Home Arts The Role of Art in a Time of War

The Role of Art in a Time of War

by Jersey Lady

Kyiv, UKRAINE — You don’t have to travel far from Kyiv to see how the massacre of civilians and the trampling of culture continues. About 45 minutes north of here, in Borodyanka, the epicenter of Russian atrocities, a bridge was demolished to slow down traffic. The windows of the Palace of Culture were blown out. The concert hall is dusty and his ticket booth is torn to pieces. I had to enter the Ivankiv Museum of History and Local History, contorted and flattened with twisted tacks, halfway between the capital and the Belarusian border. Further east it is even worse.

Here in Kyiv, like many of its former citizens, masterpieces went underground. The Hanenko State Museum, located in an old mansion on Tereszchenkiwska Street, owns a small Rubens. A small oil painting of the river god is usually painted on the blue wall under the Beaux Arts skylight. I couldn’t see it when I walked over there. The entire collection is hidden.

During the first days of the war, when Kyiv was besieged from all sides and half the city’s population fled, many American artists turned to charity and help refugees. We wanted to know what we could do beyond what we should have done. The museum and orchestra have made the necessary statements about loathing and loyalty. The National Anthem of Ukraine was sung at the Metropolitan Opera. Cold opening of the Ukrainian folk song “Saturday Night Live”. We are now internalizing the participatory privilege of social media. The algorithm does not support Rubens’ allegory.

Ukrainian officials, from actor-turned-commander-in-chief, have never been shy about encouraging the realm of international culture to support the war effort. – Addressed enthusiastic audiences at the Biennale and Cannes Film Festival. Grammy too. “On our land we are at war with Russia. Russia is bringing horrific silence with bombs. Dead silence,” said the president, wearing his shirt in olive color, Olivia He told Rodrigo and Jazmine he Sullivan and the stars gathered. “Fill the silence with your music.”

We live in a prosperous and safe part of the world, and we will be in a prosperous and safe place as long as nuclear weapons are contained. Something From this cultural solidarity. And why, during a war as morally manifest as this one, shouldn’t your local flamenco company say “Slava Ukraine” after the approval of the land? It is to reduce the conventional war to just another.current, at least in the United States, already overshadowed by new domestic outrage. Crimes against Ukrainian civilians still occur on a daily basis. The death toll on the front lines remains disastrously high. If you’re going to stick with it for wartime culture, it shouldn’t be just another broadcast medium.

reasons to listen to music Why see art, why go to the theater when war is raging? Twenty years ago, on these pages, when the mountains of Ground Zero were still smoldering and the long war in Afghanistan had just begun, critic Margo his Jefferson always gave an answer that stuck with me. .

Jefferson wrote that the reason why art is necessary in times of war is that “history cannot exist without the discipline of the imagination.” Through art, we establish similarities between past and future, near and far, abstract and concrete, and question received certainties. We see and hear in such a way that thoughts and feelings run parallel. And in extreme times, this kind of cultural appraisal can evolve from analytical to moral. If you pay close attention, memes have proliferated, and the task has gotten harder with each iPhone, but art, literature, and music see our new present as more than just a stream of words and images. You can improve your abilities. As Jefferson wrote at the time, they can “provide a way of seeing and organizing the world.” “Not only in our world, but in other worlds we know so little about.”

From Sophocles to Wolf, from Goya to Chaplin, cultural figures who survived war Kikuji Kawada Wole Soyinka knew better than most of us that the clarity that art brings doesn’t come from lectures and news reports. I’m not saying that high culture will naturally free you from savagery. Dictators can love ballet as much as Democrats.This is not to say that representing war is an impossible undertaking, or that the documentary and testimony modes have a more limited purpose than abstraction and epic poetry. Artists have painted war head-on actually It began eight years ago — Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa’s poisonous satire Donbass, Serhiy Zadan’s life storyOrphanageor Polish photographer Wiktoria Wojciechowska’s profound, prize-filled war series “spark

The best depiction of war is simply for myselfand its full value lies in areas beyond communication and advocacy. Picasso’s “Guernica1937’s “The Bombing of a Basque Village” finds a universe of grief.idelespagne, a call for quicker help made in the same year, has become a mere historical relic. There’s a reason we return to the romance of “Casablanca” when we think of wartime refugees, and the thriller of “Battle of Algiers” when we think of anti-colonial struggles. Why the hieroglyphic “Blowin’ in the Wind” has endured beyond more blatant protest songs.

