The Power of Art and Resistance: Guernica at 75

July 07, 2012 at 7:49 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Criminal Injustice Series, Imperialism, International Law, Intersectionality

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“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”

Guernica, Pablo Picasso, 1937

George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, 1938:

When you have had a glimpse of such a disaster as this — and however it ends the Spanish war will turn out to have been an appalling disaster, quite apart from the slaughter and physical suffering — the result is not necessarily disillusionment and cynicism. Curiously enough the whole experience has left me with not less but more belief in the decency of human beings.

Amy Goodman, NPR, 2012:

Now, the reason people know about Guernica is because of Pablo Picasso. Pablo Picasso, who, after he heard about the bombing of this city in his home country of Spain—he was in Paris—in a 21-day frenzy, he painted the painting that now hangs in the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid called Guernica, that shows the agony of war etched in the faces of the animals and the people of Guernica. It shows the power of culture, which is also why I am here in Spain, in the Basque area of Spain. Tomorrow night I’ll be speaking in Bilbao at a three-day conference called “Culture Takes Center Stage: The Power of Art and Resistance.” Pablo Picasso said the painting could never come home to Spain until Franco, the fascist leader, was out. And so now the painting sits in Madrid. People in Guernica want it to rest here finally, in the city where—on which it is based.

In the United States, we know, because the tapestry reproductions of Guernica made by Pablo Picasso hung in front of the U.N. Security Council in New York for decades. And I talked about this yesterday. But it was not lost on the higher-ups at the U.N., when the U.S. was about to go to war in Iraq, the irony of this world antiwar symbol being the backdrop of the U.S. leaders making pro-war pronouncements, so they shrouded the Guernica with a blue curtain.

I think it’s our job, as journalists, as citizens of the world, to pull back that curtain and show the realities of war, of poverty, of inequality. It is certainly what is seen all over and why the people of Guernica in the Basque area of Spain care so much about reclaiming their history—and now, instead of being a symbol of war and destruction, of being a symbol of peace, culture and resistance.