A group of activists and artists are re-making Picasso’s Guernica as a banner. Re-making Picasso’s Guernica is a collective project involving people from Amnesty International, Brighton Anti-Fascists, Gatwick Detainee Visitors Group, Migrant English Project, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, University of Brighton and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. We have worked together to recreate Picasso’s famous shapes.
In 1937, the town of Gernika in northern Spain and its civilian population was subjected to a ferocious aerial bombardment. The fascist leaders Mussolini and Hitler intervened in the Spanish Civil war in support of General Franco’s reactionary forces; they field tested their developing weapons programme on Gernika, destroying the entire town, indiscriminately killing men, women and children. Guernica was Picasso’s response of outrage.
The Art of Protest
We have been moved, as other artists and activists before us, to re-make Picasso’s Guernica so as to deploy the power of art against fascism, militarisation and war. As we cut, pinned and tacked, we discussed the historical correspondences between the mid 1930s, when Picasso created Guernica, and today. We recognised similarities between aerial bombardment in the Second World War and the present use of drones; between old and new fascisms; between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
The Re-making of Picasso’s Guernica brings together artists, activists and communities to share the skills of making and the experiences of countering fascism and militarism. The banner has been created in public sewings as a collective project involving many hundreds of people. Some have been experienced stitchers, some have never before used a needle and thread.
The banner has travelled to Manchester, India, Brixton and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Its first walk of protest was against the EDL marching in Brighton in April 2014. Since then, it has walked in protest at the EDO MBM Ltd weapons component factory in Moulscoomb Brighton, and at four protests during the summer of 2014, against the aerial bombardment of the civilian population of Gaza. From November 2014 until February 2015, it was exhibited at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, during the exhibition Conscience & Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War. It appeared on the Level, Brighton in April 2015 as part of the Levelling Out Racism celebration of diversity.
Our large-scale textile piece functions as a banner for exhibition and actions. It is both a work of art and an act of protest.