Somewhere between form and meaning, between picture and plot, between thought and emotion, art gives us a perspective on human suffering and human capabilities. These war works are ‘topical’ and therefore unimportant. Or, to use today’s hollow tagline, “necessary.” They are important because they reaffirm a place for form and imagination in an age that denies their possibilities. They are the ones that allow us to discern all meanings in everyday images and tides of madness.

Leave the modern onslaught and return to Florence. It is now a mecca for tourism and was a military base during the time of Rubens. The war he describes has only just begun, but Marth already has a bloody sword. As he lunges forward, he is looking back at his lover, Venus, who is desperately trying to restrain him.

But love is nothing now. Mars is in the hands of another woman, an enraged Alecto. Alecto’s hair stands on end and her eyes bulge with madness.

Look at your face, look at your body. The big gods writhe and corkscrew while rolling from left to right. A small, innocent figure slips and shatters.

The Thirty Years’ War was only twenty years old when Rubens began painting The Consequences of War around 1638. Never before had Europe known a death brawl like that experienced by Rubens. It wasn’t until his 20th century again. This picture is an anatomically clear “innocent massacre(c. 1610), and we see how later paintings bleed, pool, flow, and ripple.

Instead of depicting battles and plagues head-on, the paint itself went to war. Rubens understood that the times had turned baroque excesses into a style of realism in unprecedented violence.

Or, to put it another way, he understood that the extremes of the Thirty Years’ War required extremes of form, and that fables could show something that could not be expressed in any other way. That was the point he emphasized in the last major figure in The Consequences of War, the leftmost figure. She is a young woman in a black dress torn and without a girdle. Her arms are sticking out into the air, and her red cheeks are stained with large drops of tears. As Rubens wrote to his fellow Florentine painter, this mourning woman Lynfelice Europa: “Unfortunate Europe has suffered for many years in looting, wrath and misery, which are so detrimental to all that no further elaboration is necessary.”

No further specification is needed as it is so harmful. Even in the mid-17th century, scenes of atrocities were already so powerful and enduring that one could wear European tangled gowns, unkempt hair, and hot pink faces for the entire Thirty Years War. If images of war were so ambient in the 1630s, I don’t even know how to start quantifying their oversaturation today. But the images of looting and misery of our own time are becoming less morally charged with each passing year — perhaps the most documented in human history, as we horribly learned during the civil war in Syria. (so far).

The ubiquitous photos and ongoing testimony of more than a decade of Syrian atrocities has had close to zero impact. I could feel it on the ground in the live streams of the 22 missile attacks, in the minute-by-minute telegram updates and Instagram posts about the terror in the East. As she scrolled through Damascus and Aleppo, her four-year-old child with Down syndrome was killed in a city park by a Russian missile.

war became the ultimate This reflects digitization, which Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk identified as a major challenge for artists and audiences today. On the phone screen, nowhere is just “somewhere,” she lamented Tokarczuk. Her 2019 Nobel Lecture“Somewhere, there are people drowning trying to cross the ocean. In a flood of information, individual messages lose their contours, dissipate in our memory, become surreal and disappear. How can war photography keep us going and how can a work of war art maintain its relevance as we swim upstream in an undamaged river of content? We have a mobile phone together and since February 24th we are getting another evanescent current every day.

According to Tokarczuk, the only chance to get anywhere from “somewhere” lies in models of artistic creation that break the first person singular of status renewal and seek “a story beyond prison without self-communication.” That’s what I mean. myself. American culture has grown to fear such stories, the more universal, the more inclusive, but ever since Aeschylus staged “The Persian,” writing them has become a wartime As the world of yesterday shrouded in fog, one of the cultural commitments we can make is our constant struggle, even if our reflections in art are fragmentary. is to rediscover the complete human loss of From those fragments it may still be possible to organize a view of the outcome of the war and the dangers to come.


Peter Paul Rubens, “Consequences of War”, via Uffizi Gallery.

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