Sunday, July 5, 2020

Building peace

By Emilie Tesch

Marjan Teeuwen is a Dutch artist who reclaims the wreckage of abandoned buildings and assembles each fragment in installations, set within the original structures. I was lucky enough to emerge myself in one of her temporary living artworks in the summer of 2019 in Arles, France during the Rencontres d’Arles. Teeuwen’s first seven interventions were carried out in the Netherlands (Bloemhof in Rotterdam in 2012 - Op Noord in 2014 and Piet Mondriaanstraat in Amsterdam in 2010/2011 - Leiden in 2015), in Russia (in Krasnoyarsk, in 2009) and in Gaza in 2017. All these installations are temporary, and today only exist on pictures. Her 2017 series was built from the remains of a bombed house in Gaza. In Arles, for this eighth Destroyed House, Marjan Teeuwen worked inside a former garage intended to become a cinema. When talking about her most recent work, Teeuwen states that “In my work, the constructive power of buildings and their force of destruction and decline go hand in hand. For me, the antagonisms of construction / destruction, erection / fall, order / chaos are at the heart of the human condition. A diabolical conflict.”
The reason why I’m talking about Teeuwen and her work is because I see in it my new understanding of peace after Peace Lab. The assignment that I have created together with Max and Salomé is an audio-visual project which consisted of a podcast and a video. The focal point was the question “What does peace look like to you?”, which is inspired by the concept ‘moral imagination’. According to this, for a country to have sustainable peace, people need to be able to imagine it first.
Marjan Teeuwen, Destroyed House, 2019 (Pictures taken by me)
Through this project -and by getting to meet and talk to young people from Kosovo- I understand peace differently. As explored in the first episode of our podcast, I initially envisioned peace as a tree. The tree is supposed to represent a bottom-up approach to peacebuilding that is powered by grassroots organizations and local community leaders (the roots of the tree) that will eventually ‘grow’ into a strong kind of peace (the trunk of the tree).
I initially thought that only this type of peacebuilding could create a prosperous and equal society (the fruits of the tree). Now, like Teeuwen’s installations, I see peacebuilding as tedious but rewarding work. I see it as something that needs to be built by someone, or a group of people, who have a vision. 
And as with the Destroyed House, both negative and positive peace in Kosovo is being built from what had previously been destroyed. In this process, the light that you can see on the second picture could represent the bright Kosovo youth who, as I found out, all share the same concerns and needs for prosperity and personal security. They are the ones who, when they are empowered, will be able to move Kosovar society past its ‘post-conflict’ label and replace the old guard. As the former PM Albin Kurti said, “Youth is not the future but the present.” The light also represents truth, forgiveness and eventually, reconciliation, another important but often neglected aspect of peacebuilding.