Krzysztof Wodiczko: The Art Of Un-War

An instigator for social change, Krzysztof Wodiczko’s powerful public artistic interventions create healing for PTSD sufferers while challenging the public's complacency towards war, xenophobia and displacement.
by
Year Released
2022
Film Length(s)
61 mins
Closed captioning available
Remote video URL

Introduction

The Art Of Un-War follows artist Krzysztof Wodiczko who has dealt extensively with trauma and healing in his public projections which honor people's stories of pain, loss, and perseverance. Renowned for his large-scale slide and video projections on architectural facades and monuments, Wodiczko is an instigator for social change. His powerful public art interventions offer healing while calling attention to the valorization of state-sanctioned aggression. The film focuses on Wodiczko's five decades plus social practice which combines art and technology as critical design practices to highlight marginal social communities and address cultural issues that are often overlooked. Throughout the film, the artist’s powerful interventions become examples of how art can be used to disrupt public complacency.

"The Polish artist has devoted his career to work that calls attention to the inhumanity of war, imploring us to dismantle and change our perceptions of human conflict so we can drive toward peace—a concept he calls “Un-War.” Delving into Wodiczko’s extensive array of stirring installations as well as his own past traumas—which include his having been born in 1943 Warsaw, two days before the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, as well as growing up in a Communist Poland still feeling the tragic aftereffects of World War II—the film also features interviews with fellow artists and activists in its pursuit of the heart and soul of a major artist whose work will, unfortunately, never be irrelevant." New York Jewish Film Festival , 2023

Featured review

“Narrated by the artist himself, The Art of Un-War intimately displays Wodiczko’s compelling journey to examine war monuments throughout the world. This educational documentary would work well in academic libraries for contemporary art students, art history students, and architecture students.“
Kevin Hall
Video Librarian

Synopsis

The work of artist Krzysztof Wodiczko focuses on the effects of violence and the healing power of public discourse. The Art Of Un-War follows Wodiczko, renowned for his large-scale slide and video projections on architectural facades and monuments. The film features works that touch upon war trauma, displacement, history and memory, and communication in the public sphere, the major themes from Wodiczko's oeuvre which spans over five decades.

The film focuses on Wodiczko's social practice which combines art and technology as critical design practices to highlight marginal social communities and address cultural issues that are often overlooked. An instigator for social change, many of Wodiczko’s powerful public art interventions offer healing while disrupting the valorization of state-sanctioned aggression. Throughout the film, the artist’s powerful interventions become examples of how art can be used to disrupt public complacency.

Featured are some of Wodiczko's most timely works such as the Abraham Lincoln War Veteran Projection in Union Square, NYC, where Wodiczko projects the voices and images of war veterans who suffer from PTSD, onto the Lincoln statue. Throughout the film the veterans' stories of loss, displacement, abuse, and PTSD combined with Wodiczko’s own story of trauma emerge in tandem as the projects become a vehicle for healing. Other projects in the film feature refugees from Iraq, and North Africa, Atomic Bomb survivors in Hiroshima, homeless people from New York, and war veterans from France.

Wodiczko’s trajectory unfolds from his birth in the midst of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during World War II, to his expulsion from Poland by the communist regime, to today. This in-depth exploration into the life and art of the Polish-born artist focuses on the recurring themes of war and trauma in his work throughout his five decades career. Wodiczko's public projections become impactful responses to the inequities and horrors of war and injustice.

The evolution of Wodiczko’s political art unfolds throughout the film from his first intervention created in Warsaw in 1968 in response to censorship, to one of his most ambitious projects and a focal point of the film - a radical proposal to transform Paris’ Arc De Triomphe war monument into a site for peace-building research and activism. Wodiczko counters the monument’s glorification of war and portrayal of distorted histories by constructing scaffolding around the Arc De Triomphe and transforming it into its complete antithesis.

The Art of Un-War has been used widely by educators in the following fields: Art, Trauma, Activism, Cinema, Media, Design and Architecture, War, Peace and Conflict Studies, International Relations, Anthropology, Sociology, Social Practice Art, and Socially Engaged Art. Wodiczko's powerful public projections he's created over the past five decades have been explored by educators and in art history books for decades. The Art of Un-War is a great tool that ignites insightful conversations in the classrooms using art and to create social change about healing the scars of violence.

