The first Guernica Remakings exhibition was held at the University of Brighton Gallery from 31 July to 23 August 2017, this event encouraged reflection on the role and value of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica through artworks remade in its image. The voices of those involved in making artworks were heard alongside the curator and maker Dr Nicola Ashmore. An international range of 21st century collective remakings of Guernica were gathered together for the first time on display. The timing of the exhibition was significant for 2017 marked the eightieth anniversary of the bombing of the Basque town of Gernika in Spain and of Picasso’s anti-fascist painting, created in protest against that attack and others targeting the civilian population of Spain. It was 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 demonstrated 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 was particularly poignant in a period when the UK was 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.
Within the gallery three areas were dedicated to encourage participation. There was a workspace complete with table, chairs, jigsaw, paper, pens, and an exhibition trail which invited people to create their own Guernica. A pin board was erected to allow participants to put their Guernica’s up on the gallery wall – both were well used throughout the duration of the exhibition. Another pin board invited the general public to display posters and literature related to political activity they were involved in. This activity and engagement caused an expansion to the socio-political scope present in the gallery. The workspace was also open as a bookable meeting area. This prompted a residency in the gallery by London based poet Saradha Soobrayen – a collaboration between Saradha and Maude Casey a Brighton based writer and activist and a meeting of a local group who embarked on the collective creation of a protest banner.