Art and the Great War. Transformations of Artistic Languages - Discussion Panel



ms2, Ogrodowa 19, audio-visual room


24th November 2018, Saturday, 04.30 p.m.

What was the role of the war trauma in the transformation of artistic and literary languages? -   Marek Bartelik (US), Oksana Dudko (UA) and Charlotte de Mille (UK) will attempt to answer this question while participating in a panel discussion on the next day of the opening of exhibition titled The Great War. The discussion panel, which we invite everybody to, will be led by Paweł Polit. It will be preceded by the curator-guided tour of the exhibition.

In their presentations, the panellists will be discussing, among other topics, the importance of post-traumatic effects on the development of new poetics in modern literature (Charlotte de Mille), the influence of refugee experiences on building the avant-garde attitudes (Marek Bartelik), the pressure of propaganda rhetoric on the art of the war period (Oksana Dudko). The meeting will also be an opportunity to focuse on the differences between the ways of commemorating the war in the Eastern versus Western context - displaying the whole spectrum of attitudes, from coming to terms with experiencing trauma to the repression of it.

The discussion will be simultaneously translated from English into Polish.

Charlotte de Mille, Babinski, Breton, Woolf: Trauma as a Trans 1916-1924

It is customary to associate surrealist experiments with dreams, hypnosis and ‘the game of associations’ on the one hand, and the stream of consciousness technique novels on the other, both being a form of creative ‘echo’ of advances in psychiatry and psychoanalysis. In my presentation, I would like to discuss the importance of some way of grasping one’s war trauma for the literary methods used in the poem by André Breton Le Soldat (1916) and in Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway (1924). The introduction to the series of publications bearing the title Military Medical Manuals contained a bitter note about the "mass of clinical material" for medical research obtained as a result of the war atrocities.  The book of Joseph Babinski and Jules Froment published in this series Hysteria or Pithiatism and Reflex Nervous Disorders in the Neurology of War (1917) exerted a profound influence on the way of diagnosing. Unless it can be proved that Woolf knew Babinski's work, she certainly derived inspiration from the way in which British medicine understood mental illness. She began working on her novel shortly after the British Parliament initiated a study of war trauma in 1920. Breton, as a medical student, worked with Babinski from September to December 1917. It was the key, though forgotten today, period for the development of his work.

Dr Charlotte de Mille lectures at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and at the University of Sussex in Bristol. She is a curator of the music programme at The Courtauld Gallery. Her research concerns the borderland of painting, music and philosophy in Europe in the years:  1848-1950; she is also an author of numerous publications in this field. She has worked as an editor of the book Music and Modernism (2011) and co-editor (with John Mullarkey) of the book Bergson and the Art of Immanence (2015).

Marek Bartelik, To Silence the Silence. Polish  Artists as Victims of the Great War 

The list of victims of the Great War often includes the names of Franz Marc, August Macke, Umberto Boccioni, Antonio Saint’Elia, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, and Isaac Rosenberg. Less frequently in standard books on art history, among the tragic victims of war we can find refugee artists who, as in the case of the rest of the post-war society and in the words of Giorgio Agamben, "for the first time appeared as a mass phenomenon at the end of World War I, when the collapse of Russian, Austrian, and Ottoman empires, and the new order created by the peace treaties profoundly upset the demographic and territorial structure of Central and Eastern Europe." 

Dada, Surrealism, Constructivism, magical realism - these are just a few of the list of new isms, which quickly won the hearts of  die-hard followers in Europe after the Great War among the artists-emigrants - also (although not always,  exemplified by the Kapists). In retrospect, these transformations were emphasized by Harold Rosenberg: "Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism had renounced continuity with the art from the past in favour of protest and of 'research' into the social and psychic peculiarities of the modern world. By the 1930s, advanced artists were in flight from Central Europe and were trying to form combinations against war and fascism."

Agamben, referring to Hanna Arendt's (1943) essay entitled We Refugees, goes on to say: "Refugees expelled from one country to the next represent the avant-garde of their people." My paper narrows this observation to the fate of four Polish avant-garde groups: Formists, Poznań Expressionists, Dada-futurists, and Jung Idysz's [Young Yiddish] Group, placing them in the context of the emigration of its numerous members after the Great War - in order to look at them from the perspective of a trauma which significantly influenced the choice of their artistic language. At the same time, the "deafness" referred to in the title of this presentation suggests the complex acclimatization process that an immigrant goes through in a new country.

Dr Marek Bartelik is an art historian, art critic, curator, and poet, settled in New York from the mid-1980s. He holds a PhD in Art History from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York; author of Early Polish Modern Art: Unity in Multiplicity (Manchester University Press, 2005); a  longtime collaborator of Artforum International; a former chairman of the American section of AICA-USA (2006-2011) and the world section of this organization (2011-2017). Currently, he is preparing a book for Tobi on Aegina, which is a kind of diary written last summer on the island of Aegina in the company of a young dog, Tobi, which includes broader reflections on the eternity of temples, olive groves, Greek gods, Diogenes ... and love for dogs.

Oksana Dudko, Riflemen Art. War, Propaganda, and Popular Patriotism

The presentation will concern the propaganda dimension of Ukrainian art during the First World War, and in particular its impact on the conduct of soldiers, including those from the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen battalion. I will pay particular attention to the relationship between patriotic art, call to arms and the notion of masculinity. I will also deal with the way of representing war and violence on the example of selected works. Focusing on two art exhibitions related to the activity of Riflemen (1918, 1934), I will discuss the issue of the remembrance of war in the Ukrainian post-war community in Poland.

Oksana Dudko is a PhD student at the University of Toronto, a researcher associated with the Centre of Urban History in Lviv, where she works on a project concerning urban culture, entertainment and artistic relations in the 1910s and 1920s. She graduated in history from Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. She has written, inter alia, an article entitled Between Art, Politics, and Survival: Theatre Life in Occupied Lviv (1914-1915), "Ukraina Moderna", 2016.

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