Art can inspire people to enter into heated debates and perhaps gradually open the way towards a just peace.
from The Power of Culture
Culture often leads to lack of understanding and conflict and suppression. The burning of books, the incarceration of writers and artists, the destruction of cultural heritage: actions like these illustrate how deeply people fear the power of culture, but they also show that art can provide an effective means for solving conflict. Art places societies under scrutiny, also societies where freedom is restricted. Art opens up difficult topics and breaks stereotypes and taboos. Cultural activities make people resilient and can help to heal the wounds of those traumatised by violent conflict. Culture enables us to record people’s stories for future generations and thus helps to prevent conflict in the future.
27 year old Iraq war veteran Drew Cameron literally recycled his past by shredding his military fatigues into tiny strips and making them into paper, on which he then wrote or made images in many different formats. Some of those stencilled images echo British graffiti artist Banksy, whose signature use of militaristic imagery and the apparatus of the state could never be far from an ex-serviceman’s mind.
The main figures in an armed conflict literally strip to the skin in a video project by the Columbian artist.
"My brother and I made the film Shot on Location in 2001, in the province of Choco in north-western Colombia. While we were filming, we were questioned by paramilitary personnel. They suspected the neighbouring communities of collaborating with the guerrillas. Then we were told to vacate the area immediately and to pass on a death threat to the mayor of Nuqui, the closest larger community.
In 2007, after I had been living in the Choco region for a year, I started filming for the Humanos Derechos (Rights People) project. I wanted to bring the lead players in the conflict together virtually by filming them while undressing in front of the camera.The first person was a soldier in the Colombian army. He agreed after repeatedly consulting with his senior officers. I imagined his feeling of emptiness and the distance from his family and friends in this remote but beautiful environment. Next I filmed a farmer from the same area and started looking for more contact with paramilitary and guerrilla fighters. It often took a long time to win their trust while remaining objective.
In a certain sense, Humanos Derechos cuts through the complexity of the conflict by reducing it to a simple action: undressing in front of a camera. This makes all the participants equal. I project the portraits I filmed in life-sized images on opposite walls with the viewers in the middle. The most revealing moment is when the four projections are started for the first time: seeing these people confronted with one another while they are all undressing at the same time. The viewers are then like the fifth component in this war. The accompanying sentence – there’s no such thing as an innocent bystander – reveals itself."
Jeroen van der Zalm
The sequel to the Humanos Derechos project will be made in 2009 in Israel and the Palestinian Territories; Fernando Arias is currently making the necessary preparations. People with suggestions and/or contacts in that region can contact Arias at: email@example.com
Humanos Derechos is supported by the Prince Claus Fund