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Representation And Memory

The description or portrayal of an event in a particular way is its representation. people create representations to help them make sense of situations, diagrams, illustrations, instructions, problems, and solutions. And the way an event is represented to us gets registered in our memory. memory as a social construct is always as much about the past as it is about the present. It collects information exposed to it, to evaluate and compute it according to one’s understanding and the way it is represented and perceived. Conscious of the power of representation, routinely seek to control the framing of visual messages

This global history of war art and its creativity explores some of the ways artists have blended colors, textures, and patterns to depict wartime ideologies, practices, values, and symbols. It investigates not only artistic responses to war but the meaning of violence itself.

War is the most destructive activity known to humanity. Its purpose is to use violence – plunder, forced migration, wounding, starvation, and slaughter – to compel opponents to submit and surrender. 

Representations and reflections on war are legions. Artists have turned to oil and water paints, pencils and crayons, silk and wool, carved wood, photographic film, digital technologies, and blood. The mark of war has been imprinted on everything from stretched canvases to the fuselages of fighter planes. Cheap and easily reproduced woodcuts and stencils have proven essential to artists everywhere, but particularly to those with a political message to communicate to the masses.

For example, as a response to the “unspeakably difficult years” of World War I, Käthe Kollwitz began working on Krieg in 1919 after concluding that a woodcut was the appropriate means of expression. Her seven woodcuts make the sorrowful voices of those left behind in the war visible—mothers, widows, and children.

Looking forward to another work, the war paintingGuernica is Picasso’s distressing illustration of the terrors that occurred after the Nazi bombing of Guernica, Spain. By taking a close look at the painting, you can see a mother mourning her dead infant, several severed limbs scattered throughout, and a bull, a symbol of Spain’s strength through war. It shows the horror and the turmoils of the war.

Looking forward to an example of a sculpture by Antoine Bourdelle, La France first created in 1922, depicts a personified version of France as the Greek goddess of wisdom and war, Pallas Athene, looking out for America. It reimagines when America entered the war in 1917 to help its allies. Bourdelle called it his greatest masterpiece. Since, the sculpture has been recast for display several times, most famously in Boston and Paris. Memorials such as these often became public monuments that were accessible and notable to all. They continue to carry out their purpose to remind us of the tragedies of war.

Another response to tackle the horrors and also to circulate information and the conditions of the people, place and events was through writings. Literature became a common way to approach the reality of life, whether to express dissent against it or to simply understand it. Women and men turned to write as a means of emotional outlet. Chaos, disillusionment, and hopelessness among people created several writers who chose to write their hearts out against totalitarianism and its effect on society. For example, George Orwell and Harold Pinter, both authors, were against the oppression staged by the state on its people. The entire novel 1984 is based on a totalitarian state’s oppressive measures to keep its people, slaves. It is a mockery of the idea of nationalism. The tactics employed by the state to keep the flame of nationalism burning are not so far fetched. It can be seen in present-day politics as well. All forms of independent thinking and expression are curtailed. This idea is dealt with in the works of both authors. Pinter’s prime memories of evacuation as recorded by Billington, are of loneliness, bewilderment, separation, and loss: themes that recur in all his works.The most formative aspect of the whole evacuation experience was a loss of identity and the sense of living in some strange in-between world: an emotional no man’s land. ‘There was,’ says Pinter, ‘no fixed sense of being…of being…at all.” The statement clearly shows the mental condition of the writer and how he feels to have lost himself in chaos, traumas and disillusionment and forgotten his real identity. 

Another eminent writer who looks beyond and looks through the emotional conditions of people in Virginia Woolf. Woolf thinks in an emotion shaped by an intricate sense of what it is to be human and what it is to understand another human being. Woolf’s work suggests that whilst emotion might be crucial to any understanding of the human, it also has the propensity to unsettle some of traditional humanism’s central tenets, such as the belief in the rationality and autonomy of the individual. In her writings, visual and auditory impressions are created by the fusion of stylistic virtuosity and intense lyricism. The poetic vision of Virginia Woolf’s novels is so intense that it elevates the ordinary and commonplace settings, even the war-time setting in most of her novels. She was highly aware of the mental and material realm of “reality. The narrative device of Stream of Consciousness echoes the amplification of methodical events. The narrative technique is developed from subjectivism. This technique exploits the elements of confusion in our conscious minds.

In the Stream of Consciousness novel, the writer describes the character’s inner life by combining memories, sensations, emotional condition, and feelings

The creative responses to the war is unclear, it is often assumed that artistic representations of combat represent its exemplary form and that it reached its peak in the nineteenth century. The ‘authenticity’ of combatant-artists is revered: the ability to say ‘I was there and so ‘this is what it looked like’ is powerful and is captured in the memory of the admirer of creativity. It instills the emotion of fear, horror, anxiety, futility, emotional distress, pain, and empathy. It describes to us the futility of war and the power of its destruction and how insignificant human life can become in a blink of an eye. It acquaints us with the horror, violence, destruction of homes and families, helps us understand their pain and suffering, and makes us sympathetic towards them. Art helps us in healing, promoting resilience, and incorporating the cultural capacity one needs. Its representation helps us acquaint ourselves with distress and makes us feel what “living in that time” must have been and imparts its vulnerability to us virtually, through the forms of creativity and remains imprinted in our memory for life.


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