Motivated by the experience of collectively remaking Pablo Picasso’s anti-fascist painting Guernica (1937) as a protest banner from 2012-2014, Dr Nicola Ashmore began researching collaborative remakings of Picasso’s Guernica. This research project consists of four 21st century remakings of Guernica which all reveal an important and on-going dialogue between art and activism, through community based collaborative practices.
A common thread found in all four remakings is the artistic opposition to governments who chose to sacrifice civilian populations to pursue their own agendas. Goshka Macuga’s The Nature of the Beast (2009- 2010) uses the Rockefeller Guernica tapestry to contest the 2003 US led Iraq invasion; The Keiskamma Guernica (2010) made by villagers from the Eastern Cape of South Africa challenges the government’s refusal to comprehensively respond to the HIV and AIDS epidemic, Erica Luckert’s theatrical production of Guernica (2012) witnesses Picasso receiving visitations from the ghosts of the victims of the aerial bombardment of April 1937, and Remaking Picasso’s Guernica (2013) a protest banner makes connections between historic and current government led aerial attacks on civilian populations through its presence at protests against the bombing of Gaza in the summer of 2014.
Guernica Remakings online
This project contributes to an international community of knowledge through the research project website: Guernicaremakings.com The online presence of this project benefits and connects otherwise disparate forms of art activism that use Guernica to express specific local and global political issues as exemplified through the four case study remakings featured, magnifying the impact of these formerly isolated actions. At its core the audience for this video blog are the makers of the remakings featured, the audience for the blog develops exponentially as entries are added to the blog and interacted with. The blog includes a series of three documentary videos on each of the Guernicas featured and invites guest authors, including makers, to contribute to the discussion reflecting upon the translation of Guernica.
Guernica Remakings is recognised internationally. It features on the website Rethinking Guernica created by the Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofia home to Picasso's Guernica and on Google Arts and Culture's Social Fabric story, Felting and Feeling to represent the Keiskamma Guernica (2010) in video.
Nicola received £10,000 funding for this project through the University of Brighton’s Rising Stars Scheme 2015 – 2017.
Guernica Remakings exhibition, July-August 2017
The 26th April 2017 marks the 80th year from the bombing of the town of Guernica that motivated Picasso to create his painting. In this important period of reflection this exhibition adds to the legacy of Picasso’s Guernica highlighting its on-going value and the role remaking’s play in opening up dialogue on the process of translating Guernica. The Guernica Remakings exhibition in Brighton, UK (31st Jul - 23rd Aug 2017) is also timed to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the exhibition of Picasso’s Guernica at the Exposition Internationale Paris, May – November 1937.
This exhibition demonstrates the transnational relevance of the messages held within the remakings of Guernica from the UK to South Africa, Syria to Canada and America to Iraq. This is particularly poignant in a period when the UK is withdrawing from Europe, in part, motivated it seems by fear around the freedom of movement of 'others'. Once again Guernica's humanitarian message becomes relevant calling for solidarity and compassion to transcend borders.
Funds have been gratefully received for this exhibition from the the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the University of Brighton.
Guernica Remakings, South Africa - research into the practice of cross-cultural translation through making 2016 - 2018
The research carried out on the four collective remakings of Picasso’s Guernica led Dr Nicola Ashmore to South Africa in July 2015 to interview those involved in the making of the textile artwork Keiskamma Guernica (2010). The Keiskamma Guernica (2010) reflects the original size and scale of Picasso’s Guernica. The Keiskamma Art Project located in Hamburg and Bodiam in the Eastern Cape of South Africa have remade Guernica three more times on a much smaller scale (2011, 2012, 2015).
Their translation of Picasso's iconic anti-fascist artwork transforms its geography, time and narrative from: Spain to South Africa, from the early 20th century to the beginning of the 21st century, from anti-fascism to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Guernica Remkaings, South Africa focuses on this process of cross-cultural translation through the commissioning of the creation of a fifth Keiskamma Guernica and asks why Guernica? Exploring what it is about this artwork that lends itself to being adapted. A series of twelve short documentary films will record the making of this artwork, these will be completed in 2018. Interviews with the makers record in their own voices their role in the making process and their insights regarding the visual translation of Guernica to comment on the HIV / AIDS crisis in South Africa. The makers will also be given the opportunity to express their ideas and needs for change, which will be included in the videos creating their vision of the future. The videos will be made available through the publication of the videos online through the research project website: Guernicaremakings.com, via a dedicated channel on Vimeo (Guernica Remakings), You Tube and the University of Brighton repository.
Dr Nicola Ashmore received funding for this project through the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Translating Cultures and Care for the Future International Development call funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund, 2016 - 2018.
The Keiskamma Guernicas
Diverse intangible and physical cultural heritages are cross-culturally communicated through the textiles pieces manifest in the materials and symbols used in the Keiskamma Guernica’s. These are distinct to the makers and the region influenced by the dominant Xhosa culture and the lived experiences of HIV/AIDS. Picasso’s shapes and symbols have been adapted and altered by the Keiskamma Art Project using iconography unique to the local area. The narrative departs from Picasso’s Guernica and focuses on the impact of the HIV/AIDS crisis to enable it to be better understood by those who view the Keiskamma Guernica. For example the mother holding her dying baby in Picasso’s Guernica is notably changed in the Keiskamma Guernica to show a mother holding her adult child. This indicates that in the height of the crisis, HIV/AIDS related illnesses directly effected adults in larger numbers than infants. Within this research project the creation of a fifth Keiskamma Guernica will be documented.
List of associated publications and conference contributions:
Ashmore, Nicola (2017) Guernica Remakings Nicola Ashmore, Brighton. ISBN 9781999741907
Ashmore, Nicola (2017) Guernica remakings: action, collaboration and thread Textile, 15 (4). pp. 376-395. ISSN 1475-9756
'Guernica Remakings Screening,' Intertextual Textiles: Parodies and Quotations in Cloth, 30 November - 2 December 2016, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg.
'Guernica Remakings Screening,' CAPPE Radical Interventions: Politics, Culture, Society, 7 - 9 September 2016, University of Brighton, Brighton.
'Guernica Remakings Screening,' Raphael Samuel History Centre, Radical Histories / Histories of Radicalism, 1-3 July 2016, Queen Mary University of London, London.
'International Remakings of Picasso's Guernica: Action, Collaboration and Creation'. Paper, Design History Society, "How we live,and How we might live": Design and the Spirit of Critical Utopianism, 11-13 September 2015, California College of the Arts, San Francisco.
'Action, Collaboration and Creation: Remakings of Picasso's Guernica as an Antidote to Complicity.' Paper, Understanding Conflict: Forms and Legacies of Violence Research Cluster, Complicity Conference, 31 March - 1 April 2015, University of Brighton, Brighton.
Co-wrote with Megha Rajguru, 'Remaking Picasso's Guernica as a banner. A work of art; an act of protest.' Conference Proceedings published for: Subversive Stitch Revisited; The Politics of Cloth, 29-30 November 2013, London. Podcast: http://www.gold.ac.uk/podcasts/app/front/podcastsbyseries/35/20
Co-wrote with Megha Rajguru, 'Remaking Picasso's Guernica as a banner. A work of art; an act of protest,' Paper, Design History Society Conference, Design for War and Peace, 4-6 September 2014, University of Oxford, Oxford.