Report of discssion: The Fine Art of Peacemaking “Aesthetics of War”

Both activists and artists are concerned about the world and engaged in social matters, but they are not often connected in their thoughts and visions for a better future. The Fine Art of Peacemaking is an encounter between those two fields. For this session we invited the artist Olphaert den Otter and Chechnyan human rights lawyer Oleg Khabibrakhmanov.

GuantanamoWe started this evening with the work of Olphaert den Otter. He makes paintings out of photographs from newspapers but makes them more bright and colorful. This attracts the viewers to take a closer look and think about the events in the painting. This is a picture from Guantanamo Bay for example. In the photograph he couldn’t see what kind of flowers were covering the fence, but he decided they had to be passionflowers.

Using paintings of Syrian buildings,  he explained the difference between essential beauty and natural beauty. Ruins for example have a natural beauty, made by the law of nature. New shiny buildings with precise proportions possess a form of essential beauty.

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This explanation was a good introduction to the topic of Oleg Khabibrakhmanov’s
story, who told us about the beauty of glass-towers, brand new asphalt and mosques with golden domes which now cover up the horror of two wars in Chechnya, which left one-fifth of the population dead.

Oleg is a human rights lawyer, working for an organization against torture. Although the war ended ten years ago, the situation is nothing but peaceful. People who are critical towards Putin or to the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov are often subjected to imprisonment and torture. The audience was wondering whether protest actions, like the ones organized by Pussy Riot in Russia, are also happening in Chechnya. Oleg responded by saying that in Chechnya art is allowed, but not political art. In Russia political artists are brought to court, but in Chechnya, people tend to just disappear, without anyone knowing what happened to them. There is no rule of raw.

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It was a very interesting evening with many questions from the audience, both about Olphaert’s work and the message of his art and about Oleg’s fight for human rights in Chechnya. People were especially interested in Oleg’s views of the future. Because of the strong oppression he is very pessimistic about the chances of Chechnyans  striving for change. Interestingly, he is in favor of the EU sanctions against the Russian Federation. He said Russia has to swallow a bitter pill, but that it is the only way to make the Russians understand what is happening to other people in their country. We were inspired by his last suggestion that perhaps we could arrange an exchange of artists from his region and other areas in Europe.

Read more about our other art events:
– Exhibition The Survivors
– Concert Op Doortocht

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March 24 : Fine Art of Peacemaking – The Aesthetics of War

145 aarde 13-8-2013On the 24th of March, The Hague Peace Projects together with NEST organizes a public discussion themed: “The Fine Art of Peacemaking” (“Vrede is geen Kunst?”). We will invite representatives from two worlds: on the one hand the world of professional art and on the other the world of peace activism. Both activists and many artists are concerned about the world and the society we live in. But not very often do they meet each other to exchange and discuss their views. This meeting will therefore provide an opportunity for the audience to delve into the differences and connections between both worlds.

The theme of this 3rd Fine Art of Peacemaking event is “The Aesthetics of War”: War and beauty have a troubled relationship. Usually war is ugly. But war can also be presented as something beautiful in order to hide the dark episodes of history. Advanced weaponry often looks shiny, strong and powerful. Beauty can be used to cover up the destruction of war, for example when beautiful cities are built on ruins and when heroic stories are made out of the horror of reality. How do artists play with this esthetics, and how could the image of warfare become more realistic?

Chechnya 1The meeting will begin with a presentation of both the work of the artist and a presentation of the work of the peace activist. The first speaker is Oleg Khabibrakhmanov, Chechnyan Human Rights lawyer working for the committee against torture. He is in The Netherlands as a guest of the Movies that Matter Film Festival (18-26 March) and will speak about the way Chechnya is dealing with it’s past of two wars and the way beauty is playing a role in this.

The second speaker is Olphaert den OtterAlthough using an ancient technique in painting (egg tempera) his work is modern on behalf of its content. Feelings of discomfort concerning modern society intermingle with views in other – primitive? – cultures and nature. Catastrophes bring the so called Sublime to modern man. All this is presented in a very precise manner. A timeless atmosphere brings the observer in the right position to be overwhelmed and alarmed at the same time. Spoiled by beauty or filled with fears: it is up to the beholder what happens.

 After their speeches there is room for questions on the themes described above and a debate with the audience.

When: 24 March
Time: 8 PM
Where: NESTDe Constant Rebecqueplein 20B, Den Haag

Entrance fee is 2 euro’s, including a drink. For registration and questions about the event, please contact: Jakob de Jonge,