Peter Noever


The war is over. Soon it will be: another Balkan war is over, the fourth in the most recent past, if the media count is correct. And as the media have taken over the count and the recounting, I need not, will not, cannot speak.

As all words have been said, said and repeated to the point of incomprehensibility – genocide and collateral damage, guilt and humanitarian catastrophe, democracy and truth –, I have no words any more. But they have been said as it is usual in times of war; they have destroyed and become worn, and they could not even capture, let alone make clear what this war is. They conveyed nothing of the terrible lot of the expellees from Kosovo, nothing of the dying of Serbian civilians who were unfortunate enough to ride a bus at the wrong time and on the wrong bridge. All this has been passed over in a loud and wordy silence, and what was said after all was verbiage such as “favorable weather conditions”: what was favorable in this war was what was favorable to bombing.

This war has destroyed more than bridges, houses, churches, embassies. This war has shattered Europe’s cultural self-understanding; an understanding that was only about to begin to realize what the turnabout of 1989 could mean for the East and the West in terms of culture. The European intellectuals felt urged to take sides, but with what? With an aggression that was a dubious venture by standards of international law? With a state that instigates ethnic expulsions? Former principles all of a sudden seem to have become meaningless: as if the peace movement, once so strong, could only champion peace in times of peace. As good as nothing was to be heard from the cultural preservationists. The ecology movement, one may assume, will take to vociferous protesting only when the poisonous emissions from bombed-out refineries and chemical plants reach the countries spared by the war.

This war is over, presumably and for now: for instead of the foundation stone of peaceful development, of human coexistence in humane conditions, political mines have been laid, of which one or the other is sure to go off sooner or later: in Albania? In Macedonia? In Montenegro? Or again in Yugoslavia or Kosovo?
While the war was still going on, we decided, in view of the escalation of violence, to invite artists to design posters against war and to bring them together in the exhibition STOP THE VIOLENCE!!!. The artists invited come from the war-struck regions as well as from other European countries and the USA, and it is not without reason that the medium of the poster was chosen as the common artistic base: it is a popular medium, graphic in every sense of the word, a medium that makes, and represents, an intervention; an intervention which shall not and cannot be confined to one place: following the first presentation, the exhibition will be shown in several other cities that had to do with the war immediately, in Belgrade, Tirana, Sarajevo, Budapest or Berlin; moreover, the exhibition will be shown on the Net, on the website of “Period After”, a network for the advancement of integrative, multiethnic and democratic developments in connection with the Balkan conflicts.

Has art ever been able to avert war?

Certainly not; and the war just ended has once more evidenced its poor capacity for sheer self-protection. To go on making art in spite of all, to go on exhibiting art, to go on hoping that art may change or stop anything therefore is a somewhat preposterous effort. But – do we really have a choice?