Guernica Remakings explores remakings of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica in the 21st century and reveals an important and on-going dialogue between art and action, collaboration and creation. Art and design historian Dr Nicola Ashmore was inspired to carry out this research as a result of her involvement in collectively remaking Picasso’s Guernica as a protest banner. The experience of making the banner proved profoundly influential, impacting upon Ashmore’s research and provided a new appreciation of collective ways of working in support of political activism. In 2015, Ashmore conducted a series of trips to carry out archival research and interview people involved in collective remakings of Guernica. This resulted in the Guernica Remakings exhibition 2017.
The next phase of the research and touring of the Guernica Remakings exhibition was developed to coincide with the eightieth anniversary of the tour of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica to the UK in 1939. Two years in the making, the exhibition went on tour in 2019. The tour built upon connections that had come about through the banner project and the 2017 exhibition and was a great opportunity to develop the collaborative nature of the project.
In 2022 the Guernica Remakings exhibition was re-designed in a “pop up format” to be child-friendly and transportable. The project collaborated with Kids’ Guernica, the Keiskamma Art Project and NGO Masifunde in South Africa to facilitate two peace painting workshops, Learning Labs and pop-up exhibitions which enabled children to express their hopes and dreams through collaborative art practice and artistic engagement.
Guernica Remakings an International Phenomena
This research project brings together remakings of Picasso’s Guernica connecting activity in: America, Canada, France, Mauritius, Portugal, Spain, South Africa and the UK and India. The local and global politics manifested in these numerous remakings is heard through the voices of the project participants through the videos and reflections published on this website. Issues that are explored throughout this website include: the translation of Picasso’s Guernica; using art as activism; witnessing pain and distress; the value and currency of Guernica in the 21st century; the power of art and imagination; and the value of art in education.
Activism and Picasso’s Guernica
Since the painting’s completion in 1937, Guernica has been reproduced and reworked many times. This research project explores in-depth four remakings: Goshka Macuga’s The Nature of the Beast (2009-2010); The Keiskamma Guernica (2010) and (2017), Guernica, a play (2011 – 2012) and the Remaking of Picasso’s Guernica as a protest banner (2012 – 2014). 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 uses the Rockefeller Guernica tapestry to contest the 2003 US led Iraq invasion and military involvement in Afghanistan. The Keiskamma Guernica’s challenge the South African government’s refusal to comprehensively respond to the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Canadian play write Erika Luckert’s theatrical production of Guernica returns our attention to those that were killed on the day the market town of Guernica was bombed by the fascist forces of Europe; the play in many ways functions as an antidote to the numbness people feel when lives lost are reduced to a number – a statistic on the news. Remaking of Picasso’s Guernica as a protest banner makes connections between historic and current government led aerial attacks on civilian populations through its presence at protests it calls for governments to stop bombing civilians and to open the borders to help those escaping conflicts.
The remakings of Guernica addressed reveal an important dialogue between art and activism through community based collaborative practices. They also demonstrate the on-going global use of Guernica as a form of political action, continuing into the 21st century.
This website brings together the different phases of the research work. Working with local and international artists, collectives, libraries, peace projects, charities and NGOs the research explores the role of art as an empowering force. Pablo Picasso said, “every act of creation is first an act of destruction”. Picasso’s Guernica has offered important opportunities for linking art and activism. All the remakings featured across this website have created messages through their reiteration, interpretation or adaptation of motifs from the original.