“These weapons don’t exist anymore for killing, they have been brought into a monument. I think the introduction, through efforts like this, brings the awareness [of the horrors of war] up to the forefront. And so that effort, to me, is outstanding. Absolutely outstanding, the sheer thought which seems so simplistic, has such a powerful impact.”
S e n a t o r R o m e o D a l l a i re Gun Sculpture Opening Reception
United Nations Headquarter s NYC, U. S . A. 2001
The Art of Peacemaking — The Gun Sculpture, Canadian War Museum
As a Work of Art
The Art of Peacemaking — The Gun Sculpture is a contemporary example of the type of inspiration that motivated artists of the First and Second World Wars. The paintings the Canadian War Museum recently displayed in its powerful art exhibition Canvas of War: Masterpieces from the Canadian War Museum showed how artists successfully balanced the real achievements of Canadians in two world wars with the human tragedy that was the legacy of those wars. Half a century later, in an era characterized by mass genocide and murderous civil war, The Art of Peacemaking — The Gun Sculpture provides a focus for Canada’s post-war achievements in global peacekeeping and peacemaking — especially in the areas of landmine control and weapons decommissioning.
People around the world continue to live with the fear of potential mass destruction — ironically born of humanity’s own creative abilities. Nuclear disarmament treaties and missile shields underline a modern dichotomy: while governments and peoples across the globe are capable of creating powerful weapons, they also strive to contain the inherent destructive ability of those weapons.
The aim of this installation by Edmonton artists Sandra Bromley and Wallis Kendal is to promote peace and end world violence. The Gun Sculpture is the central piece in the installation. It underlines, in particular, humanity’s duplicity in that it is both an artwork of terrible beauty and a horrific assemblage of weapons designed to kill. The Gun Sculpture is made of more than 7,000 deactivated weapons — which have thus lost their ability to kill and maim — donated by police forces, armies, peace initiatives and communities around the world. The weapons have been welded together in the shape of a prison cell or tomb measuring 3.5 x 2.5 x 3.0 metres and weighing five tonnes. While the sculpture’s primary message is that violence can be contained through an act of human will, it also underlines the remarkable capacity of art to speak to human concerns and fears in a meaningful way. Shown earlier at the Edmonton Art Gallery, at Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany, and in the Centennial Exhibition of the Nobel Peace Prize in Seoul, Korea, The Art of Peacemaking — The Gun Sculpture has been described as “Canada’s most important message.”
Laura Brandon, Canadian War Museum, Curator of War Art
.....By using the visual and emotional appeal of art and artifacts to help stimulate visitor thinking, The Art of Peacemaking — The Gun Sculpture follows practices that are inherently familiar to museums. Marrying these three-dimensional objects to emotional stories and personal reflections, it seeks to affect visitors with an appreciation of just how immediate and important the subject of violence and war can be. Like a museum, The Gun Sculpture uses collections, or physical objects, to promote ideas; like many museums, it also addresses its messages especially, and specifically, to Canada’s youth.
This visually striking presentation works both as art and as a discussion point, in ways similar to any good exhibition. Its clear and easily-recognized message of the necessity of dialogue and new approaches in resolving human conflict rests on both artifacts and stories. Whether one’s point of engagement with The Art of Peacemaking — The Gun Sculpture is arms control, weapons proliferation, or international law, or issues such as human security, human rights, and one’s personal experience of violence, The Gun Sculpture encourages a discussion that extends beyond either the personal or the national level of analysis. Indeed, like many good exhibitions, it is international in scope, forcing visitors to see highly-personal vignettes in much broader perspective. It is also timeless, reminding visitors that humanity has always been the first, and most important, victim of war.
Dean Oliver, Canadian War Museum, Senior Historian
COMMENTS-from the (public)
“Hopefully with the help of peace makers worldwide my country will be able to contribute, in a big way, to an even larger sculpture”
“Why does it take wars to realize our humanity? Why does it take death to humble our spirits? Why are the people of the world so careless with the lives, hearts and minds of our brothers and sisters? When we learn to love and accept ourselves, Realize our humanity and accept our fate, only then will we accept that of others and end world hate.”
Anon, (Littleton, Colorado, USA)
“The thoughts that came to our minds as my friend and I entered the Canada Pavilion is impossible to put into words. “There is something that is stronger than all the armies of the world, an idea whose time has come.” It is hardly possible to express better, what we felt and thought. Often ‘The love of world’ the only moment, which again shows us that though we may have the world in our hand, we must watch very carefully that our hand will not be chopped off.
Why do we, who can do so little, understand these facts so clearly, while those who do have influence simply debate and discus, but do so little. It is obvious that a donation produces more than a well-meaning word. However I expect in the future, and today, in other words here and now, that mankind become hopeful and, at long last, will take each others hand and will again use the world in such a way as the world has gifted to us.
How does the beautiful saying go, we do not own the world, it is provided for our use, and we should always keep in mind that we will have to return it some day, but please, in the same condition as it was provided to us in the first place. Thank you once more for your contribution and may mankind finally wake up take their hands out of their laps, join hands to return to the world the beauty, multiplicity and uniqueness that it deserves.”
Translated from German, Expo 2000 Frank Köhler