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Artists » Arts in Conflict

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Artists at War

Theatre Company Sonja took the program of which this blog is an outlet pretty much to their heart: they are preparing a live radio play “Artists at War”. TG Sonja was invited by the Amersfoort based Mondriaanhuis to come up with an idea for fringe programs within the forthcoming exposition ‘Vision vs. Confrontation’, due to open April 14th. The exposition focuses on Mondriaan’s reaction to the two World Wars he lived through, in which he sets the vision, the utopia, as eventual goal.

Piet-Mondriaan-Compositie-10-in-zwart-wit-Pier-en-Oceaan-85x108cm

TG Sonja took this as a point of departure for a live radio play in which not only Mondriaan will feature, but three other Dutch artists as well: Charley Toorop,  Johannes Heesters and Gerrit Jan van der Veen.

Artists at War thus portrays four specific reactions of artists to the World War II. While one flees, the other resists. Another collaborates with the enemy, while a fourth tries to process the grief of warfare through art. This makes the play not just about Mondriaan, Heesters, Toorop and van der Veen, but about each and everyone of us.

At their facebookpage TG Sonja keep a vivid diary on researching the artists and show their work in progress. In one of their posts they showed this beautiful recording of a Johannes Heesters song. Might you master Dutch language you will most likely want to dive deeper into other projects TG Sonja carries out. You can do so here, and once you are at it, they do run a crowdfunding campaign here. And to conclude, buy some tickets for the first show of Artists at War here.

 

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War in books

Recently the Italian writer Paolo Giordano’s second novel was translated. His “The Human Body” is inspired by a short visit to a military outpost in Afghanistan [see small video here]. The novel is a meditation on the humanity of army corps, in terms of both corporeality and personal conflicts. Il corpo umano means “the human body,” while the Italian translation for “army corps” is corpo militare. In the book we meet various characters of this corpo militare: the tough guy for whom waging war is the mere continuation of his pub brawls, the shy guy who hopes war will make a man out of him, the sergeant who takes care of his men, the doctor who uses his own medicines just a bit too much. Read a short excerpt here. All in all: society as reflected in an army corps. But than in the bizarre settings of a country where all Western troops seem to find a Waterloo. The nihilistic moods this provokes within the barracks is best represented by the little party the troops throw when they are finally leaving their camp [a self erected prison in the middle of another country, another society, another culture] for a real mission outside the camp. That mission turns out to be the disaster looming throughout all the book..

A different war. A different writer. And a lot of the same mechanisms in a book on that other globalized war. The American writer Kevin Powers wrote his debut novel, the Yellow Birds, in the months after returning from his service time in Iraq. The NY Times wrote: “The Yellow Birds” is brilliantly observed and deeply affecting: at once a freshly imagined story about a soldier’s coming of age, a harrowing tale about the friendship of two young men trying to stay alive on the battlefield in Iraq, and a philosophical parable about the loss of innocence and the uses of memory.”
As in Giordano’s book the title is a play on military vocabulary, as it is taken from a cadence song:

A yellow bird with a yellow bill
Was sittin’ on my window sill
I lured him in with a piece of bread
And then I smashed his little head”.”

Both books are well reviewed, with the Guardian putting “The Yellow Birds” in a line with books such as “All quiet on the Western front”. Now, in this globalized world of warfare, we are waiting for books on these wars by writers from Iraq and Afghanistan to make it to the literary reviews of our newspapers. Till than, as the NY Times writes, let us read these books.  Since “… Kevin Powers has something to say, something deeply moving about the frailty of man and the brutality of war, and we should all lean closer and listen.”

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Mali Music

During the last weeks we have seen global media attention for the fighting in Mali. Apparently, so it happens when a Western power does intervene. Earlier fighting among various islamic fundamentalist insurgents, Turaegs, foreign mercenaries and the Mali army gained only half as much attention, if you remember at all a military coup took place in March 2012. One who follows the news might remember some of the messages, but what
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Abandoned cities?

Numerous are the photo series on old battle fields. See the series by Hebeisen or see the google search on Somme Marne pictures here. Somehow the relics of war have an esthetic appeal. The photographer who gives in to that appeal will
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Mine Kafon

At the TEDxUtrecht earlier this month here, one presentation touched on Arts in Conflict stuff directly. The one by Dutch Afghani Massoud Hassani. With his “Mine Kafon” he invented a tool, an art piece actually, to make landmines explode safely. Next to being such a device, I suppose it wouldn’t look bad in your garden. So what is this “Mine Kafon”: The Mine Kafon is designed to be blown across dangerous terrain by the wind, triggering mines as it passes over them. A single
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Imagining Europe

Is the name the European Cultural Foundation gave to its’ four day weekender in de Balie in Amsterdam. On schedule: “Unraveling some of the burning questions confronting contemporary Europe. Europeans are questioning what it means to be part of Europe and whether they want to continue to be part of it, while people around the world are talking about Europe’s economic and cultural future.” Bam.
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