Guernica Remakings – where it all began

In 2012 I became part of a collective of artists, activists and academics in Brighton, UK Remaking Picasso’s Guernica as a protest banner. Through this process I became really interested in finding out about others who had been moved to remake Guernica. I quickly found that many people had been motivated to recreate Picasso’s famous painting. My investigation focuses particularly on collective remakings in the 21st century.  I received funding from the University of Brighton in 2015 to develop this research project connecting activity in: America, Canada, France, India, Spain, South Africa and the UK.

So far four remakings of Guernica are featured in including three large-scale textiles pieces. These are the Rockefeller Guernica tapestry (1955) made in France but on long-term loan to the UN headquarters in New York; this tapestry was used in Goshka Macuga’s exhibition The Nature of the Beast (2009) at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, UK; the Keiskamma Guernica (2010) created in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, and the Remaking of Picasso’s Guernica as a banner (2012-14) created in the UK and India. A remaking of Guernica as an archive of political activity in the East End of London is also present. This archive was developed throughout the one-year duration of Goshka Macuga’s exhibition The Nature of the Beast (2009 – 10) through the documentation of the use of the meeting space created in the gallery. Also included in this research is a remaking of Guernica (2011-12) as a theatrical production, written by Canadian playwright Erika Luckert.

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In June 2015 I interviewed Nayia Yiakoumaki the Curator of the Whitechapel Gallery Archive about her involvement in Goshka Macuga’s exhibition The Nature of the Beast (2009 – 10). Nayia’s own doctoral research focused on Macuga’s use of the archive in the exhibition. Notably new connections were found between material held in the Whitechapel Archive, the Norman King collection donated in the 1990s is a case in point. This archive includes documents from political workshops run in the East End of London in the 1930s. These were linked to the display of Picasso’s Guernica at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1939 to raise funds, solidarity and awareness of the atrocities being committed in the Spanish Civil War. This connection was shown in The Nature of the Beast (2009 – 10) exhibition by displaying the archival material in adjacent display cases that made up the meeting table. The meeting table was located in the centre of the room with the Guernica Tapestry (1955) hung in the background.

Where ever possible I took the banner with me when meeting those involved in Guernica remakings. The banners presence really fostered a feeling of exchange and sharing between makers.

Nicola Ashmore