, used as practice trenches for the army. The jerky movements and camera angles are reminiscent of WW1 computer games. The landscape sits somewhere between real and imagined as we move through it. The contemporary experience of war is often experienced through screens and computer games, as commands are given to the viewer; a simulated experience of war, mediated through a virtual environment.

Museums and galleries throughout the UK are dedicated to documenting and reflecting on war. George, Willy and Nicky present three inadequate cyborg figures standing at the entrance to the exhibition. Their appearance falling apart; impotent figures with arms broken off and legs falling to the ground. This comment on museoligical display of war seems like a joke only half told, the punch line still waiting.

This museum display is continued with Ghost of Mars. A wall is filled with discarded wrappers, cans and toys, mixed in with cards for cinema produced after the war. Dettmeier asks if the museum turns the debris from conflict into a pseudo-religious shrine. Presented below these artefacts is Camera in Conflict, a series of Playmobil figures, burned, scarred and mutilated to resemble iconic war-time images, the innocence of the figures at odds with their actions. The display mimics a museum display but with a darkly humorous undertone.

 Warren Orchard Christoph Dettmeier, Ghosts of Mars (detail), 2014. Photo: Warren Orchard

Ghost of Conflict also explores Shell Shock Cinema such as The Cabinet of Dr Cagliari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922). As a response to the trauma of war, Weimer film culture reflected the concerns of the period, translating the experience of WW1 with films populated by a concern with death, repressed ideas and a way of expressing thelost generations of the war.

In the Ghost of Conflict, references to this cinematic genre are interspersed among the objects collected, mixing the historical and contemporary, creating relationships between the graphic imagery and designs of the discarded and crushed objects. The twisted and distorted figures present the legacy of the war, creating contemporary versions of the characters first presented in film culture.

Works such as Mordor and Over the Top Tours sit awkwardly within the space, disrupting the flow of the exhibition, too many ideas jostle for contention that creates a confused experience. The links between works often seem tenuous, both formally and conceptually. While the exhibition raises some interesting ideas, these aren t fully expanded upon, layered with other ideas and themes into a mass of disjointed themes. Rory Duckhouse

Happy Birthday continues at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff to Sun 21 September

Christoph Dettmeier will be performing at Chapter on Friday 19 September at 7pm more information here