Archives are “structures of meaning in process” (Roberts 2014: 114), always in the process of becoming, linked as much to the past (which they claim to represent) as to the future (which they inevitably shape). We can learn much about societies by looking at what is included in archives but also by searching for what is excluded from them, without assuming that everything that is included in archives is equally relevant for the ways societies see themselves and want to be seen by others. Archives structure politics and societies, and they do so with regard to the past, the present and the future.
So far, 2021 has not been an easy year for many of us. You, too, might have started the year with quite high hopes as the vaccination campaigns started in many countries, promising an end to ever extending lockdowns. Yet, such hopes came too early in various countries, leaving us instead to experience seemingly never-ending physical distancing and continuing working at kitchen tables or in bedrooms. Some of us might have experienced – or still suffer from – a phenomenon termed ‘brain fog’ or ‘languishing’. We at imageandpeace.com continued to be forced to spend even more time in front of our computers, developing some sort of ‘zoom fatigue’. All these things have also not passed us going unnoticed. Although we managed to publish regular blog posts, imageandpeace.com has become somewhat quieter in 2021 with emphasis put on more traditional academic work in terms of reading, thinking, writing (not necessarily in this order).
Written at the occasion of the 80th commemoration of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941
“Human suffering. Will it be remembered in centuries to come? … Tears and whispers, a cry of pain and despair, the last sighs and groans of the dying – all this disappears along with the smoke and dust blown across the steppe by the wind,” Vasily Grossman muses in Stalingrad (2020: 550).
Image & Peace proudly presents Reimpressions by Ana Catarina Pinho, the third artwork commissioned by and displayed on imageandpeace.com.
Reimpressions, a photography and video installation, is, in the artist’s words, “the first chapter of a wider investigation on photographic practices, memory, representation and discourse. This ongoing visual essay explores vernacular photographies and its potential towards reframing pre-established categories, knowledge regimes and discursive reconstructions.”
War is the negative reference point for peace narratives, and peace is the positive reference point for war narratives. As such, there is an intimate relationship between peace narratives and war narratives. War photographers, for example, visualize peace negatively by showing its absence. They do so, not to celebrate war but to show, in photographer Don McCullin’s words, that “war is bad” and that it should be abolished as a means of dealing with conflict.
Because of the intimate relationship between war narratives and peace narratives, we would like to introduce the project Visualizing War: Interplay between Battle Narratives in Ancient and Modern Cultures at the University of St Andrews.
In our earlier blog post about the writer John Steinbeck’s journey to the Soviet Union in 1947, we quoted his response to the question of why he wanted to travel with the photographer Robert Capa although there were “lots of cameramen in the Soviet Union”: “But you have no Capas,” Steinbeck said.
Reflecting on the visualization of peace, one situation plays vividly in front of my eyes that I encountered on a summer day at the Baščaršija square in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the center of the square, you can find Sebilj, a wooden fountain from the Ottoman era. About this fountain it is said that travellers who drink from its water will one day return to Sarajevo. Amidst the crowded square, filled with tourists and locals, I saw a little boy, maybe three or four years old, standing on the step of the fountain. What stroke me was seeing this little boy holding and playing with a toy-rifle. He happily aimed at random passers-by, imitating shooting sounds. The boy attracted a lot of people’s attention, most of whom were laughingly pointing at him, being entertained, some even actively engaging with him, acting as if they were hit by a bullet, pretending to fall to the ground, fatally wounded by the boy’s rifle.
The title of the Irish photographer Richard Mosse’s most recent project, Tristes Tropiques, is borrowed from the memoirs of the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, originally published in 1955 – a book about “insignificant happenings” and “trivial circumstances” that the anthropologist encountered in Brazil among the Caduveo, Bororo, Nambikwara, and Tupi-Kawahib. According to Mosse, quoted in the Guardian article referenced below, Lévi-Strauss’ journeys “were similar enough to some of my own, almost a century later, in terms of the axes he travelled along.”
We receive much inspiration and many ideas for our work from encountering art, for we think that art and culture play a major role in our societies, heavily shaping all sorts of social interactions and performing a social function. Not surprisingly, we got very curious when we came across the edited volume Can Art Aid In Resolving Conflicts? The book features 103 individuals, most of them introduced as artists, others as curators, museum directors or researchers, for example.
Peace can be shown vicariously by documenting activities accompanying, reflecting and following from a given individual’s or group’s perception and experience of peace. Simply put, if a sense of peace prevails, individuals and groups of people tend to do things they would not do in the absence of a sense of peace. Such activities can be recorded visually.