JAN IJÄSTwo Wars 11.3.2023 – 8.4.2023

Two Wars, 2023

I held my previous exhibition at Galleria Heino in 2019, when my theme was the Internet (Waste no.6 How Great). I later heard how group of schoolchildren who had been to the exhibition had, after seeing the work, discussed whether the story behind the work could be true if it was displayed in an art gallery. Having considered the quandary, the schoolchildren concluded that when a film, even if it is a documentary, is shown in an art gallery, it is an artwork and art is not real. The verdict was justified and I accepted it. The artwork Two Wars now being exhibited touches on this group of schoolchildren’s considerations of an artwork and its reality.

Two Wars is a work of thought, imagination, presentation and narrative divided across two chapters, World War I and World War II. The first chapter is set in Monte Cassino in Central Italy and the second ten kilometres to the south in the village of San Pietro Infine.

During World War I, a prison camp was located in Cassino and presumably one of the camp’s most famous prisoners was the young Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Escaping a bourgeois life, Wittgenstein volunteered for the Austro-Hungarian Army. He had completed Tractatus Logico-philosophicus (Logical-Philosophical Treatise, which was to be his only philosophical book published in his lifetime) just a few months before he was taken prisoner. Tractatus presented the so-called, ”picture theory of language”, according to which all meaningful sentences are images of possible states of affairs in the world.

One of the most famous battles in World War II (8-17 December 1943) took place on the outskirts of the village of San Pietro Infine, around 20 kilometres south of the prison camp known to Wittgenstein. The young American film director John Huston, who gained fame with his film The Maltese Falcon (1941), had been commissioned to shoot a documentary about the battles for propaganda use by the Allies. Huston came up with the idea of shooting the first documentary movie which would be filmed in the middle of real battles. Unfortunately, he was late for actual battles and also found out the impossibility of filming a war. War is an event that is invisible to the camera, at least in the sense of how Huston, as a Hollywood director, imagined shooting it. Huston decided to stage the battles and to film them several weeks after the actual events. San Pietro Infine was bombed a second time. It was no longer important to depict reality as it is, only in such a way as to make the illustration plausible. Until the end of his life, Huston told war stories about the battles that he bravely documented on the front lines.

The first War and the chapter of this work reflects on how sentences are images of possible states of affairs in the world, whereas the second War considers how things are imagined and illustrated as a film.

I found it necessary to reduce the size of the hospital of don Juan Tavera, not just because it covered the Gate of Bisagra, but also because its dome came up too high, passing the city’s skyline. And so, since I’ve made it smaller and moved it, I think it is better to show its facade, rather than its other sides. As for its actual position in the city, you can see it on the map.

(Dominikos Theotokópoulos (1541-1614) is better known as El Greco for his landscape View of Toledo, 1599-1600.)

Jan Ijäs