GUERNICA/GERNIKA explores and memorializes the tragedy of September 11, 2001 through testimonies of the remaining few survivors of the Gernika bombing, sculptural pieces, and video art. The Gernika narratives, which I collected and edited over the course of five years, reflect on the universal feeling of loss, while also observing that our historic understanding of contemporary atrocity has been shaped as much by Picasso’s interpretation in his painting Guernica as by the actual bombing of the Basque village in 1937. Art and history are in constant dialogue.
In the months following the 9/11 attack, I thought constantly about Picasso’s great painting. I wanted to understand what it means to make art in the context of a memorial, in particular to make images memorializing atrocity. This began a five-year-project, during which I visited the village of Gernika more than 20 times. I learned that the survivors of the bombing, that killed more than 1600 innocent people and maimed another 900, had never been interviewed before. I videotaped their conversations and documented their memories and thoughts about the atrocity, sometimes using Picasso’s Guernica as a starting point.
The multi-media installation includes their testimonies, along with sculptural work and video installations. Testimonies in Spanish, English, Polish and now Mandarin emanate from eight bronze sculptures of old fashioned radio boxes upon which small sculptures—a bird, a hand, a foot, symbols from Guernica and from the 9/11 catastrophe—perch. The two-minute narratives are motion activated.
The installation was first shown at White Box in Chelsea and Chase Manhattan Plaza with the LMCC, and has been shown subsequently at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, La Paz, Bolivia in 2008, the Museum for Contemporary Art Krakow in 2012, and the Arthur M Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology, Beijing in 2013 to inaugurate their new Contemporary Art Gallery.