"The Art of Un-War" presents a profound exploration into the life and socially engaged art of Krzysztof Wodiczko, spanning over five decades. Wodiczko's dedication to condemning militarization and war is evident in his powerful public interventions, disrupting the glorification of aggression and challenging our indifference towards war, xenophobia, and displacement. This documentary showcases Wodiczko's artistic interventions as exemplars of art's transformative potential for social change and healing.
The film delves into Wodiczko's social practice, which combines art and technology as critical design practices to shed light on marginalized social communities and confront cultural issues that often go unnoticed. Through his thought-provoking public art interventions, Wodiczko's projects becomes an agent of social change, offering healing while challenging the glorification of state-sanctioned aggression. The film demonstrates how these interventions disrupt public complacency, highlighting the disruptive potential of art.
One of the featured works in the film is the Abraham Lincoln War Veteran Projection in Union Square, NYC, where Wodiczko projects the voices and images of war veterans suffering from PTSD onto the Lincoln statue. The narratives of these veterans, alongside Wodiczko's own story of trauma, intertwine, becoming a powerful vehicle for healing. Additionally, the film highlights other projects that amplify the voices of refugees from Iraq and North Africa, atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima, homeless individuals in New York, and war veterans from France.
The trajectory of Wodiczko's life unfolds throughout the documentary, from his birth during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in World War II to his expulsion from Poland by the communist regime and his present-day endeavors. This exploration of the Polish-born artist's life and art focuses on the recurring themes of war and trauma that have shaped his five-decade-long career. Wodiczko's public projections emerge as poignant responses to the injustices and horrors of war.
The film traces the evolution of Wodiczko's political art, from his early interventions in Warsaw in 1968 as a response to censorship to one of his most ambitious projects, which becomes a central focal point of the documentary. This project entails a radical proposal to transform Paris' Arc De Triomphe war monument into a site for peace-building research and activism. By encasing the monument in scaffolding and transforming it into its antithesis, Wodiczko challenges its glorification of war and distorted historical narratives.