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Friday, August 29, 2008

Guernica, Mercenaries,War against Civilians


"A tapestry copy of Picasso's Guernica is displayed on the wall of the United Nations building in New York City, at the entrance to the Security Council room. It was placed there as a reminder of the horrors of war. Commissioned and donated by Nelson Rockefeller, it is not quite as monochromatic as the original, using several shades of brown. On February 5, 2003 a large blue curtain was placed to cover this work, so that it would not be visible in the background when Colin Powell and John Negroponte gave press conferences at the United Nations. On the following day, it was claimed that the curtain was placed there at the request of television news crews, who had complained that the wild lines and screaming figures made for a bad backdrop, and that a horse's hindquarters appeared just above the faces of any speakers. Some diplomats, however, in talks with journalists claimed that the Bush Administration pressured UN officials to cover the tapestry, rather than have it in the background while Powell or other U.S. diplomats argued for war on Iraq."

After an unproductive Post War Shock and endless surfing and reading about backgrounds, today I had talks with some fellow artists here in Tbilisi. A friend had the idea to reconstruct possible existential situations of the recent war with living models in the town of Gori, but to add some positive elements of hope, like flying white pigeons. These ideas were just about to start and we discussed for a while, to what results these artificial theatrical "living installations" would lead.

My main question was, can there be adequate art responding to war and destruction ? At first comes to mind Guernica. Although I never saw the original in Madrid I always found the work a failure as an adequate reaction to the bombings and the sufferings of innocent civilian people. War destroys humans, leaving fear, despair, death, physical and mental wounds. How the hell the screaming horse and the bull in Picasso's work may give a glimpse of this madness ? Does the screaming woman with her dead child really hurt us ? Maybe to the destruction of war even art has no answer ?

Before the recent war in Georgia I often had scenes of war and soldiers in my works. Actually it started years ago in time of my studies in Amsterdam in 1992/1993, when the Dutch media covered the first conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I felt that in terrible war times people get confronted with all these brutal questions of existence. Is it better to leave my house and run away or is it better just not run away but hide in the cellar ? Both decisions may result in death.

My paintings and drawings on war of course never meant to give an actual impression of war, but rather to comment on issues.

Hans Heiner Buhr, 1992-93, Peace Corps Paratrooper, 200x160 cm

So as common, if there is somewhere a conflict, the UN sends in some Peace Corps troopers to regulate and divide the opponents. Sometimes they are from Bangladesh, sometimes from Ukraine, sometimes from Scandinavia and other not involved countries. Typical are their blue helmets or berets, see an example from Eritrea here

The signal is, here are armed forces, which should prevent a further conflict in the name of the other nations. And they should not be a part of neither of the conflicted sides of course. That's easy to aim, but in reality the confronting sides in a conflict are often very difficult to appoint and often in case of a clash peace keepers are not able for certain reasons to protect the civilians.

The dilemma is that too often a Peacekeeping mission is not insight, when the big atrocities take place.

The huge history of the many atrocities against civilians is is long, like 88 BC by Mithridates VI against Romans in Asia Minor

The Swiss Guards helped to save the life of Pope Clement in 1527, but 45.000 people suffered

the 1993 Massacres in Sukhumi (don't read this, if your nerves are weak !)

and 21st Century war practice also let still suffer Civilians the most. Not by accident, but by specially planned ethnic cleansing these days of August 2008 against Civilians in South Ossetia.

I have no solutions except: Stop the Wars ! Stop mercenaries ! Never give war weapons like AK-74's to Civilians. Have Mercy ! Don't do to others what you don't want others do to you !

Maraudeur,1993, 200x160 cm

Suffering and misery is very difficult to handle in art. The most moving works I found these days, are from the Renaissance Artists.


Drawing by Michelangelo:



more Raphael

and more Raphael

and one more

and this great contemporary work by

André Komatsu

1 comment:

  1. :(

    very sad but interesting post. I will link it on blog

    hope you have nothing against