Reviews

"The Art of Un-War was the perfect addition to my university class module on leveraging tools for beneficial social change, part of my international studies curriculum. It provoked energetic discussion about the role of art and artists in society, the line between art and propaganda, and the importance of making art visible even to those not seeking it out. Krzysztof Wodiczko's work is an inspiration, as is Maria Niro's telling of it. I recommend it for courses ranging from conflict and international relations, to art and society, to social activism.
Stacy J. Kosko, PhD, Director of the College Park Scholars International Studies program, and an affiliate in the Center for International Development
Conflict Management at the University of Maryland
"I use THE ART OF UN-WAR in my class “The Power of Nonviolence for Social Change” and heartedly recommend this film for the important issues it raises and fruitful discussions it provokes, both in the classroom and in society. It is an inspirational and timely film.
Douglas P. Fry
Anthropologist, Professor, and Chair, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies. University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Author of “Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace"
"Social justice is a primary theme....the imagery of Wodiczo’s works is hauntingly effective and makes a compelling case against war, particularly the aftermath. A worthwhile addition for libraries seeking materials of protest."
Andrew Koval, MSLS EMRO
Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO)
"This beautifully filmed powerful documentray will speak to audiences who long for peace."
Candace Smith
Media, Booklist Online
The Art of Un-War – cinematic ethnography years in the making – is an invaluable educational resource for institutions and agencies that want to offer a more expansive approach to the political aesthetics of hospitality and peace than has been available in traditional media genres.
Michael J. Shapiro Professor Emeritus. Department of Political Science, University of Hawai'i, Manoa
"I’ve ordered the film and am looking forward to using it in my class this semester—Public Art and Memory in America. Krzysztof Wodiczko has long been one of my favorite artists, thanks for making this film!"
Erika Doss
Professor Department of American Studies, University of Notre Dame
"More than ever, in these challenging times, we need art that addresses the trauma of war, displacement, and violence. I’m grateful that this film was made about Krzysztof Wodiczko’s unique vision and deep commitment to addressing the topic of war. I have shared his provocative work with students for many decades; this film beautifully frames the passion and healing nature of the work."
Beverly Naidus
Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts, University of Washington, Tacoma.
"THE ART OF UN-WAR reveals how artist Krzysztof Wodiczko's work employs surprise, illusion, and intrigue to engage an audience, beyond the fine art cognoscenti."
John Carson
Artist & Educator, Carnegie Mellon University
THE ART OF UN-WAR encourages discussions about major social and cultural issues as well as the powerful work of peace activism through art.
Joanna Raczynska
Film Programmer, National Gallery of Art
THE ART OF UN-WAR is an important contribution to the world, to history and to Krzysztof Wodiczko's work
Mary Schneider Enriquez, Curator, Harvard Art Museums
Maria Niro skillfully captures the ephemeral and emotionally compelling anti-war art of Krzysztof Wodiczko. Wodiczko's public projections and installations challenge the cultural signifiers reinforcing a bellicose conception of the nation-state while centering the voices and concerns of those people most directly affected by war. Niro's approach allows the emotional force of Wodiczko's work to move the viewer.
Kelly DeVine
Artistic Director, Global Peace Film Festival
THE ART OF UN-WAR is beautifully conceived and compelling... Krzysztof Wodiczko's brilliant and inspiring art challenges us to rethink our perception and understanding of war at this critical moment.
Jury Award
Special Mention, Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
Winner, Best Documentary New Jersey International "Krzysztof’s projections on statues and buildings are brilliant. He brings these dead objects to life and makes viewers question what they stand for."
Albert Nigrin, Director of New Jersey International FIlm Festival, Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University

Awards and Screenings

Director Commentary

When I met Krzysztof Wodiczko in 2012, I was immediately drawn to his work upon seeing it live in New York. Not only was it mesmerizing and profound but Wodiczko's public projections instilled in me a sense of direction, context, and possible resolution to the pain and inequities I witnessed around me. His work immediately invites a deeper understanding of the complex issues he explores. His public interventions are not only relevant to our times but essential to a greater meaning of the world.

Many of the projects concerning immigrants featured in the film are especially relevant to the issues it raises against the backdrop of our current political and contemporary migrant and war crises. Millions of people across the globe are fleeing unprovoked wars, conflicts, and authoritarian regimes. I believed this film could expand the important dialogue between art and war. These were the seeds for The Art Of Un-War. The work spoke to me and I felt compelled to make an in-depth film about Wodiczko’s life, and his work.

As I’ve focused my lens on Wodiczko and his work over the past seven years, I was able to form a special bond with him. I’ve captured what I believe is one of the most significant phases of Wodiczko’s life. He shared with me the experiences that have stirred within him over a lifetime - his obsession with the injustices that exist and his meditation on the possibility of peace - ending the maddening spiral of war.

As a first-generation immigrant myself, the trauma that my grandparents and parents suffered under Italy's fascist regime was passed down to me and my siblings. The first time I saw Wodiczko's work I had a profound connection to it and recognized an opportunity for healing myself and many others like me. It has been a privilege to immerse myself in Krzysztof Wodiczko’s life and work.

–Maria Niro

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Closed Captioning
  • Subtitles

Film/Audio Languages

  • English
  • French
  • Italian

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • French
  • Italian
  • Japanese

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

Resources for Educators

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