What is the power of art against violence? Is there a language capable of bearing the immeasurable suffering that war brings?
From 24 of February 2022, when in the morning the Russian military attacked Ukrainian cities and towns, the prospect of an unjust and unprovoked war in Europe was very much a brutal reality. The Putin regime has brought back the worst of history’s memories to Europe making them all too present once more.
Indiscriminate bombings, the killing of civilians, rapes, kidnapping of children, plundering of villages, being shot in the back of the head, shattered vehicles- this is the incomplete repertoire of the Russian troops, a disgracefully growing subject for scrutiny of international bodies to find those responsible and hold them accountable.(…)
In Goya’s war series, the whole scenario was built on despair. When Picasso painted Guernica, obviously, he gave voice to the strongest of emotions. Before the masterpiece was finalized, he created dozens of drawings and sketches, small notes serving as a compilation of puzzles to picture the distress. However, the overwhelming feelings of helplessness, turned into an act of painting, started to nurture hope. Therefore, one must ask what is the potential of art when referring to the immensity of cruelty? What agency and purpose do images have?
After the outbreak of full-scale war, dozens of artists immediately released their reaction to the real-time events to cast a vote against these atrocities that often words are insufficient to describe. They used the means available to them – the language of art – to condemn brutality, reject bestiality and oppose evil. Action is always better than inaction, and the artistic voices have the power to ensure that the crimes are not forgotten. No sacrifice will be missed. No evil will be ignored and left unaccounted for.
Andrzej Fogtt has painted the ‘series of Bucha’ as an immediate reaction. A voice of protest, of commentary. A sign that art has a power- as it does not leave us totally helpless. It enables us to keep something essential- the hope.
In an essay on war – ’The Iliad’ (1939), Simone Weil affirmed that violence turns anybody subjected to it into a ‘thing’. Regaining subjectivity as an eye-witness (through multiple images in our world oversaturated with images of barbarism) ia our moral obligation.
Susan Sontag in her last book ‘Regarding the Pain of Others’ (2003), documents how viewers are exposed to incredible burden of cruelty.
Somehow, a long time ago, our eyes have ceased to be innocent. This responsibility is not a handicap. It is our privilege. A prerogative which enables us to prove our legitimacy in the civilised world.
Justyna Napiorkowska, art historian and political scientist, PhD
WHAT HAPPENS: INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS
On September 23, a United Nations-appointed panel of independent experts released a statement concluding that Russian Federation forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, an announcement that follows an earlier U.S. Government assessment, released in March. In the 27 towns and settlements they visited, the UN-appointed panel saw the remnants of torture and executions and documented evidence of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, based on testimonies from brave survivors, government officials, and other witnesses. While inspecting mass graves, they also found that the Russian Federation perpetrated many of these atrocities against children and the elderly.USAID, https://www.usaid.gov/news-information/press-releases/sep-26-2022-statement-administrator-power-findings-independent-international-commission-inquiry-ukraine
The Human Rights Council set up the Commission to investigate alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, and related crimes in the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, with a view to ensuring accountability. On 12 May 2022, the Human Rights Council also requested the Commission to address events that took place in late February and March in four specific regions of Ukraine. Consequently, the Commission has, during this ten-day long visit to Ukraine given priority to Kyiv city, Bucha, Irpin, Kharkiv and Sumy.
UN Human Rights Opening statement: Press conference by the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine the conclusion of its first visit to Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine | OHCHR
UN Commission has found an array of war crimes, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have been committed in Ukraine
UN Human Rights UN Commission has found an array of war crimes, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have been committed in Ukraine | OHCHR
Amnesty International: Ukraine: further evidence of Russian war crimes in Bucha and other towns – new report: Ukraine: further evidence of Russian war crimes in Bucha and other towns – new report | Amnesty International UK