The idea that human violence will one day disappear is one of the greatest promises of modern times – and a recurrent theme in art. Has this hope turned out to be an illusion in light of the war and turmoil all over the world today?
An exhibit at the Berlin KW Institute for Contemporary Art called “Fire and Forget. On Violence” appears to maintain just that. It is senseless to hope for an end to violence or to want to conquer it with force. Violence is not an entity that one can simply do away with, it is always among us, hidden but omnipresent. Instead of fighting it, we have to avoid it or contain it.
In order to be able to contain violence, we first need to be aware of it. One example is the inherent violence of a very normal country border. On the one hand, walls and fences offer people security, but on the other they create sides and demarcate friends and enemies. Borders create division and exclusion — namely violence.
In Berlin, visitors to the exhibit are supposed to feel this first-hand. Before they enter the space they must wedge through the black turnstiles titled “Tourniquet,” created by the Ukrainian artist Daniil Galkin. Javier Téllez wants to show how arbitrarily borders are drawn and filmed a protest rally on the Mexico-U.S. border in which a man lets himself be shot out of a cannon over the fence on the border, landing softly in a net – the fence looks somewhat ludicrous under his elegantly flying body.
Video: Javier Telles’ cannon act.
In contrast, there is the nightmarish installation by the artists Roy Brand, Ori Scialom and Keren Yeala Golan. They built an apparatus in which a machine-driven needle scratches the Israeli boundary lines in the sand. With war, the occupied territories and illegal settlements the borders grow, and suddenly the metal slide is pulled back and all traces disappear. Nothing remains of the nation other than the desert. Then the fine needle begins its work again with cold precision.