Chilcot, Iraq and Guernica

On the 6 July 2016 the Chilcot report was published. This inquiry focused on the UK’s involvement in the 2003 Iraq invasion, took seven years to compile and reached 2.6 million words in length. Media attention was largely focused on the reports criticism of then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s actions and involvement in the war. On the 26 July 2016 Guardian reporter Louise Kettle summarised five important findings featured in the inquiry that could have been over looked due to all the attention focused on Blair. One of which attended to the fact that the number of civilians injured and killed in the conflict was not recorded. The report concludes more time was seemingly spent by governmental departments in Whitehall arguing who should be responsible for compiling the figures than actually tracking the number of civilian casualties. The absence of a conscientious effort to record accurate details of civilians effected by the conflict demonstrates a lack of accountability by the UK.

Activism and Picasso’s Guernica

A common thread found in all four of the Guernica remakings featured in this research, 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) uses the Rockefeller Guernica Tapestry to contest the 2003 US led Iraq invasion and the Afghanistan conflict. To find out more about the other remakings of Guernica researched please see: About Guernica Remakings

Courtesy of the artist and Whitechapel Gallery Archive. Photograph by Patrick Lears.
Courtesy of the artist and Whitechapel Gallery Archive. Photograph by Patrick Lears.
Courtesy of the artist and Whitechapel Gallery Archive. Photograph by Patrick Lears.
Courtesy of the artist and Whitechapel Gallery Archive. Photograph by Patrick Lears.

Guernica Remakings Videos

In the first of the three research videos on Goshka Macuga’s The Nature of the Beast posted below, the relationship between the Rockefeller Tapestry of Guernica and the Second Iraq war is explored. For on the 5th February 2003 US Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered his fateful speech to the U.N. Security Council on weapons of mass destruction, signaling the invasion of Iraq; significantly the Tapestry that is on permanent loan to the UN Headquarters in New York was covered up in advance of this speech with a blue curtain. When a diplomat was asked why the Tapestry of Guernica had been covered up he was quoted as saying in The Washington Times (3 Feb. 2003):

“It would not be an appropriate background if the ambassador of the United States at the U.N., John Negroponte, or Colin Powell, talk about war surrounded with women, children and animals shouting with horror and showing the suffering of the bombings.”[1]

This literal cover up of the Tapestry in 2003, 66 years after Pablo Picasso’s original painted creation, conveys Guernica’s ongoing power and extraordinary capacity to signify the suffering of many civilian populations: from the Spanish Civil War to the Second Iraq invasion and beyond.

[1] Betsy Pisik, “U.N. Report: The Picasso Cover-up,” The Washington Times (3 Feb 2003).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*