Kathy LaTourrette: The Religion of Peace

The artwork I have chosen to represent art for peace is by the artist Jean Jullien.  After the Paris attacks, he created the Peace for Paris symbol which quickly went viral and became widely used throughout the world.  The symbol is simple, a peace sign with the inside Y replaced with the Eiffel tower, but his artwork is far more than a simple drawing. Art is something that can transcend boundaries because it doesn’t need a language to communicate between groups.  Jullien’s artwork became viral not because of its beauty but rather due to its ability to connect people.

Tragedy and injustice extend past human reason and understanding especially when they involve a massive loss of life in a violent fashion.   The Paris attacks were brutal and costly and much of the world reached out to Paris in its time in need.  Much of this support actually was in the form of artwork from the red, white and blue Facebook filter to the dozens of cartoons made to show their support for France. These efforts were successful because all of humanity can understand the picture of an Eiffel tower made of tears or a crying child holding the Eiffel tower or flags of the world comforting the French flag.  Jullien’s artwork used a universal symbol (the peace symbol) while incorporating the most well-known image of France. El Seed understands this universality because his artwork uses quotes from all over the world; he has used John Locke quotes, Nelson Mandela quotes, Quran quotes and more.[1]  His artwork may be harder to comprehend than Jullien’s, but upon translation, it becomes apparent that it is just as far-reaching.

Jullien’s artwork is not explicitly religious artwork in that he is not tied to a direct religion, but the practice of peace is something that is (or should be) seen in every religion.  After the Paris bombings, religions and religious leaders reached out to offer their support and help to France because they felt it was their humanitarian duty.  They feel the need to be there for victims and for a frightened country due to their empathy and their fear.  This fear coupled with a sense of duty is important also in reconciliation of the problem.  What people look for in the face of senseless violence is that justice will be served and the promise it will never happen again.  Religious leaders hold the power to make justice into a duty but also to work on a friendship and forgiveness plane.[2] They are also powerful in a more political sense because they can work to rally the monetary and physical support a hurting country may need.  In peacebuilding, “reluctance to commit funds is surpassed only by reluctance to commit troops.”[3] Religious leaders have the ability to gather funds for NGOs and other nonprofits as well as missionaries and an ability to apply pressure to their government for aid.  Religious artwork can be a first step in finding a sense of peace and friendship between those affected and those simply looking on.  It can offer a sense of peace and community because the artwork itself is promoting it.  Artwork creates common ground between parties which paves the way for friendship and healing.  This proposal is similar to the “Search for Common Ground” group which works to end violent conflict and create sustainable peace.[4]  This group works to create dialogue and sense of community between groups in order to break down barriers.  Peace is about encouraging groups to talk to each other and to see each other as people rather than “other.”  Art work can do this because people can see the beauty in artwork no matter who made it or where it comes from.

The outreach of art past cultural norms is something that can occur between any culture at any time.  Jullien’s was easier than most because he himself faced no persecution connected to his art since he was a French artist creating art primarily for French citizens and victims.  This fact does not mean that artwork is constrained within a culture; art is meant to appeal to a broad range of viewers regardless of who they are or where they came from.  “A Breeze from the Garden of Persia” hopes to “build a new cultural bridge between peoples who, as individuals, have had long connections,” through the “glimpse of the soul of the Iranian people [which] can help to deepen our understanding of each other. In the words of one of the artists, ‘We all live under the same sky.'”[5]  This art exhibit is purposefully combatting cultural misunderstandings by creating beautiful works of art that will hopefully reach all viewers regardless of their feelings toward Iran.  This is a form of religious art that is much more directly related to a religion, but it still connects back to the religion of peace.  Jullien’s art was made in response to tragedy, but artwork such as “A Breeze from the Garden of Persia” was as well. Paris was sudden and memorable but the continuous prejudice against Islam and Iran is another type of perpetual violence and conflict. War and fighting create primary and secondary wounds that are often seen to need reparations and other material goods in order to balance the pain of the victims, but what if art could work to fill that hole as well?[6]  Artwork that connects people from within or between countries creates peace because peace is made through friendship and understanding.

 

Daniel Philpott and Gerard Powers F., Strategies of Peace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Search for Common Ground. Last Modified 2016. https://www.sfcg.org/ .

Phyllis Mcintosh. “Iranian Art Exhibit Tours 10 U.S. Cities To Wide Acclaim.” IIP Digital. http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2003/09/20030923165252retsurbmraw0.4133722.html#ixzz45limQ26w

[1] Lecture 4/12

[2] Lecture 4/5

[3] Daniel Philpott and Gerard Powers F., Strategies of Peace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 125.

[4] Search for Common Ground. Last Modified 2016. https://www.sfcg.org/

[5] Phyllis Mcintosh. “Iranian Art Exhibit Tours 10 U.S. Cities To Wide Acclaim.” IIP Digital. http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2003/09/20030923165252retsurbmraw0.4133722.html#ixzz45limQ26w

[6] Lecture 4/5